WebExtra: Parent Involvement

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Teachers, parents keeping in touch

In a 1997 survey of elementary teachers, 78 percent said most or nearly all of the parents of their students came to pick up their children’s report cards. By 2005, this number had edged up to 81 percent.

Roughly 70 percent of them report that they communicate with parents at least once a month about what students are working on in class and that they meet with them just as often. Those percentages slide in high school, where about 60 percent of teachers report monthly communication with parents about schoolwork, and about 50 percent note monthly meetings. Teachers at both levels report the most contact around students’ academic, attendance or behavior problems.

In a 2005 survey, 99 percent of elementary teachers said they met with parents at least once during the school year. Monthly meetings were a bit more likely to occur in low-poverty schools (74 percent) compared to high-poverty schools (69 percent).

In high schools, just the opposite was true. While fewer high school teachers overall say they met frequently with parents, teachers at high-poverty schools were more likely to do so (54 percent) than those at low-poverty schools (48 percent). High schools did outpace elementary schools, however, in contacting parents of students with problems.

Teachers at predominantly African-American schools reported the most contact with parents about problems. Teachers at predominantly Hispanic schools had the least interaction with parents about student problems, with only 27 percent communicating weekly; 5 percent said they never did so.

More talk about class than college

More than half of high school students—low- and middle-income alike—reported that their parents talked to them frequently about how they were doing in class. African-American students reported the most such conversations.

Fewer students—29 percent—reported talking frequently to their parents about selecting courses for college preparation. Here there was a class difference, with 27 percent of better-off but 35 percent of low-income students reporting such conversations. Over all, 44 percent said they never or rarely did this. Again, black students reported talking to their parents most frequently.

Black, poor parents more likely to check

Despite attempts by the district to increase parent involvement through such efforts as community schools, parents’ communication with their children about school matters has remained roughly the same, according to student surveys taken periodically since 1997. Black students and middle-income students report the highest levels of parental involvement.

Similar to responses eight years ago, about 61 percent of elementary-age students report in 2005 that their parents checked to see if their homework was done. However, the percentage of students reporting that their parents helped them with homework all or most of the time declined to 39 percent from 44 percent.