How to Capture the Effects of Parent Engagement for Funders

December 20, 2016

One of the most important parts of a grant proposal is the outcomes section. The outcomes you outline in a proposal must be specific, measurable and attainable. That being said, talking about the effects of parent engagement can be difficult, as the positive effects of parent engagement are diverse.

Writing about Parent Engagement outcomes: A FAST® example:

Through FAST, participating parents and teachers complete surveys and open-ended questions before program start and after each cycle. Surveys measure FAST program goals, including domains related to child behavior, social relationships, social capital, access to community services, family functioning, parental effectiveness, and parent engagement.  For the purposes of this blog post, we are sticking to the topic of parent engagement.

At times, funders want specific details on outcomes:

  • What percentage of participants will improve?
  • How many participants will be served?
  • How do you measure parent engagement and who provides information?

The following is an example outcome of a FAST Cycle (one semester):

FAST will support a 75% increase in parent engagement in education. This is measured with the Parental Involvement in Education Scale, a validated scale which includes 8 questions focused on parent contact with the school. Teachers complete 27 questions that measure the teacher’s relationship with the parent as well as the parents’ involvement in school.

As you can see, this outcome is specific as 75% of parents will increase their level of engagement at school and in their child’s education. Likewise, this outcome descriptor details the way in which parent engagement will be measured: parent and teacher reports are included, and both fill out a survey specifically measuring parent engagement or involvement in education.

Parents are engaged, but how does this affect students?

Parent engagement is a strong mediating variable of academic outcomes. If parent engagement is increased early in the life of a child, he/she will receive lifelong academic support not only at school, but at home. Research increasingly reveals the connection between social-emotional development, mental health, and academic achievement. By improving family cohesion and child behavior, children and parents will experience reduced levels of toxic stress; this creates a positive feedback loop, ultimately improving the life trajectory of children and their parents.

As parents establish relationships with school staff, they gain confidence and feel more comfortable advocating for their children. Increased parent engagement supports an increase of shared values and expectations regarding academic duties, homework, and reading at home; this increase in positive academic norms through mechanisms of social influence supports child development and school readiness.

Here are a few specific points about the effects of parent engagement in schools:

  • A parent involvement program implemented in an elementary school during the 2009-2010 school year improved students’ math scores by more than 18 percentage points and reading scores by more than nine percentage points. (Mapp, Kuttner, 2013)

According to a recent report students whose parents are more involved are also more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades and test scores, and enroll in higher-level programs
  • Be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits
  • Attend school regularly
  • Have better social skills, show improved behavior, and adapt well to school
  • Graduate and go on to postsecondary education