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Involvement Matters: What To Tell Parents

Hundreds of research studies show that when parents get involved, children do better in school. We sum up the details that every parent should know—and you should tell them.

Involvement Matters

Building parent involvement is the single most important thing that parent groups do. Often, it's the most difficult, too. And that's too bad because there are many compelling reasons why parents—all parents—should get involved in their children's education. If you're having trouble building involvement, the problem might be that you're not making the right argument. You simply need better ammunition.

A common way to think about getting people involved is to counter their objections. People say they don't have time, so you make it clear you only need them for an hour or two. People don't feel comfortable at school, so you work to make it more welcoming. Schedules won't allow busy people to come to the school, so you find ways they can contribute from home.

Each time you address the "don't" issues, you open up your group to more people: people with time and schedule issues, those who haven't felt welcome in the past, dads, grandparents, people who don't speak English well.

Involvement Matters video — A great way to get your message to parents!

All of that is important. But don't assume that once you tear down the barriers, people will flock to get involved. They should, sure. But they should go to the dentist more often, too.

It's up to you to make a stronger case for parents to get involved than "It's for the kids." For many people, that's simply not enough to get them energized. The good news is that there are compelling, definitive reasons to get involved, and they are backed up by volumes of research. Plus, they apply to everyone—no matter their bank balance, ethnicity, work schedule, education level, or anything else.

What Every Parent Should Know

Researchers have been studying the effects parent attitudes and actions have on their children's academic success for more than 30 years. The results have been consistent. Anne Henderson and Nancy Berla summed it up in their book A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement, which reviewed the existing research: "When parents are involved in their children's education at home, they do better in school. And when parents are involved in school, children go farther in school and the schools they go to are better."

Get More Parents Involved

Host a School Family Night and get more parents to connect with your school. Our FREE SFN planning kits make planning and organizing your event a breeze. Order yours now.

Much of the information here is taken from publications by Henderson, a consultant at New York University's Institute for Education and Social Policy, and various coauthors that examine parent involvement research; and from publications by Joyce Epstein, director of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University; the National Center for Parent Involvement in Education, which Henderson helped found; and summaries of research prepared by the Michigan Department of Education, San Diego Unified School District, and others.

Major Benefits

Research shows that when parents are involved in their children's education, the children are more likely to:

  • earn better grades.
  • score higher on tests.
  • pass their classes.
  • attend school regularly.
  • have better social skills.
  • show improved behavior.
  • be more positive in their attitude toward school.
  • complete homework assignments.
  • graduate and continue their education.

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(69 Votes)


  1. Posted by - Beth McCracken-Harness on Sep. 14, 2012

    I was going to quote your article in my blog, but you don't list sources on each study you cite, so I cite the information. Please document your sources more than just this:

    "Much of the information here is taken from publications by Henderson, a consultant at New York University's Institute for Education and Social Policy, and various coauthors that examine parent involvement research; and from publications by Joyce Epstein, director of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University; the National Center for Parent Involvement in Education, which Henderson helped found; and summaries of research prepared by the Michigan Department of Education, San Diego Unified School District, and others."
  2. Posted by - WorkingMom on Feb. 29, 2012

    Have been heavily involved with our elementary PTO, agree with posts noting parents who try to be involved in whatever way they can.
    But I need help/feedback on what I am experiencing here at the higher grades - a total disconnect from the PTO experience. At a parent meeting last night, a handful of parents admonished the class advisors (inc me) - their kids are too busy to be involved but those who are shouldn't be rewarded, their kids don't tell them anything & parents are too busy to read the parent website - we need to do more for them. Others demanded we have a major fundraiser (fashion show) in 2 years but none are willing to do more than a little of the work. The air of entitlement filled the room, and made us understand why the administration has advised us to not be nice, make decisions, tell the kids what they're doing, and tell anyone who complains too bad. The most disturbing thing about the whole episode? The two most vocal parents are both teachers at one of our schools.
  3. avatar

    Posted by lkrainey on Sep. 02, 2010

    My son is in first grade, so I've only had the joy of being involved for one full year and I feel as though people make time for thinks they find important however they can. We have some parents that NEVER make it to the school, however they bake, make phone calls, donate supplies, and ect. It's about doing what you can. I believe when your children see something matters to you it matters to them even more :)
  4. avatar

    Posted by lkrainey on Sep. 02, 2010

    The PTO at Joy Elementary in Sioux City, Iowa "fundraises" in creative ways so families don't feel over taxed with over priced catalog items. Here are a few examples (Once a month we have a skating night, $5/child and adults skate free, Once a month we have a SPIRIT night at Chick-fil-a, and we also have 2+ Chuck E. Cheese nights a year.) Each of these events a % of the total sales goes back to the school. Our budget, among other things, supports needed learning material for the staff and an end of the year carnival (FREE). We also plan, provide volunteers, and of course raise the funds for other (FREE) ALL SCHOOL events, ie (Family reading night, Family math night, Pumkin Patch, Holiday Concert, Bake Sales).
  5. Posted by - Aaron on Jan. 04, 2009

