Parental school-based involvement (school PI) has been widely embedded in federal law and policy as a main target for school reform and educational equality. However, previous scholarship hasn't reached the consensus about the effectiveness of parent involvement in school-sponsored activities. Considering that federal, state-level education policy has put huge efforts and resources to promote parents' active school participation, there is an imperative need to investigate whether school PI is truly beneficial to child development. Furthermore, prior researchers revealed that the influence of PI on student achievement varies by social class (Desimone, 1999). Some have questioned the way existing school PI practices reinforce inequality and disadvantage for poor parents. Thus, the current study aimed to examine the relative impact on child and school-level outcomes of three types of school PI - involvement directed at their own child (private good PI), involvement to improve the school as a whole (public good PI), and involvement in parent networks (parent network), across SES groups.
The key finding is that school PI brought diverse benefits for educational outcomes, but the payoff of school PI varies considerably by child's grade, types of school PI, outcomes of interest, and family/school SES. Children whose parents got highly involved in private good PI reported rapid growth rates in math and reading achievement so that they significantly outperformed their peers at the end of elementary years. Children whose parents actively participated in public good activities and formed social networks with other parents reported higher math, but not reading, achievement at each grade, but no growth pattern over time. In addition, children whose parents reported high levels of involvement in all three types of school PI were rated socially better-adjusted and well-behaved by their teachers at each grade. Regarding school-level benefits, schools where a large numbers of parents were involved in three types of school PI were likely to report higher school-level achievement and more supportive school climate than their counterparts.
Notably, the positive relations of school PI to educational outcomes were moderated by family and school SES. Students' from high SES families obtained more benefits from their parents' participation in public good and private good PI activities than did students from low SES families. Similarly, high-SES schools were more likely to improve their school climate when high percentage of parents in schools was engaged with public good PI activities. However, school-mean private good PI and network worked more favorably for low-SES schools.