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Parent Engagement from Preschool through Grade 3
A Guide for Policymakers

Authors: Sheila Smith, Taylor Robbins, Shannon Stagman, and Disha Mathur
Publication Date: September 2013

Parent engagement in children’s education is increasingly viewed as an essential support to children’s learning in early care and education programs and throughout the school years. While there are many definitions of “parent engagement,” the term is used here to describe parents’ efforts to promote their children’s healthy development and learning through activities that can be encouraged by educators in child care, preschool and school settings. (We also use the term “parent involvement” in the same way.) This report makes the case that effective parent engagement during the span from preschool through the early grades is a key contributor to children’s positive academic outcomes. During this period, young children acquire foundational competencies – including language, literacy, early math, and social-emotional skills – that strongly affect their capacity for grade-level learning. When young children fall behind in developing these skills, they often face an uphill path for the rest of their school years. For example, children who have weak language skills upon school entry are more likely to struggle while learning to read, and weak reading skills in third grade greatly hamper children’s learning across the curriculum in later grades. While high-quality teaching in preschool and the early grades is essential, parents can also play a vital role in helping children acquire foundational competencies that fuel school success.

The following sections of this report present research, program, and policy information that can inform state initiatives to strengthen parent engagement during preschool through grade 3.

  • Key findings from research: Studies relating parenting behavior to child’s learning and achievement; studies that evaluate interventions; and research on factors affecting parent involvement
  • Promising models designed for culturally diverse, low-income families
  • Exemplary state parent engagement initiatives
  • Opportunities for states to advance parent engagement policies and practices
  • Summary of research
  • Recommendations