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A recent New York Times op-ed titled “Parental Involvement Is Overrated” challenges conventional wisdom that increased parent engagement improves student academic achievement. Authors Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris argue some parent involvement can even limit students academically. Robinson and Harris believe parents must do three things to positively impact their child’s academic success.

  1. Expect their child to go to college
  2. Discuss activities children engage in at school.
  3. Request a particular teacher for their child.

Activities like parents working directly with their children on learning activities at home or helping select their child’s high school classes doesn’t increase academic achievement according to Robinson and Harris’ research.

This claim challenges accepted approaches to foster academic achievement by innovative nonprofits and change-agents. Some of our clients like Public Citizens for Children and Youth (PCCY) and Springboard Collaborative view parental engagement as a vital component to a child’s academic success. Both nonprofits provide students and their parents with methods to increase academic achievement.This fact stands true especially for children of traditionally marginalized groups and those attending school in low-resource areas.

Last year Springboard Collaborative set a program record by reaching a 3.3-month reading gain for students enrolled in its summer program. At the same time, parents achieved a 93% attendance rate for the weekly program. Correlation doesn’t equal causation. But the numbers indicate a strong relationship between parental involvement and the academic achievement created by students.

Highlighting Springboard Collaborative and PCCY’ isn’t an attempt to discredit Robinson and Harris.

The goal stands to draw a larger point that today’s information overload world requires nonprofits and donors to carefully and efficiently evaluate the data they collect and use that information as a guide to overcome society’s challenges.

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