Public Agenda

Parents Want to Be Involved in Children’s Education Yet Don’t Understand Key Factors Affecting Public Education Quality

Survey Shows Few Know What Children Should be Learning or How Schools Function and Rank; Only 50 Percent Want Children to Have More Challenging Courses

Large numbers of parents are unfamiliar with what their children should be learning and don’t want them to be further challenged, according to a Public Agenda nationwide survey of children enrolled in public schools. The survey, funded by the GE Foundation, examined parents’ involvement in schools and their knowledge of basic education issues.

"This is sobering news for policymakers who believe the United States needs to ramp up student achievement to maintain its leadership in the world economy,” said Jean Johnson, Senior Fellow and Special Advisor at Public Agenda.

The survey also found that almost two thirds—65 percent— of parents surveyed said they wished they could be doing more when it comes to involvement in their child's education and only 34 percent are satisfied with the way things are. Another 50 percent said other parents they know are involved too little. Parents are even less involved during later grades.

Education leaders across the nation have advocated for parents to be more engaged in their child's education. In a 2010 speech to parents, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan said, “It is well-documented—and plain common sense—that parental involvement in a child's education boosts student learning and improves both behavior and attendance.”


Parental Attitudes to Their Child’s Schoolwork


The survey indicates that:

  • Few parents can identify signs of learning progress. Less than one parent in four (22 percent) can name a basic milestone that their child should have learned in school over the previous year, such as learning multiplication tables, meeting a certain reading level, or being able to write an essay.
  • Nearly half feel their child's schoolwork is already difficult enough. Despite broad concern among education reformers about the need for American students to meet higher standards, only 50 percent of parents said they would like their child to have more difficult classes. About half (47 percent) said that schools don’t need to make classes more difficult, that “my child works hard enough as is.”

Barriers to Greater Parental involvement


The survey suggests that another barrier to greater parental involvement in children’s education is their lack of understanding of how, and how well, local school systems — including their child’s own school — operate. The survey found:


  • Few parents understand school administration. Over a quarter — 27 percent — of parents say they know nothing at all about the qualifications of their child's principal, and 28 percent say they know nothing at all about what the superintendent is actually responsible for.
  • Parents are unaware of information or options related to local schools. Nearly half (47 percent) know only a little or nothing at all about how their child’s school ranks academically compared to other schools in the area, and only 36 percent say they know a lot about the options to send their child to another area or public school.

As part of the study, researchers compared the responses of the 27 percent of parents who were best informed and most active in their children’s education (based on their responses to the survey) with the 30 percent of parents who were the least knowledgeable and least involved (again based on their survey responses). While more than 8 in 10 (83 percent) of the most knowledgeable and involved parents said that they knew “a lot” about how their child’s school compares to other schools in the area, just 1 in 5 (22 percent) of the least informed and involved parents said the same thing.


Parent Involvement Even Less During Later Grades


Most parents — 64 percent — say it is natural to become less involved in a child's work in later grades and say “it is a sign that the child is learning to be independent and to manage school on their own.” Only 31 percent say that less parental involvement in later grades probably means that a student's academic work would suffer.

When parents with children in later grades (6-12) were asked about other possible reasons why some parents become less involved as their children got older, nearly half (47 percent) cited increasingly difficult schoolwork as a “major reason”. Additionally, 31 percent said problems communicating with their child were a “major reason” (“Parents don’t always know the right questions to ask their children about how they are doing in school”).

Little more than 1 in 5 parents — 22 percent — said a major reason they became less involved was because "teachers don't really want parents interfering with their classes." As a reason parents may become less involved in later grades, only 21 percent say, "there are so many teachers in later grades that it is hard to keep in contact with them."


There Are Some Good Ways to Enhance Involvement, Parents Say


The study also sheds light on several strategies and practices that may enhance parental involvement. Parents said that the following strategies would be "very effective" at improving parent involvement:


  • Having conversations, via email, phone or in person, four times a year with their child's teachers about how their child is doing.(67 percent)
  • Knowing more about what benchmarks and skills your child should be mastering at the end of every school year. (58 percent)
  • Offering morning, evening and weekend appointment hours with teachers and school officials for parents who work. (55 percent)
  • Requiring the parents of failing students to attend programs that teach them how to help their kids learn. (45 percent)

Only about a third of the parents (34 percent) said that having public rankings of teachers based on student test scores would be "very effective” for improving parent involvement, and 13 percent said such public rankings would be "not effective at all." Charter schools were also not seen as effective: only 25 percent of parents said that having more charter schools in their area would be “very effective," while 16 percent said having more charter schools would not be effective at all.

