When it comes to boosting achievement for students of all ages, races, and socioeconomic backgrounds, the simplest answer may be the best one. New research from The Center for Public Education shows that simply getting parents involved in their child’s education can significantly impact student success. So what’s the catch?

A report by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory recently found that not all forms of parental involvement are created equal. So while joining the PTA or volunteering in their child’s class may seem like the best way for parents to get involved, there are actually better things parents can do to support student learning and help their kids make bigger gains.

The study found a common thread in the type of involvement that makes a real difference for students: “Programs and interventions that engage families in supporting their children’s learning at home are linked to high student achievement.” In other words, parents’ efforts to keep kids learning at home are much more effective than time spent participating in the next school fundraiser.

So how can you take advantage of this simple strategy for boosting student achievement? The trick is to give parents the tools they need to support their child’s learning at home. Here’s what you can do:

  1. By offering both home and school literacy activities for kindergartners and their families, one Minnesota program helped students make significant positive gains. Put this strategy into action for your students by sending home a packet of reading activities or printouts from Imagine Learning English. Encourage parents to work together with their students to complete the activities.
  2. Students whose parents attended training workshops on using reading and math learning packets made strong gains in both subjects. Reap the same benefits for your students by holding a brief parent training session and sharing simple strategies for completing a short packet of learning activities.
  3. TIPS, an initiative designed by Joyce Epstein and her colleagues at Johns Hopkins University, uses interactive homework assignments to bring parents and students together. Click here to view a sample TIPS homework assignment. Then try incorporating some of the strategies from the TIPS sample into your own homework assignments.
  4. Older students seem to benefit most when their parents communicate high expectations; one study found that “when families knew about and guided high school students to classes that would lead to higher education, students were more likely to enroll in a higher-level program, earn credits, and score higher on tests.” Make time to talk to parents about communicating high expectations to their kids — it could make a huge impact on your students’ futures.

What will you try? Or what have you already done to help parents get more involved in their child’s learning? Share your ideas in a comment below!