Parents are the first teachers of their children. The success of school education needs parental engagement. However, there is a cost to everything. What are the costs of encouraging more parental involvement in children’s science education? Robinson and her colleagues used a randomized field experiment to examine the effects of a text-messaging intervention in science education and identified opportunity costs of shifting parental effort from other subjects to science.
The study took place in England. Grades 7-11 students from 5 secondary schools were randomly assigned to the treatment condition (n = 1,729) or the control condition (n = 1,754). Pre-treatment covariates showed no statistically significant differences between conditions. Through a pre-existing texting platform, parents of students in the treatment condition received around two text messages per week nudging them to ask students specific questions tied to their science curriculum. All else equal, parents in the control condition did not receive texts. The intervention lasted for a duration of one science unit, approximately four to six weeks. Results suggested that:
- Treatment students experienced an increase in home discussions around science classes (ES=+0.27), but a decrease in parent engagement in other behaviors, such as turning off TV/computer/video game, making children go to sleep, checking children were studying (ES= -0.24).
- No significant effects were detected for science scores.
Since parents have limited time and resources, reduction in other parental engagement may increase the cost-benefit ratio, rendering the intervention useless or even harmful. Contrary to the conventional belief that more parent engagement is always merrier, this research cautioned policymakers that interventions shifting parental behaviors can be a double-edged sword.
Source: Robinson, C. D., Chande, R., Burgess, S., & Rogers, T. (2021). Parent engagement interventions are not costless: Opportunity cost and crowd out of parental investment. Educational Evaluation and Policy Analysis, 01623737211030492. https://doi.org/10.3102/01623737211030492