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Efforts to reform education in the United States have resounded following the dismal performance of American students in international assessment tests. As demonstrated by performance in the Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) in 2006, 15-year old American students lagged behind their peers in the 16th place in a country of 30 for science scores, and 23rd for math scores (Glod, 2007). Because of international educational assessments like the PISA, educators and policy-makers are able to gauge how students compare with their peers in order to influence educational reform.
With the concept of accountability in education provided in the No Children Left Behind (NCLB) policy, the need for large-scale educational assessments has been highlighted as a supportive measure to learning (Yen, 2010). Every year, According to the Committee on the Foundations of Assessment of the National Research Council, the purpose of large-scale assessments is "help all students learn and succeed in school by making as clear as possible to them, their teachers, and other education stakeholders the nature of their accomplishments and the progress of their learning" (Yen, 2010, p. 12). Simply put, large-scale assessments aim not only to measure student learning, but to improve it.
Teachers and educational policy-makers believe that these assessments are an effective method to pinpoint strengths in decision-making and work on weaknesses to improve students' learning outcomes. Pellegrino, Chudowsky and Glaser (2001) also stressed how the goal of improving the educational outcomes of students is a responsibility of all stakeholders in education, including the family. Although considered important, the role of parents and family involvement in harnessing assessment outcomes among students is not included in policy. This is despite the successful implementation of family-school partnership programs in several school districts in the United States (Michigan Department of Education, 2009). Determining whether the degree and type of parental involvement or family-based social capital that a student receives positively influences his or her assessment outcome has significant implications to education reform. This paper suggests that in terms of improving educational outcomes and results in assessment tests, parenting involvement plays a positive role.
Parental involvement in education
Parents have always been considered to be a central figure in a child's academic achievement. This assumption however was not established empirically until the 1960s with the advent of the Head Start Program in the United States (Fantuzzo et al., 2004). This program prompted several evaluative studies on the impact of parental involvement and support on student's academic outcomes.
Parental involvement has generally been described and measured in studies by evaluating a parent's attendance or participation in parent-teacher organizations (PTA), training activities and conferences related to enhancing math or science proficiency among children (Izzo et al., 2008). Moreover, Epstein (2007) regards parental involvement as a multi-dimensional construct and could encompass several activities such as (1) creating home conditions conducive for learning; (2) constant and open communication regarding activities and academic performance; (3) active participation in PTA and other school events; (4) consistent monitoring of study and learning; and (5) involvement school committees and other policy-making bodies in the school.
Parental involvement and student achievement
Several empirical studies have established the link between parental involvement on student outcomes. McBride et al. (2009) concluded in an exploratory study that parental involvement has both direct and indirect effects on student achievement. Using a longitudinal design and culling information from the Child Development Supplement data set and children's achievement test scores, findings of the study revealed that early parental school involvement from both mothers and fathers positively influenced student achievement. It also found that later school involvement of the father had significantly negative effects on the students' outcomes.
Crundwell (2005) emphasized that the mere implementation of large-scale assessments is not enough to influence positive student outcome but focused on the quality of such assessments. Crundwell also concluded that factors such as socioeconomic status, family stability and mobility, parental expectations on academic success, parental involvement, motivation, and parent's educational level influence a student's large-scale assessment scores. parent involvement and expectations regarding school success, parent income level, parent education level, family ethnicity, student motivation, student absenteeism, and student capacity for learning influence large-scale assessment results. This study highlighted the need for parents to be more engaging and involved when it comes to their children's school outcomes.
In another study, Clemons (2008) studied the relationship of several parental factors such as parent style, income, and educational level to student's academic achievement. Student achievement was based on the results of math and language arts scores in the Stanford-9 achievement test as well as their three-semester GPA in math and language arts. Using sixth and ninth graders from six school districts in Arkansas as sample, the study was able to find a correlation between parenting involvement and student achievement.
Structural factors such as poverty and educational attainment of parents have been found to influence academic outcomes as well. Wedgeworth (2003) contended that children whose parents did not complete a high school education had significantly lower academic performance when compared to parents who have a high school diploma and higher. Hence, intervention programs must focus on improving literacy not only on children but on parents as well.
Research using data from international educational assessments have also pointed to a positive relationship between parental involvement and student assessment scores. Ho (2006) investigated this relationship among 4,405 Hong Kong students. Ho used tests scores from the PISA and looked for relationships using four levels of parental involvement - cultural activity, homework supervision, cultural communication, and social communication. The study was able to find that students coming from lower-income or immigrant homes experienced significantly lower parental involvement in all areas. Students with lower socioeconomic class (SES) had scant educational resources, lack of family networks, and lower school aspirations than students who were better off economically. Ho (2006) recommended coming up with family networking programs to improve the involvement of parents and family in enhancing academic outcomes of students.
Fantuzzo et al. (2004) examined the relationship between various dimensions of family involvement on the outcomes of early childhood education. By studying 144 children enrolled in an urban Head Start program and their parents, Fantuzzo and his colleagues learned that parental involvement which was Home-Based (creating learning-conducive home environments, constant monitoring, open communication) predicted the school outcomes of children the strongest. It also enhanced a child's motivation, persistence to complete tasks, attention span, and vocabulary skills. Parental involvement which was School-Based (PTA attendance, events involvement) was significantly related to low conduct problems.
Izzo et al. (2004) was able to come up with the same findings as Fantuzzo et al. (2004) suggesting that home-based educational activities initiated by parents are greater predictors of student outcomes than school-based educational activities where parents are involved. Izzo and colleagues were able to study how parental involvement changed as the years progress and how these changes influences the students' social and academic outcomes. Data from a 3-year teacher-reported assessment of parental involvement among more than 1,000 kindergarten students was studied and compared with school performance. In this study, parental involvement was measured by several dimensions: involvement in home-based educational activities, interactions between parent and teacher, involvement in school-based activities, and number of parent-teacher consultations. Izzo and colleagues were able to observe that degree of parents involvement on all four dimensions declined within a 3-year period. The study also found that among the types of parental involvement, home-based activities involving parents predicted academic outcomes the strongest.
Jeynes (2007) conducted a meta-analysis of more than 50 studies which explored the relationship between parental involvement and school outcomes among urban-based high school children. Various components of parental involvement were analyzed against four educational performance measures including scores on large-scale educational assessments. The study found that parental involvement had a significant overall impact on all academic measures.
This paper investigated the impact of parental involvement or family life on the results of students in large-scale educational assessments. The analysis hinged on the assumption that large-scale assessments serves as a measuring stick to evaluate and create policy towards the improvement of the quality of education and is therefore important. Through a review of empirical studies, the paper established that parental involvement has a positive influence on student achievement. Moreover, schools should consider strengthening family involvement on children's education to help them improve academic performance.