How Parents Can Help Their Middle Schoolers Succeed

By Katie Goldsmith | August 31, 2009 | 1 comment

My parents always thought it was important to get involved in my brothers' and my education, especially during our rambunctious middle school years. To be honest, sometimes they helped, sometimes they didn't.

They would have appreciated a recent study by Duke University's Nancy Hill and Diana Tyson. The study, published in Developmental Psychology, identifies some techniques that work better than others for boosting kids' academic achievement in middle school.

Researchers examined 50 studies published between 1985 and 2006, trying to determine the correlation between parental involvement and kids' academic achievement in middle school, measured by GPA, test scores, and number of advanced courses.

Hill and Tyson looked at three different types of parental involvement: home-based involvement, school-based involvement, and what they call "academic socialization." In home-based involvement, parents talk to their kids about school, try to help them with their homework, take them to educational places like museums, and make sure they have access to books and newspapers. School-based involvement consists of attending school events, becoming a part of the PTA, volunteering at school, and building relationships with teachers. And "academic socialization" means that parents communicate their expectations for education to their kids and highlights education's value and utility, like by linking schoolwork to current events. They also help their children create academic and career goals, discuss learning strategies with them, and make plans and preparations for the future.

Overall, Hill and Tyson found that middle school adolescents achieve more when their parents are involved in their education, but they found that the most effective form of involvement is academic socialization. According to the authors, this type of involvement is the best fit for middle school students because it helps them develop internal motivation and gives them a feeling of independence, rather than just making them feel pressured to succeed.

The authors note that although there has been a push among educators to get parents more involved in kids' homework, this strategy seemed to have little to no impact on kids' academic success in their study. "Whereas in some cases parents' direct involvement in homework may rescue a failing student," they write, parents will be better off fostering academic socialization, which "includes the types of strategies that will scaffold adolescents' burgeoning autonomy, independence, and cognitive abilities."

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About The Author

Katie Goldsmith is a Greater Good editorial assistant.


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Mr. Marcoux told me that I would end up putting the labels on peach cans if I failed to learn algebra. Mom and Dad reinforced that by telling me that I would be the guy who puts the caps on toothpaste tubes if I didn’t learn algebra.  I learned algebra.

Dave Williams | 9:07 am, September 3, 2009 | Link

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