Building on this research, two communications and research organizations—the Center for Research and Communication and Communicating for Social Change—will use the findings to inform focus groups with parents who identify as less involved, to explore actions, interventions and programs that may increase parent involvement.

"It's important to hear from parents about the kinds of changes they believe would enhance their involvement, and what obstacles they encounter that hinder it," said Kelli Wells, director of U.S. Education programs with the GE Foundation. "And it's crucial for school leaders and policy makers to be realistic about how much work we need to do to help parents participate more fully in their children's education."


METHODOLOGY

The 2011 Parent Involvement Survey obtained telephone interviews with a nationally representative sample of 846 parents of children in public school. The survey was developed by Public Agenda in collaboration with the Center for Strategic Research & Communication and Communicating for Social Change. The survey was conducted by Princeton Survey Research International, and interviews were conducted in English and Spanish by Princeton Data Source, LLC from May 31 to July 3, 2011.


TOPLINE SURVEY RESULTS

Topline Survey Results Low Involvement,
Low Knowledge
High Involvement,
High Knowledge
Total
Q7. In general, when it comes to education, do you think the United States is getting ahead of the rest of the world, just keeping up, or is it falling behind the rest of the world? (trend)
Getting ahead 12% 14% 11%
Just keeping up 41% 29% 35%
Falling behind 43% 56% 50%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% 1% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% - 1%
Q8. Do you think the most pressing problems facing the high schools in your local community more likely come from...? (trend)
Social problems and kids who misbehave [OR] 52% 47% 49%
Low academic standards and outdated curricula 35% 38% 35%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 12% 11% 12%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 2% 4% 4%
Q9. When students graduate from your local high schools, would you say that most graduate with the skills to succeed in college, or do you think that most of them do not have the skills to succeed in college?
Most graduate with the skills to succeed in college 56% 51% 53%
Most do not have the skills to succeed in college 35% 44% 40%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 7% 5% 6%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 2% 1% 1%
Q11. How would you rate your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s school? Overall would you give it a grade of A, B, C, a D or a failing grade of F?
A 37% 43% 37%
B 39% 38% 38%
C 18% 12% 18%
D 4% 5% 4%
F 1% 2% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% - *
Q12. How confident are you that your child’s school did a good job teaching him / her what he / she needs to know to be ready for next year?
Very confident 50% 56% 51%
Somewhat confident 39% 33% 37%
Not very confident 7% 5% 8%
Not at all confident 3% 5% 4%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know * 1% *
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
Q12. How confident are you that your child’s school did a good job teaching him / her what he / she needs to know to be ready for next year?
Help with / monitor homework / Work with child on studies 29% 27% 26%
Read to / with child 3% 2% 3%
Encourage / Support / Make education a priority (includes keeping them in school) 4% 1% 3%
Monitor progress / grades / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 8% 3% 8%
Be aware / Interested / informed / Know what's going on / Parent 8% 5% 7%
Talk about school with child / Ask questions about school and studies 6% 8% 7%
Communication with teachers / school / counselor / Parent-teacher conferences 13% 27% 19%
Go online for info / grades / Use edline 1% - 1%
Be involved -includes sports, art, museum trips 6% 5% 4%
Be involved in school activities / Volunteer / Attend PTA / PTO meetings 13% 18% 15%
Get a tutor / Seek additional help - 1% 1%
Other 9% 4% 7%
Don't know / Refused 3% 4% 4%
Q15. There are many ways for parents to be involved in their child’s education. What do you think is the best thing that you do to stay involved in your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s education?
[Open-ended question] [SECOND response]
Help with / monitor homework / Work with child on studies 31% 20% 26%
Read to / with child 5% 5% 4%
Encourage / Support / Make education a priority (includes keeping them in school) 3% 5% 5%
Monitor progress / grades / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 9% 9% 9%
Be aware / Interested / informed / Know what's going on / Parent 6% 4% 6%
Talk about school with child / Ask questions about school and studies 8% 4% 8%
Communication with teachers / school / counselor / Parent-teacher conferences 14% 21% 16%
Go online for info / grades / Use edline 1% 3% 2%
Be involved -includes sports, art, museum trips 7% 7% 8%
Be involved in school activities / Volunteer / Attend PTA / PTO meetings 11% 16% 11%
Get a tutor / Seek additional help 1% 1% 1%
Other 3% 5% 4%
Q15. There are many ways for parents to be involved in their child’s education. What do you think is the best thing that you do to stay involved in your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s education?
[Open-ended question] [THIRD response]
Help with / monitor homework / Work with child on studies 17% 16% 16%
