Findings From an Evaluation of the Parent Institute for Quality Education Parent Involvement Program
In a society, the authors believe it is beneficial for parents to be involved in their children’s education. The research literature also supports the value of such involvement. The combination of these pre-existing beliefs and research results have led to assumptions that parent involvement programs will have the same salutary effects on student outcomes. As a result, parent involvement programs may be found in schools of every type throughout the country. Most parent involvement programs are small, home-grown, and lack the funds, expertise, or motivation to evaluation program effects. The Parent Institute of Quality Education (PIQE) sought RAND’s help in conducting an evaluation of its parent involvement program. The RAND evaluation relied on data from two large, urban California school districts. From the first district the authors collected teacher reports of student classroom behaviors and parent-school contact, and parent self-reports of changes in knowledge, expectations, and behaviors. From the second were obtained official school records of attendance, grades, and disciplinary actions from five elementary schools. These data included a marker that identified those parents who had completed PIQE and the time that they had done so (PIQE completion requires attendance at four or more of the six substantive sessions). The effects of PIQE were largely limited to parents. Most reported that PIQE participation increased their knowledge of good parenting and their expectations for their child, improved their parenting skills, and caused them to become more involved with the school. For the most part, teacher and parent reports of classroom contact did not agree. Further, teachers’ reports of parent visits to their classrooms revealed that PIQE parents were more likely to visit prior to PIQE participation, suggesting that more-involved parents may be more likely to sign up for PIQE in the first place. District One attendance levels did not vary by PIQE status, but high attendance rates at Time 1 made it very difficult to find increases. Data from District Two echo those from District One. Overall, the authors found no pre-post changes in student grades or behaviors when comparing students whose parents had participated in PIQE with those whose parents had not. However, they did find that among the Hispanic children, there were very small, nonsignificant differences in pre-post outcomes. A number of factors may have affected the ability to detect PIQE program effects, e.g., delayed measurement of outcomes, lack of random assignment, and insensitive outcome measurements, e.g., attendance levels. The analyses suggest several program improvements.