For example, while helping with homework makes a difference for elementary students, it has little impact for middle and high schoolers, concludes Nancy Hill, a Harvard researcher.
Visiting the school, volunteering, and attending school events seemed to be just moderately related to student achievement.
Twice as effective as the things parents did at school were the efforts they made at home, apart from helping with homework, to support schooling. Those included communicating their expectations for their children’s achievement; discussing learning strategies; fostering career aspirations; linking what children were learning in school, or were interested in learning, to outside activities; and making plans for the future. Ms. Hill puts those activities under the category of “academic socialization.”
However, college-educated parents have more impact on their children’s achievement and behavior than less-educated parents; whites have more impact than blacks. The less-educated parents influence their children’s aspirations but not their achievement, leaving them unprepared for college. Middle schools should explain to parents “the educational pathways that lead from middle school to high school to college,” Hill said.
“They should be saying, ‘Here are the courses you need to take, and if your child’s not ready for those courses, here is what you can do to get your child ready so the pathways lie open.’”
College-prep charter schools for low-income students, like the one in my book, do just that. They make sure students know what skills they need to learn and what classes they need to pass (with an A or B) to make college a realistic choice. Often, parents can’t help with the academics but they can push their kids to do the work and persist in the face of adversity.