Read to / with child 4% 3% 5%
Encourage / Support / Make education a priority (includes keeping them in school) 4% - 2%
Monitor progress / grades / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 7% 13% 10%
Be aware / Interested / informed / Know what's going on / Parent - 3% 5%
Talk about school with child / Ask questions about school and studies 11% - 6%
Communication with teachers / school / counselor / Parent-teacher conferences 15% 22% 19%
Go online for info / grades / Use edline 7% 13% 10%
Be involved -includes sports, art, museum trips 13% 19% 12%
Be involved in school activities / Volunteer / Attend PTA / PTO meetings 7% 6% 5%
Get a tutor / Seek additional help 2% - 2%
Other 13% 6% 7%
Q15. There are many ways for parents to be involved in their child’s education. What do you think is the best thing that you do to stay involved in your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s education?
[Open-ended question] [FOURTH response]
Help with / monitor homework / Work with child on studies - 33% 22%
Encourage / Support / Make education a priority (includes keeping them in school) 40% - 11%
Monitor progress / grades / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 20% 33% 22%
Communication with teachers / school / counselor / Parent-teacher conferences - - 6%
Go online for info / grades / Use edline - - *
Be involved -includes sports, art, museum trips 40% - 17%
Be involved in school activities / Volunteer / Attend PTA / PTO meetings - 17% 6%
Get a tutor / Seek additional help - - 6%
Other - 17% 11%
Q16. Overall how would you describe your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s academic performance this year? Would you say it was excellent, very good, good, fair, or poor?
Excellent 31% 37% 35%
Very good 35% 37% 33%
Good 19% 16% 19%
Fair 10% 7% 9%
Poor 4% 3% 4%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 2% *
[DO NOT READ] Refused * - *
Q17a. Please tell me how closely each of the following comes to your own view: One of the main reasons I live in this neighborhood is the quality of its schools.
Very close 38% 48% 42%
Somewhat close 29% 20% 26%
Not too close 8% 8% 8%
Not close at all 25% 23% 24%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know * - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 1% *
Q17b. Please tell me how closely each of the following comes to your own view: I would be very disappointed if my [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child received average grades in school this year.
Very close 45% 41% 43%
Somewhat close 29% 30% 31%
Not too close 11% 12% 11%
Not close at all 13% 17% 13%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 1% *
Q17c. Please tell me how closely each of the following comes to your own view: It’s OK to let a child skip a school assignment on special occasions.
Very close 11% 9% 10%
Somewhat close 19% 15% 16%
Not too close 16% 12% 15%
Not close at all 52% 62% 57%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 1% *
Q17d. Please tell me how closely each of the following comes to your own view: As long as they try hard, children should never feel bad about themselves because of poor grades in school.
Very close 51% 41% 47%
Somewhat close 28% 36% 31%
Not too close 8% 11% 8%
Not close at all 12% 11% 12%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 2% 1%
Q18. Thinking again of your OLDEST/YOUNGEST child, which of these statements comes closest to describing you? (trend)
I am very involved both at my child's school and with their academic work 21% 54% 36%
I am not as involved as I would like with my child's school, but I am very involved with my child's academic work 57% 40% 48%
I am very involved with my child’s school, but I’m not as involved as I would like with my child’s academic work 5% 4% 5%
I am not as involved as I would like with my child’s school or with my child’s academic work 13% 3% 9%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% - *
Q19. When it comes to your own involvement in your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s education, do you sometimes wish you could be doing more or are you satisfied with the way things are?
Wish you could be doing more 65% 70% 65%
Satisfied with the way things are 34% 29% 34%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 1% 0%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 1% *
Q20. If you noticed your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s grades were slipping over a period of a few months, please tell me in your own words what would you be most likely to do? [OPEN END]
Answer Given 97% 96% 97%
Don't know / Refused (VOL.) 3% 4% 3%
Q20a. If you noticed your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s grades were slipping over a period of a few months, please tell me in your own words what would you be most likely to do?
[Open-ended question] [FIRST response]
Find out what's going on / the reason / source of the problem 10% 7% 9%
Contac / Meet with the teacher(s) 23% 35% 27%
Contact / Meet with the counselor 1% 2% 1%
Go to the school / Talk with principal 2% 6% 4%
Ask student why / Discuss the problem with child 21% 18% 20%
Correct / Address / Fix the problem - general or unspecified 1% 1% 1%
Help child to catch up / Spend more time on academics and learning (parent takes on responsibility) 11% 7% 9%
Insist on more work / time on studies / better grades (put responsibility on student) 3% 3% 3%
Form a plan / Refocus on education / Get more involved / Remove the distractions 6% 5% 6%
