A recent study published in the Economics of EducationReview shows that struggling pupils did better in school when their teachers communicated with their parents regularly, and suggested specific actions pupils could do to improve their grades.
Researchers studied the effects of teacher/parent communication on the academic achievement of 435 struggling US high school pupils enrolled in a summer school to recover lost credits in English, history, maths, or science two hours a day during a five-week programme. Pupils were mostly Hispanic and African-American, and all were from low-income backgrounds. All pupils had to have been absent less than 30 days and to have received an “F+” in up to two courses. Pupils’ parents were randomly divided into three groups: the first group received a short weekly message from the teacher by phone, text, or email about what their child was doing well (positive); the second received a weekly teacher’s message about areas where their child needed improvement (improvement); and the third received no teacher message at all (control).
At the end of the term, pupils whose parents had received messages from their teachers were 41% more likely to pass their classes than the control group who received no messages. Researchers noted that this was due to larger dropout rates in the control group. In addition, pupils whose parents received messages about areas for improvement passed their classes at a higher score than the group who received messages about pupils doing well. A participant survey at the end of the study showed that the parent–pupil teams in the “improvement” and “positive” groups communicated about schoolwork with the same frequency, but the conversational content differed in that the improvement-group teams discussed areas where the pupils needed to do better, something the positive teams were less likely to do and a factor the researchers cite as a possible reason for the improvement pupils’ higher scores.
The study was performed as part of a series of low-cost school-improvement strategies.
Source: The Underutilized Potential of Teacher-to-Parent Communication: Evidence from a Field Experiment (2015), Economics of Education Review, 47.