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FINE Newsletter, Volume V, Issue 1
Issue Topic: New Directions for the New Year

William H. Jeynes

Harvard Family Research Project’s (HFRP) Family Involvement Research Digests summarize research written and published by non-HFRP authors and/or written by HFRP authors but published by organizations other than HFRP. For more information about the research summarized1in this digest, please contact the author at the address below. For help citing this article, click here.


A great deal of research has focused on the importance of parental involvement in children’s education, including my 2005 meta-analysis of 77 studies2 which examined the relationship between voluntary expressions of parental involvement and students’ academic achievement. Additionally, there have been many studies examining the effectiveness of individual parental involvement programs; however, until now, there has never been a meta-analysis focused specifically on these programs and their association with student achievement. Voluntary expressions of parental involvement include both demonstrable actions, such as attendance at school events, and more subtle expressions, such as setting high expectations for children, and refer to actions that parents take on their own, outside of specific family engagement initiatives. School-based parental involvement programs refer to particular sets of activities that the school organizes to increase parents’ engagement in their children’s education.

Thus, while the research community has clearly determined that the voluntary expression of parental involvement (e.g., reading with one’s child, setting high expectations for academic achievement) is strongly related to school outcomes, social scientists have not been able to come to a consensus about the efficacy of school-based parental involvement programs in affecting student achievement.3 This information is important, however, as school leaders seek to understand where to concentrate their efforts in promoting parental engagement.


A meta-analysis statistically combines all of the relevant studies on a given subject in order to determine the aggregated results of the selected research, and helps provide answers to research questions that individual studies by themselves are too narrowly focused to address. I conducted a meta-analysis to examine the following questions:

  1. Do school-based parental involvement programs positively affect student outcomes among pre-kindergarten through 12th grade students?
  2. What types of school-based parental involvement programs have the greatest impact? 

The meta-analysis included 51 studies of school-based parental involvement programs serving students from pre-kindergarten through the 12th grade, comprising approximately 15,000 students. I conducted an analysis of the effect of all of the parental involvement programs combined, as well as an analysis of each type of parental involvement program to determine whether certain types of programs had greater effects on student achievement.4 I categorized the six distinct types of parental involvement programs as follows:

  • Shared reading program—Programs that encourage parents and their children to read together
  • Emphasized partnership program—Efforts designed to help parents and teachers collaborate with one another as equal partners in improving children’s academic and/or behavior outcomes
  • Checking homework program—School-based parental involvement initiatives that encourage parents to make daily checks on whether their children have completed their homework
  • Communication between parents and teachers program—Programs incorporating efforts by schools to foster increased communication between parents and teachers
  • Head Start program—Head Start programs that place a special emphasis on parental involvement
  • ESL teaching program—School-based efforts to raise parental involvement levels by teaching parents English via ESL programs.


The key findings of the meta-analysis are as follows:

  • Parental involvement programs are associated with higher student academic outcomes.

The results of the meta-analysis indicate that school-based parental involvement programs are associated with higher student achievement outcomes. There is a positive relationship between parental involvement programs overall and student outcomes, as well as between most of the specific program types included in the analysis and student outcomes. Overall, parental involvement programs yielded a statistically significant effect size5 of .30 of a standard deviation, which is equivalent to approximately .35–.40 of a grade point, on student outcomes. The effect sizes were quite similar for the studies in the meta-analysis that used control variables, such as race, socio-economic status (SES), and gender, and those that did not. What this means is that the academic achievement score distribution for children whose schools had parental involvement programs was substantially higher than that of their counterparts whose schools did not, even controlling for factors such as race, SES, and gender.

  • Among the six types of school-based parental involvement programs, four had statistically significant, positive effects on student outcomes.6

This meta-analysis found that, of the six types of school-based parental involvement programs examined, there were statistically significant, positive effects on student outcomes for those emphasizing parental involvement actions such as shared reading (.51),7teacher–parent partnership (.35), checking homework (.27), and teacher–parent communication (.28). 