Seek additional assistance / Hire a tutor if necessary 7% 5% 7%
Restrict privileges / other activities / Reprimand / Punish 8% 3% 7%
Question my role as a parent / Change my life / Quit my job 1% 1% *
Change teachers / schools 1% - 1%
Other 2% 2% 3%
Monitor progress / grades / assignments / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 1% 3% 2%
Find out how I can help / what can be done to improve grades 1% 1% 1%
Q20b. If you noticed your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s grades were slipping over a period of a few months, please tell me in your own words what would you be most likely to do?
[Open-ended question] [SECOND response]
Find out what's going on / the reason / source of the problem 10% 15% 12%
Contact / Meet with the teacher(s) 27% 21% 27%
Contact / Meet with the counselor 1% 3% 2%
Go to the school / Talk with principal 11% 4% 6%
Ask student why / Discuss the problem with child 7% 4% 6%
Correct / Address / Fix the problem - general or unspecified 7% 2% 5%
Help child to catch up / Spend more time on academics and learning (parent takes on responsibility) 5% 11% 8%
Insist on more work / time on studies / better grades (put responsibility on student) 4% 3% 4%
Form a plan / Refocus on education / Get more involved / Remove the distractions 12% 11% 9%
Seek additional assistance / Hire a tutor if necessary 7% 10% 8%
Restrict privileges / other activities / Reprimand / Punish 3% 4% 3%
Question my role as a parent / Change my life / Quit my job - - 1%
Change teachers / schools 1% - *
Other 2% 4% 2%
Monitor progress / grades / assignments / Set expectations / Be 'on them' 2% 1% 3%
Find out how I can help / what can be done to improve grades 2% 6% 5%
Q20c. If you noticed your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s grades were slipping over a period of a few months, please tell me in your own words what would you be most likely to do?
[Open-ended question] [THIRD response]
Find out what's going on / the reason / source of the problem 6% 2% 5%
Contact / Meet with the teacher(s) 10% 6% 11%
Contact / Meet with the counselor 6% 2% 4%
Go to the school / Talk with principal - 6% 3%
Ask student why / Discuss the problem with child 3% 4% 5%
Correct / Address / Fix the problem - general or unspecified - 4% 6%
Help child to catch up / Spend more time on academics and learning (parent takes on responsibility) 10% 8% 6%
Insist on more work / time on studies / better grades (put responsibility on student) 3% 16% 6%
Form a plan / Refocus on education / Get more involved / Remove the distractions 16% 10% 13%
Seek additional assistance / Hire a tutor if necessary 19% 29% 21%
Restrict privileges / other activities / Reprimand / Punish 3% 2% 4%
Question my role as a parent / Change my life / Quit my job 3% - 1%
Other 6% - 3%
Monitor progress / grades / assignments / Set expectations / Be 'on them' - 8% 5%
Find out how I can help / what can be done to improve grades 13% 4% 9%
Q20d. If you noticed your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s grades were slipping over a period of a few months, please tell me in your own words what would you be most likely to do?
[Open-ended question] [FOURTH response]
Find out what's going on / the reason / source of the problem - - 21%
Contact / Meet with the teacher(s) - 20% 14%
Contact / Meet with the counselor - 20% 7%
Correct / Address / Fix the problem - general or unspecified - - 7%
Help child to catch up / Spend more time on academics and learning (parent takes on responsibility) 50% - 14%
Insist on more work / time on studies / better grades (put responsibility on student) - 20% 7%
Form a plan / Refocus on education / Get more involved / Remove the distractions 25% - 7%
Restrict privileges / other activities / Reprimand / Punish 25% 20% 14%
Monitor progress / grades / assignments / Set expectations / Be 'on them' - 20% 7%
Q21. Thinking about other parents you know, would you say most parents are involved too much, involved too little, or involved at the right amount with their children’s education?
Too much 5% 3% 4%
Too little 41% 53% 50%
Right amount 42% 38% 38%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 9% 5% 6%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 3% 1% 2%
Q22. Would you say that your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s school goes out of its way to encourage and welcome parents to get involved in the school, does it mostly leave it up to the parents, or does it seem to discourage them?
Goes out of its way to encourage and welcome parents to get involved 56% 69% 60%
Mostly leaves it up to the parents 35% 27% 33%
Seems to discourage them 5% 3% 6%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% *
Q23. In your house, does schoolwork almost always get done at a set, regular time or does it depend on how the day is going?
Regular time 59% 71% 61%
Depends on day 39% 28% 37%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 1% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * - 1%
Q25a. Have you ever spoken to a teacher because the homework assigned to your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child was too difficult?
Yes 17% 34% 24%
No 81% 66% 75%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% - *
Q25b. Have you ever spoken to a teacher because the homework assigned to you [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child was too easy?
Yes 8% 28% 17%
No 92% 72% 83%
