A two-year study of the “I Care” Positive Parenting Character Curriculum revealed that students whose parents are highly involved in their children’s education show the greatest improvement in their English and Mathematics scores. The research was conducted by SEG Measurement, a third party educational research firm in New Hope, Pennsylvania.
In a study by Dauber and Epstein (1993) of 2,317 inner-city elementary and middle school students, the best predictor of parental involvement was what the school did to promote it. School attitudes and actions were more important than the parents’ income, educational level, race, or previous school volunteering experience in predicting whether the parent would be involved in school.
“I Care” provides an easy process for parents to follow monthly that gives them positive activities to boost their children’s character development. Because the “I Care” Program is part of a school’s curriculum and facilitated by the school, parents are more apt to participate. We find that parents want to be involved in their children’s education but often don’t know how and are happy to receive some direction. “I Care” provides a simple and solid system for them to follow monthly.
The Center on Families, Communities, Schools, and Children’s Learning at Johns Hopkins University found that “parents who receive frequent and positive messages from teachers tend to become more involved in their children’s education than do other parents.”
In a study of elementary schools, Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, and Brissie (1987) found that teacher efficacy (feeling that one is an effective and capable teacher) is related to the strength of school programs of parental involvement. The author also found that schools with more confident teachers, on average, report more support from parents.
Another study of parental involvement in elementary schools found that parents and principals rated teachers higher in overall teaching ability and interpersonal skills if the teachers frequently used practices of parental involvement (Epstein 1985-1986).
One of the components of “I Care” is a monthly positive contact from teacher to parent. Parents love to hear positive messages about their children. This interaction often leads to a better relationship between school and home. Hearing positive messages can encourage parents to get more involved and stay involved in their children’s educational development.
Most parents want to be involved in their children’s education. According to Epstein, “family requests for involvement are constant.” Studies show that the majority of parents “want to know how to help their children at home and what they can do to help their children succeed.” Research suggests that “the most effective forms of parental involvement are those which engage parents in working directly with their children in learning activities at home.” The earlier in a child’s education this process begins, the more effective it will be.
Learning at home requires every teacher to understand the important connections between what is taught and learned in school and what is encouraged, practiced, discussed, and celebrated at home (Epstein, 2001).
In another study, Epstein (1982) found that teacher leadership in parent involvement in learning activities at home contributes independently to positive changes in reading achievement from fall to spring, even after teacher quality, students’ initial achievement, parents’ education, parents’ improved understanding of the school program, and the quality of students’ homework were taken into account.
“I Care” is built on the foundation that the activities that parents do with their children outside of the school’s time are the most effective in helping children be successful in school and in the community. This foundation is demonstrated in the parenting activities that are the major focus in the “I Care” Program. Parents are given various activities to complete each month with their child that reinforce a positive character trait. Some of the activities are as simple as directing a dinner conversation about a particular subject and some require a bit more effort, such as volunteering in the community. The activities are to be used as a guide. Positive reinforcement in the home makes an incredible impact on a child’s success in life.
Quigley (2000) reported that 29 schools in Los Angeles implemented a parenting project that included parent training, an emphasis on parent/teacher communication, and learning at home. Results showed a positive impact on the students’ behavior, homework, and academic performance in the form of higher reading achievement test scores than students in comparison groups.
“I Care” doesn’t expect for parents to learn the program on their own. As with any other successful program or undertaking, training is key. “I Care” provides training materials for parents to encourage the success of the program. This training provides positive reinforcement for parents that the schools want them to succeed and are willing to provide the tools for them to do so. Parents of all education levels and socioeconomic backgrounds benefit from receiving the “I Care” parent training and from participating in “I Care.”
Research by Van Voorhis (2000) has shown that home-to-school communication that invites parents to record an observation, comment, and to share skills that their children demonstrate at home increases parent participation.
When teachers differ culturally and educationally from their students (as with schools that have many below-average students), or when they teach greater numbers of students (as in departmentalized programs), they are less likely to know the students’ parents, and therefore, more likely to believe that parents are uninterested or uninvolved. If teachers believe that parents are not interested in becoming involved in their children’s schooling, teachers make fewer efforts to contact, inform, and work with them, especially with those who are hard to reach (Becker and Epstein, 1982).
“I Care” encourages parents to share information with the school on a monthly basis by documenting positive activities on a feedback form. The information that parents provide has proved to be invaluable for teachers as they are able to get a glimpse into each student’s home life.
We have found that teachers have been able to use the information that they receive monthly to foster more positive relationships with the students and their families. One teacher told a story of how she used the information from a child’s fishing experience with his parents as a teaching tool in her classroom. She asked the student to tell the class about his experience. He was so excited and the teacher was able to create a positive environment for the child to share. His excitement was encouraging for the parents to continue creating positive experiences with their child. The fishing trip was a bit of information that the teacher would probably have never known about without the Feedback Form, and the positive chain of reactions that occurred because of this information would not have happened.
Teachers who include the family in the children’s education are recognized by parents for their efforts. They are rated higher by parents than are other teachers on interpersonal and teaching skills, and they are rated higher in overall teaching ability by their principals (Epstein, 1985 [Reading 4.3], 1986).
The involvement of fathers in the education of their children can make a significant difference in overall achievement. A 1996 study by the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) found that high father involvement improves the likelihood that children in grades one to twelve will earn high grades, and reduces the likelihood that children in grades six to twelve will be suspended or expelled from school (NCES, 1996).
A study by Henry Becker and Joyce Epstein (1982) found that most adults believe that parents want to avoid or minimize family involvement in their children’s education as they get older. Data from students from elementary through high school suggest the opposite. Students want families to be knowledgeable partners with their schools in their education and available to be helpful sources of information and assistance at home.