Approaches to Parental Involvement for Improving the Academic Performance of Elementary School Age Children

NICHCY’s Structured Abstract 68 describes the following:

Title | Approaches to Parental Involvement for Improving the Academic Performance of Elementary School Age Children

Authors | Nye, C., Turner, H. M., & Schwartz, J. B.

Source | The Campbell Collaboration Library
Available online at

Year Published | 2006

Parent involvement programs have been assumed to be important contributors to elementary school children’s educational success. These programs include direct parent involvement outside school hours, parent volunteer programs in the classroom, parent attendance and participation in non-academic activities (e.g., PTO, fund raising, etc.). For many years researchers, educators, parent groups, and policy makers have debated whether or not parent involvement has a beneficial effect on the academic achievement of children.

The purpose of this review was to summarize the most dependable evidence on the effect of parental involvement for improving the academic performance of elementary school age children in grades K-6. The most dependable evidence was defined as studies that include at least two groups and use random assignment to form a fair comparison between groups.

Main Results
This review found that parent involvement had a positive and significant effect on children’s overall academic performance. The effect was educationally meaningful and large enough to have practical implications for parents, family involvement practitioners, and policymakers. When parents participated in academic enrichment activities with their children outside of school for an average of less than 12 weeks, children demonstrated an equivalent of 4 to 5 months improvement in reading or math performance
[From plain language summary of the study, which is available for download at:]

The importance of parent involvement in children’s overall development is largely unquestioned. However, the impact of parent involvement on children’s academic achievement is less certain. One reason for this lack of certainty is that parent involvement can be defined in numerous ways. This meta-analysis* defines parent involvement as “the active engagement of a parent with their child outside of the school day in an activity which centers on enhancing academic performance.” Parent involvement interventions in these studies included teaching parents to play math and reading games with their children, to provide rewards or incentives for school performance, to read collaboratively with their children, or to engage their children in math or science related activities outside of school.

Research Questions
Does parent involvement result in an improvement in children’s academic performance?

Research Design

  • Number of Studies Included | 18
  • Number of Subjects | Each study included in this meta-analysis had at least five students in both the experimental and the control/comparison group.
  • Years Spanned | 1964-2000

Research Subjects

  • Both parents and their children were subjects.
  • The majority of the studies that reported parents’ socioeconomic status (SES) reported parents were from mixed SES (73%), while 18% were from low SES, and 9% were reported as middle

Age/Grade of Subjects

  • All children were in elementary school: kindergarten through sixth grade
  • 47% of studies involved a mix of elementary grades
  • 11% involved kindergarten
  • 11% involved first grade
  • 21% involved second grade
  • 10% of the studies did not report which students’ grade levels

Specified Disability
The study did not specify whether students with disabilities were included.

Parents participated in academic support activities with their children outside of school. Specific parent involvement interventions used in the studies included:

  • collaborative reading
  • math games
  • reading games
  • education and training in doing math or science or other learning activities with their children
  • rewards and incentives provided by the parents for their children’s performance in school.

Duration of Intervention

  • The parent involvement programs studied ranged in duration from 4 to 104 weeks, with a mean length of 23.2 weeks and a median* length of 10.5 weeks.
  • The programs were required to last a minimum of 20 days.


  1. Parental involvement, defined as parents engaging their children in activities to enhance academic performance, has a significant positive effect on children’s overall academic achievement. This finding is particularly compelling considering how short parent involvement programs generally are. The median intervention lasted less than two months.
  2. The academic area most positively effected by parent involvement activities was reading.
  3. The types of parent involvement activities which had the greatest impact were rewards and incentives and education and training. Rewards and incentives were used with 4th and 5th graders. Education and training programs that provided parents with skills, activities, and materials to work with their children on academic skills outside of school were implemented with 1st and 2nd graders.

Combined Effects Size

  1. The average effect of parent involvement on children’s achievement across the academic areas of math, reading, and science using a fixed effects model was 0.43; using a random effects model, the effect size* increased slightly to 0.45.
  2. The average effect of parent involvement on academic performance was statistically significant and ranged from 0.30 to 0.56. This means that children of parents in the parent involvement group performed about half a a standard deviation higher than children in the control groups.


  • The results of this meta-analysis support the use of parent involvement to improve children’s academic performance.
  • The effect of parent involvement outside of school on children’s academic performance in school is significant enough to have practical implications for parents, educators, administrators, and policy makers.
  • In addition to parent involvement being used as a supplementary intervention to help increase children’s academic achievement, parent involvement programs can also be used as a way of fulfilling the parent involvement requirement of the No Child Left Behind Act.

For Further Research
The researchers commented on the need for:

  1. more randomized controlled studies of parent involvement
  2. follow-up studies that measure the impact of parent involvement training after a period of time has passed to determine how long after the intervention the effect remains significant
  3. studies that focus on different methods of parent involvement, participant characteristics, and academic areas.


* Terms Defined

Effect size (ES or d) | A statistical calculation, often represented as ES or d, that measures the impact of an intervention. An effect size below d = 0.20 suggests that a treatment did not have a significant effect. An effect size of d = 0.20 is considered small or low; an effect size of d = 0.50 is considered moderate; an effect size of d = 0.80 or above is large.

Meta-Analysis | A widely-used research method in which (1) a systematic and reproducible search strategy is used to find as many studies as possible that address a given topic; (2) clear criterion are presented for inclusion/exclusion of individual studies into a larger analysis; and (3) results of included studies are statistically combined to determine an overall effect (effect size) of one variable on another.

Back to top