Q26a. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Attend a sporting event, play or other extracurricular activity that your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child participated in
Yes 73% 85% 77%
No 27% 15% 23%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q26b. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Attend a PTA meeting
Yes 25% 45% 32%
No 75% 54% 68%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 1% *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q26c. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Attend a public hearing or meeting about your school
Yes 21% 41% 30%
No 79% 59% 70%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q26d. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Attend a scheduled parent-teacher conference
Yes 65% 95% 80%
No 35% 3% 20%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know * 2% *
Q26e. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Contact your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s teachers, either in person, by phone or online OUTSIDE OF parent-teacher conferences
Yes 55% 98% 77%
No 44% 2% 23%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q26f. In this past school year, did you do the following or not? First did you...Take your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child to a concert, art exhibit or other cultural event
Yes 62% 85% 70%
No 37% 15% 29%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - *
Q27a. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Attend a sporting event, play or other extracurricular activity that your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child participated in
1-2 times 28% 16% 23%
3-5 times 30% 29% 31%
6-10 times 12% 17% 14%
11-20 times 11% 12% 11%
More than 20 times 19% 26% 22%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 1% *
Q27b. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Attend a PTA meeting
1-2 times 47% 36% 41%
3-5 times 36% 33% 36%
6-10 times 10% 20% 14%
11-20 times - 6% 4%
More than 20 times - 6% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 7% - 2%
Q27c. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Attend a public hearing or meeting about your school
1-2 times 69% 53% 64%
3-5 times 28% 26% 25%
6-10 times 3% 14% 9%
11-20 times - 6% 2%
More than 20 times - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 1% *
Q27d. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Attend a scheduled parent-teacher conference
1-2 times 74% 33% 57%
3-5 times 21% 54% 37%
6-10 times 3% 11% 5%
11-20 times - 2% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% - *
Q27e. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Contact your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s teachers, either in person, by phone or online OUTSIDE OF parent-teacher conferences
1-2 times 57% 2% 27%
3-5 times 33% 31% 34%
6-10 times 7% 27% 18%
11-20 times - 18% 9%
More than 20 times - 22% 11%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q27f. Approximately how many times in the past school year did you do this?...Take your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child to a concert, art exhibit or other cultural event
1-2 times 50% 18% 35%
3-5 times 28% 59% 42%
6-10 times 14% 16% 17%
11-20 times 6% 3% 4%
More than 20 times 1% 4% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% 1% 1%
Q28. How much would you say you know about the specific academic milestones that your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child should have met this year? Would you say you know a lot, a little, or nothing at all about the academic milestones your child should have met this year?
A lot 37% 81% 60%
A little 54% 17% 33%
Nothing at all 7% - 4%
(VOL.) Not sure what an academic milestone is 2% 1% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 1% 1%
Q29a. Please tell me in your own words about one academic milestone your child met this year—be as specific as you can.
[Open-ended question]
Answer Given 89% 92% 90%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know / Refused 11% 8% 10%
Q29b. Please tell me in your own words about one academic milestone your child met this year—be as specific as you can.
[Recoded responses]
General Gains 18% 14% 16%
General Success 6% 7% 7%
Grades / School Awards 38% 29% 33%
In gifted classes 3% 1% 3%
Nonacademic 4% 6% 4%
Nothing 3% - 2%
Passed district / state / natl test 8% 7% 8%
Passed grade 4% 1% 2%
Something else 3% 3% 3%
Specific milestone 13% 33% 22%
Q30. Do you think that children are more likely to get the better teachers and avoid the worst ones if their parents are active and involved at the school or do you think that it does not make a difference?
More likely to get the better teachers 33% 48% 39%
Does not make a difference 64% 48% 57%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% 3% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
Q31a. How much would you say you know about ... How your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s school ranks academically compared to others in your area
A lot 22% 83% 51%
A little 61% 14% 37%
Nothing at all 18% 1% 10%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 3% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q31b. How much would you say you know about ... The qualifications of your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child's principal
A lot 7% 53% 28%
A little 44% 41% 44%
Nothing at all 49% 4% 27%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 2% 1%
