The Broken Compass: Parental Involvement with Children's Education

Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris


Harvard University Press

It seems like common sense that children do better when parents are actively involved in their schooling, but how well does the evidence stack up? Harris, professor of sociology and African-American studies, and his co-author put this question to the test in the most thorough scientific investigation to date of how parents across socioeconomic and ethnic groups contribute to the academic performance of K-12 children. The study’s surprising discovery is that no clear connection exists between parental involvement and improved student performance.

The authors assessed over 60 measures of parental participation, at home and in school. While the authors do not wish to discourage parents’ interest, they believe that the time has come to seriously reconsider whether greater parental involvement can make much of a dent in the basic problems facing their children’s education today. This provocative study challenges some of our most cherished beliefs about the role of family in educational success.