Society and communities must not neglect those who lack the financial and familial advantages that so often translate into long-term academic and economic opportunities.
As Utahns debate whether to raise taxes to increase school funding, it’s worth emphasizing the importance of parental engagement in the educational performance of children. While good schools are unquestionably a factor in academic success, according to researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California, Irvine, parental involvement is even more important.
Their study measured so-called “family social capital” — a strong familial environment — and compared it to “school social capital” — a positive academic environment. While both family social capital and school social capital were factors in academic achievement, the researchers found that pupils with high levels of family social capital but low school social capital had better academic outcomes than students with greater school social capital but lower family social capital.
A separate study from the University of New Hampshire estimated that per-pupil spending would need to increase by more than $1,000 to achieve the kind of academic results that come from robust parental involvement.
So how can money for schools best be used to stimulate not just children’s learning, but parent involvement in children’s learning?
“Early life conditions and how children are stimulated play a very important role,” said University of Chicago economist James J. Heckman to The New York Times. “The danger is we will revert back to the mindset of the war on poverty, when poverty was just a matter of income, and giving families more would improve the prospects of their children. If people conclude that, it’s a mistake.”
Heckman advocates for strategic investments in early education that support families in providing the kind of environment that builds foundational skills for infants and toddlers that are necessary for subsequent classroom success.
This might mean more money to programs like those in the Salt Lake County library system which facilitate story time and reading…