Q31c. How much would you say you know about ... What the superintendent is actually responsible for
A lot 6% 41% 23%
A little 47% 52% 48%
Nothing at all 46% 7% 28%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - 1%
Q31d. How much would you say you know about ... The options you have to send your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child to another public or charter school if you wanted to
A lot 14% 64% 36%
A little 46% 29% 38%
Nothing at all 41% 6% 25%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 1% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 1% *
Q32b. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement: I try to help my [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child do his / her homework but it is often very difficult because these days the material is taught differently than when I was in school
Strongly agree 33% 27% 29%
Somewhat agree 27% 25% 28%
Somewhat disagree 20% 20% 19%
Strongly disagree 18% 27% 22%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
Q32c. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement: Parents who have better schools outside their neighborhood should send their kids to those schools even if it means their children would have to travel a long way to get there and back
Strongly agree 22% 31% 24%
Somewhat agree 35% 34% 34%
Somewhat disagree 24% 22% 23%
Strongly disagree 14% 9% 15%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 4% 3% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * 1% 1%
Q32d. Do you strongly agree, somewhat agree, somewhat disagree, or strongly disagree with the statement: Many parents become less involved in their children’s education as their children get older.
Strongly agree 33% 40% 35%
Somewhat agree 41% 31% 39%
Somewhat disagree 14% 10% 11%
Strongly disagree 9% 18% 12%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% 1% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
*Q33a. Here are some possible reasons why SOME parents may become less involved in their children’s education in later grades ... Parents don’t always know the right questions to ask their children about how they are doing in school
[Base: Asked ONLY of parents whose selected child is in Grade 6-12]
Major reason 27% 38% 31%
Minor reason 35% 38% 36%
Not a reason at all 38% 24% 31%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
*Q33b. Here are some possible reasons why SOME parents may become less involved in their children’s education in later grades ... Teachers don’t really want parents interfering with their classes
[Base: Asked ONLY of parents whose selected child is in Grade 6-12]
Major reason 21% 34% 22%
Minor reason 38% 24% 34%
Not a reason at all 39% 39% 41%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 1% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
*Q33c. Here are some possible reasons why SOME parents may become less involved in their children’s education in later grades ... Older kids have independent schedules so it is harder to find time to really talk to them about school
[Base: Asked ONLY of parents whose selected child is in Grade 6-12]
Major reason 25% 29% 31%
Minor reason 39% 38% 34%
Not a reason at all 35% 33% 34%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - 1%
*Q33f. Here are some possible reasons why SOME parents may become less involved in their children’s education in later grades ... Schoolwork becomes more difficult for parents to help with
[Base: Asked ONLY of parents whose selected child is in Grade 6-12]
Major reason 45% 53% 47%
Minor reason 39% 33% 36%
Not a reason at all 14% 13% 16%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 1% 1%
*Q33g. Here are some possible reasons why SOME parents may become less involved in their children’s education in later grades ... There are so many teachers in later grades that it is hard to keep in contact with them
[Base: Asked ONLY of parents whose selected child is in Grade 6-12]
Major reason 17% 20% 21%
Minor reason 47% 47% 40%
Not a reason at all 36% 33% 38%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q35. Parents are often less involved in their children’s academic work in later grades. Which of these statements comes closer to your feeling about parental involvement as children get older…
Less parental involvement in later grades probably means a student’s academic work will suffer 30% 39% 31%
It is natural to be less involved– it is a sign the student is learning to be independent and to manage school on their own 66% 56% 64%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% 4% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 2%
Q36. Which of these statements come closest to your view, even if neither is exactly right:
I would like my [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child’s school to have more difficult classes, even if it means my child will have to work much harder to get the same grades he / she has been getting 46% 56% 50%
My [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child works hard enough as is, the school does not need to make classes more difficult 53% 42% 47%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 1% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
Q37a. Next, please tell me how strongly you agree with each of the following: As much as parents try to help, children’s academic success still has a lot to do with their natural abilities.
Strongly agree 37% 33% 36%
Somewhat agree 47% 45% 45%
Somewhat disagree 13% 15% 13%