    Me parece un excelente artículo.
  6. Posted by - Mary on Oct. 29, 2008

    I am on my school's PTO and, quite frankly, tired of the fundraising. I found a way to give directly to the teacher, on my own time. A teacher registry called She created the registry of classroom supplies she normally buys out of her pocket. I go online and choose something off her list. I love it because I see what is being taught in the classroom and it makes me feel a bit more connected. This is a great idea for a great teacher gift - for the holidays, or just a "thanks for all you do" kind of a gift. It won't take the place of fundraising, but every little bit helps!
  7. Posted by - Yvonne Bruman on Sep. 21, 2008

    I love this article. This is my 9th year in the elementry school due to the age difference of my two children. They are in 8th and 5th grade. Until this past August, I have owned my own business where I worked almost 7 days a week. I still made time because I cared. I see my son's teacher 2-3 times per week and keep tabs on him. If there's a problem, I want to know right away. I also really love the school and what the PTO does for it. I have been the secretary for three years and the bookfair chairperson for six years. I love it because I can let my creativity run wild. The more outrageous and dramatic and eyecatching, the better. So, as I am writing this, I am searching for ideas for our new PTO bulletin board and how to make it stand out. I want it to pop. I want people to feel, "Hey, I want to be a part of something that does that and cares that much about the students." If anyone has any ideas, let me know. Thanks for listening.
  8. Posted by - P Barrett on Sep. 16, 2008

    I am the PTO President at my son's school. This year, instead of doing our typical fund-raisers and selling a bunch of junk as T Barnes stated, we will have monthly Family Fellowship Dinners at local restaurants. A % of the dinners go back to the PTO. So it's not only a fund-raiser but it's fellowship/family time also. Last year we did it only once and made over $200 in a 2 hour time span and the families that came loved it! :) Thank you Kathryn for the link to '10 Reasons to Get Involved'
  9. Posted by - T Barnes on Sep. 05, 2008

    I definitely agree that parent involvement is crucial to the success of their children. However, the true involvement is directly with the child, teacher and school, not the PTO. I would rather donate money directly to the school instead of constantly being solicited and even harassed by the PTO to buy a bunch of over priced junk sold in the form fund raisers. Since school started on August 11th, I have purchased from the PTO a membership, t-shirts for both of my children, and snacks ($22.00 for the school year). The PTO just sent home a fund raiser also - the typical catalogs full of junk. The PTO and the school constantly pressure parents into buying all of this stuff. Too much of it pushes people away. I can be just as involved, if not more, with my children by spending time with them discussing school issues and assignments. Teachers also encourage parents to contact them anytime they have questions or concerns.
  10. Posted by - A Taylor on May. 28, 2008

    As a teacher, I found some very helpful ideas. Thanks for a great article.
  11. Posted by - Allen Lake on May. 01, 2008

    This article is so true. Here in Topeka, I am the President of East Indianola's PTO and we are conitnously trying to get more involvement. These ideas are keen, but don't always work. You just can't give up though. If you can get atleast 2 parents to come to a meeting/function, that have not usually attended, you will most likely grow.
  12. Posted by - Kathy Hyman on Apr. 03, 2008

    I just mentioned many of these reason when I spoke to the rising 6th grade families last week. It would have been great to site the studies. I will definitely have a handout at Parent Orientation. Thanks for all you do!
  13. Posted by - SK Wade on Apr. 02, 2008

    Great Article. Parents need to see it.
  14. Posted by - Megan on Mar. 21, 2008

    For so many years I've read the statements how children do better when parents get involved. I've always believed it to be true, but had a hard time sharing it because it's gave information about where the studies were performed or who performed them. I loved finally reading this information and connecting it to an actual study.

    It's a much stronger statement when you know who performed the study and how you can find out more information on it.
  15. Posted by - deloris gentry on Feb. 19, 2008

    I have read this article in your magazine and now on line. This time I WILL SHARE IT WITH THE PARENTS OF MY PTO GROUP.I thank you so much for your encouragement.This might be just what I need.
  16. Posted by - Kathryn Lagden on Feb. 07, 2008

    Great idea to pass out involvement info to parents. There's some good stuff in the File Exchange as well. A whole category for Volunteers & Involvement. This file is great as a handout - "10 Reasons To Get Involved". You'll find it here -
  17. Posted by - Kathi Molinar on Feb. 06, 2008

    Trying to get parents involved in our school's fundraising activities as well as attending our monthly Parent's Club has been quiet a chore for me this year. I think the article was great and might use it to pass out in our monthly folders to each parent!
  18. Posted by - monique johnson on Feb. 05, 2008

    This site helped me a lot at my son's school we are in the process of trying to get parents involved and I hope this info. will help us in the future

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