"The poor performance kids, they required more help," Li notes."But when they were really helped, they actually improved." The debate about parental involvement has intensified in the wake of No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top, he says.
It was the subject of several stories and opinion pieces in news outlets in the U. and Canada, including The Atlantic and New York Times.
Li and Hamlin challenged those findings by adding another, more rigorous layer of analysis that showed the impact of parental involvement in homework is more nuanced than the earlier study suggests and can actually be beneficial among economically disadvantaged African-American and Hispanic students.
By factoring in other variables, he and Hamlin found parental homework help can be beneficial for students in disadvantaged families, especially when compared to advantaged families.
"So we are encouraging especially parents from disadvantaged families to help with homework, to get actively involved at school, and stay actively involved in your child's education to compensate for this disadvantage," says Li.
When kids are not doing well at school and parents are helping with homework, it may look like they are having a negative effect on their children when parental involvement is evaluated in relation to performance alone.
Li's research suggests the opposite may be true, and that low student performance may actually explain parental involvement – a conclusion that runs counter to assumptions about parents of economically disadvantaged, lower-performing students being less engaged with their children's education than those of more economically advantaged, higher-performing white students.
"We knew that with scientific studies, correlation is not causation," Li explains.
"We looked at it from a different angle, employing different quantitative methods, trying to disentangle why these things happen." Using data from the National Center for Education Statistics, Li and Hamlin conducted their research on a nationwide sample of 11,471 students.
The aim of the present study is to examine the link between an effective family-school communication (EFSC) – as one aspect of FSP – and the quality of parental homework involvement in the German context.
For this purpose, we developed a new measure of EFSC.