Strongly disagree 3% 8% 5%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know * - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
Q37b. Next, please tell me how strongly you agree with each of the following: The schools sometimes unfairly blame parents for things that should be the schools’ responsibility.
Strongly agree 14% 18% 15%
Somewhat agree 26% 20% 26%
Somewhat disagree 37% 32% 31%
Strongly disagree 18% 28% 24%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% 1% 2%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 2% 1% 1%
*Q38_1a. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Requiring the parents of failing students to attend programs that teach them how to help their kids learn
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 44% 46% 45%
Somewhat effective 33% 34% 34%
Not too effective 13% 13% 12%
Not at all effective 9% 4% 7%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 1% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 1% *
*Q38_1b. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Offering morning, evening and weekend appointment hours with teachers and school officials for parents who work
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 54% 50% 55%
Somewhat effective 34% 35% 34%
Not too effective 9% 7% 7%
Not at all effective 2% 7% 4%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - *
*Q38_1c. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Having a public ranking of how teachers do each year according to their students’ test scores made available
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 31% 38% 34%
Somewhat effective 43% 26% 35%
Not too effective 12% 20% 16%
Not at all effective 11% 16% 13%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 3% - 2%
*Q38_2d. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Having conversations (email, phone or in person) four times a year with all of your child’s teachers about how your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child is doing academically in school
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 58% 71% 67%
Somewhat effective 30% 16% 24%
Not too effective 9% 5% 6%
Not at all effective 3% 7% 4%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
*Q38_2e. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Knowing more about what benchmarks and skills your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child should be mastering at the end of every school year
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 55% 71% 58%
Somewhat effective 33% 24% 33%
Not too effective 9% - 4%
Not at all effective 3% 5% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused - - *
*Q38_2f. Now I’m going to read a list of things that might help parents make the most of their involvement with their children’s education. For each, please tell me how effective you think this would be … Having more charter schools available in your area
[Base: Asked of random 1/2 of parents]
Very effective 26% 25% 25%
Somewhat effective 30% 30% 26%
Not too effective 17% 13% 22%
Not at all effective 17% 15% 16%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 9% 12% 9%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 4% 1%
Q39. Now I am going to read three statements. Please tell me which one comes closest to your own view, even if none are exactly right:
As long as my [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child goes to a college that he / she likes, it doesn’t really matter to me which one he / she goes to 47% 45% 46%
It is very important that my child goes to the best college that he / she can get into 38% 42% 39%
It’s fine if my child does not want to go to college, that is his / her choice 15% 13% 15%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused * - *
Characteristics of the Sample
Census Region
Northeast 14% 16% 17%
Midwest 18% 20% 20%
South 40% 42% 39%
West 27% 22% 24%
Community type (from zip code merge)
Rural 14% 16% 15%
Suburban 55% 48% 51%
Urban 28% 31% 30%
qs1. To make sure our survey includes all types of families; I have a few questions about your household. First, how many adults are there now living in your home that are age 18 or older?
One 8% 7% 7%
Two 60% 68% 63%
Three 24% 20% 21%
Four 7% 4% 7%
Five 1% 1% 1%
qs2. How many children between the ages of 5 to 18 now live in your household?
One 48% 48% 47%
Two 28% 37% 36%
Three 12% 11% 11%
Four 7% 3% 5%
Five 2% - 1%
Six or more 1% 1% 1%
*qs3. How many of these children are now attending school or attended school this past year, in any grade Kindergarten through 12?
[Base: Asked of adults with children in household]
One 48% 49% 46%
Two 32% 34% 37%
Three 15% 14% 14%
Four 1% 3% 2%
Five 2% - 1%
Six or more 1% - 1%
qs4. Does the FATHER of (this child / any of these children) live in your household, or is there another adult male who acts as the father?
[Base: Asked of adults with K-12 children in household]
Yes 90% 90% 91%
No 10% 10% 9%
Refused - - *
qs5. Does the MOTHER of (this child / any of these children) live in your household, or is there another adult female who acts as the mother?
[Base: Asked of adults with K-12 children in household]
Yes 98% 97% 98%
No 2% 3% 2%
qs10. Are you the parent of any children between the ages of 5 to 18 who now live in your household? [IF YES] How many?
[Base: Asked of adults with K-12 children in household]
One 47% 37% 43%
Two 38% 34% 39%
Three 12% 22% 12%
Four 3% 3% 4%
Five 1% 3% 1%
Six or more - 1% 1%
qs11. How many of these children are now attending school or attended school this past year, in any grade Kindergarten through 12?