Interestingly, some of these findings—those that relate to the impact of school-based programs focused on these parental involvement actions—are quite different than what has been observed with studies of voluntary expressions of parental engagement. For example, the effect size for school-based programs that encouraged shared reading between parent and child was .51 of a standard deviation, which equates to about .60–.65 of a grade point. This type of parental involvement program yielded the strongest result of all the program types included in the meta-analysis. In contrast, in meta-analyses that have been completed on the effects of shared reading based on voluntary parental involvement, the results tend to be about half that size. Similarly, school-based parental engagement programs that emphasized the consistent checking of homework yielded an effect size of .27. This result contrasts with previous meta-analyses examining voluntary parental involvement alone, in which this practice generally did not yield statistically significant findings for the elementary and secondary school student population.    

There are several explanations as to why similar activities have different impacts on student outcomes based on whether they happen as a result of voluntary expressions of parental engagement or as a result of school-based parental engagement efforts. For example, the effects for shared reading programs were greater in school-based programs than in voluntary expressions of parental involvement. In this case, the benefit of parents’ receiving guidance from teachers about reading strategies, book selection, and so forth may have enhanced the benefit of parent–child shared reading practices. This “teacher effect” may have helped the shared reading experience be more efficient and productive than reading activities undertaken by parents on their own, without reading strategy prompts.


Taken together with the results of prior meta-analyses on voluntary expressions of parental engagement (e.g., Jeynes, 2007, Fan & Chen, 2001), the results of the current meta-analysis indicate that school-based parental involvement programs can both enhance and supplement voluntary expressions of parental engagement. A key finding is that, among the factors that were common to successful program efforts, one variable that clearly stood out was the emphasis on partnerships between parents and teachers. This finding suggests that the presence of both voluntary expression of parental engagement and school-based parental involvement programs is needed for parental involvement programs to be successful. In other words, although both voluntary expressions of parental involvement and school-based family involvement programs may have some degree of efficacy independent of one another, cooperation and coordination between the home and the school enhances the impact of both.

It’s notable that some of the statistically significant components of parental engagement programs, such as the emphasis on parent–teacher partnerships and on communication, are not necessarily focused on demonstrable actions (in contrast to actions such as shared reading or checking homework). This fact supports several recommendations for how schools can create successful parental involvement programs. First, school leaders and teachers can enhance the efficacy of parental involvement by offering advice to parents on the most vital components of voluntary expressions of family engagement, such as setting high expectations and adopting parenting styles that are associated with positive student outcomes. This guidance is particularly important because many parents do not realize how powerful and effective these factors are in promoting positive student outcomes. Second, the school can take an active role in encouraging parental engagement in areas such as checking homework and shared reading activities, given that school-based guidance appears to increase the efficacy of those particular behaviors. 

William H. Jeynes
Department of Teacher Education
College of Education
California State University at Long Beach
Long Beach, CA 90840

1 This research digest is a summary of Jeynes, W. (2012). A meta-analysis of the efficacy of different types of parental involvement programs for urban students. Urban Education, 47(4), 706-742.

2 The 2005 research digest was based on meta-analysis that was ultimately divided into two parts, published as: Jeynes, W.H. (2007). The relationship between parental involvement and urban secondary school student academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Urban Education, 42(1), 82-110; and Jeynes, W. H. (2005). A meta-analysis of the relation of parental involvement to urban elementary school student academic achievement. Urban Education, 40(3), 237-269.

3 Jeynes, W.H. (2010). The salience of the subtle aspects of parental involvement and encouraging that involvement: Implications for school-based programs. Teachers College Record, 112(3), 747-774.

4  For the purposes of this study, student achievement included both standardized test scores and non-standardized measures (grades). The effect sizes reported in this digest are based on the overall student achievement variable that combined standardized and non-standardized achievement measures.

5 An effect size measurement calculates the difference between two or more groups. The magnitude of the differences among groups is measured in standard deviation units using the d index. A d index of .20 is small, .50 moderate, and .80 large. For more on standard deviation units, see McCartney, K., & Dearing, E. (2002). Evaluating effect sizes in the policy arena. The Evaluation Exchange, 8(1), 4, 7.

6 It should be noted that some effect sizes were in the positive direction, but fell short of statistical significance—for example, the effect sizes for Head Start programs, .22 (p>.05), and ESL training programs, .22 (p<.05). One should keep in mind the fact that these results approached statistical significance because slight changes to these programs could very possibly yield statistically significant results.

7 All reported effect sizes were significant at the p<.05 level. 


This resource is part of the February 2013 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archive of past issues, please visit



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