[Base: Asked of adults with K-12 children in household]
One 48% 40% 45%
Two 37% 33% 37%
Three 12% 19% 12%
Four 3% 3% 3%
Five 1% 3% 1%
Six or more - 1% *
Gender of Parent
Male (Father) 49% 37% 44%
Female(Mother) 51% 63% 56%
Q3. Did your child go to a public school or a charter school?
Public school 98% 92% 96%
Charter school 2% 8% 4%
Q1.What grade was (your / your youngest / your oldest) child enrolled in this most recent school year?
Kindergarten 11% 12% 10%
First grade 10% 13% 9%
Second grade 5% 9% 7%
Third grade 6% 7% 7%
Fourth grade 6% 10% 7%
Fifth grade 8% 9% 8%
Sixth grade 6% 7% 7%
Seventh grade 9% 5% 7%
Eighth grade 4% 5% 6%
Ninth grade [Freshman] 6% 9% 9%
Tenth grade [Sophomore] 9% 6% 7%
Eleventh grade [Junior] 10% 6% 9%
Twelfth grade [Senior] 9% 4% 7%
Field House: Selected Child During Interview
Oldest 28% 23% 28%
Youngest 24% 33% 26%
Only one child in HH 48% 45% 46%
Number of Children in Household
One 48% 44% 46%
Two or more 52% 56% 54%
Q4. Gender of Child
Male 48% 55% 50%
Female 52% 45% 50%
Q6. The grades that separate elementary school from middle school and middle school from high school often vary among schools. In your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child's school, what is [GRADE] considered to be?
Elementary (Include 'Primary') 46% 60% 48%
Middle (Include 'Junior High School' and 'Intermediate' responses) 21% 17% 21%
High School 31% 23% 30%
(DO NOT READ) Other (Specify) - 1% *
(DO NOT READ) Don't know 1% - *
(DO NOT READ) Refused - - *
Qd2. In the last school year, what were most of your child's grades?
A's 52% 49% 50%
B's 29% 33% 30%
C's 9% 6% 9%
D or below 3% 3% 4%
Other (Specify) 5% 7% 5%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% 2% 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 1% 1%
Qd3. Are you married, living as married, divorced, separated, widowed, or have you never been married?
Married 70% 74% 72%
Living as married 7% 4% 5%
Divorced 7% 10% 9%
Separated 4% 2% 3%
Widowed 1% 2% 1%
Never married / Single 11% 9% 10%
[DO NOT READ] Refused * - *
Qd4. Are you NOW employed full-time, part-time, are you retired, or are you not employed for pay?
Full-time 58% 53% 59%
Part-time 13% 10% 14%
Retired 2% 7% 4%
Not employed 20% 20% 17%
[VOL.] Homemaker 1% 4% 3%
[VOL.] Student 2% 2% 2%
[VOL.] Disabled 4% 3% 3%
[DO NOT READ] Refused - 1% *
Qd9. What is the LAST grade of class that you COMPLETED in school?
None, or grade 1-8 5% 1% 3%
High school, incomplete [grades 9-11] 13% 6% 9%
High school graduate [grade 12 or GED certificate] 35% 19% 27%
Business, technical, or vocational school AFTER high school 2% 3% 4%
Some college, no 4-year degree 22% 21% 24%
College graduate [B.S., B.A., or other 4-year degree] 16% 31% 21%
Post-graduate training or professional schooling after college 7% 20% 12%
Recoded Parent Education
Less than HS 18% 7% 12%
HS grad 38% 22% 31%
Some college, no 4-year degree 21% 21% 24%
College graduate [B.S., B.A., or other 4-year degree] 23% 51% 33%
Qd10. Are you of Hispanic or Latino background, such as Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, or some other Spanish background?
Yes 19% 21% 18%
No 80% 79% 81%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 1% - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% - *
*Qd11. Would you consider yourself white or black Hispanic / Latino?
[Base: Asked of parents who identified as Hispanic / Latino]
White 77% 77% 74%
Black 17% 8% 12%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 4% 10% 9%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 2% 5% 4%
*Qd12. What is your race?
[Base: Asked of parents who do not identify as Hispanic]
White 74% 72% 75%
Black / African-American 17% 17% 15%
Asian 4% 5% 4%
Other or mixed race [SPECIFY] 4% 6% 4%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - - *
[DO NOT READ] Refused 2% - 1%
Recoded Parent Race / Ethnicity
White, non-Hisp 61% 57% 62%
Black, non-Hisp 14% 13% 12%
Hispanic 19% 21% 19%
Other 6% 9% 7%
Qd13. I'm going to read some ranges of annual household income. Please stop me when I read the one that best describes your total household income in 2010.
Under $25,000 16% 18% 17%
$25,000 to under $35,000 16% 13% 13%
$35,000 to under $50,000 20% 9% 15%
$50,000 to under $75,000 19% 11% 17%
$75,000 to under $100,000 10% 16% 13%
$100,000 or more 16% 26% 20%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know 2% - 1%
[DO NOT READ] Refused 1% 6% 3%
Qd6. What is your age?
[Recoded]
Less than 36 25% 27% 25%
36-40 25% 19% 21%
41-45 19% 26% 23%
46-50 16% 18% 18%
51+ 14% 11% 13%
Qd6. What is your age?
[Recoded by Census catefories]
18-29 5% 5% 6%
30-49 77% 81% 77%
50-64 17% 11% 16%
65+ 1% 2% 1%
HH1. How many adults currently live in your household, including yourself?
One 15% 11% 13%
Two 59% 66% 62%
Three 18% 16% 17%
Four 4% 4% 5%
Five 2% 3% 2%
Six or more 1% - *
Undesignated 1% - *
Qd15. Is your [OLDEST/YOUNGEST] child's school nearby, or does your child go to a school that is NOT in your neighborhood?
The school is nearby 75% 71% 74%
School not in neighborhood 25% 28% 25%
[DO NOT READ] Don't know - 1% 1%


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Boosting Parental Involvement

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Large numbers of parents are unfamiliar with what their children should be learning and don’t want them to be further challenged, according to a Public Agenda nationwide survey of children enrolled in public schools.

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