Organizations such as the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education, or NCPIE, from the Parent Teacher Association, and The Harvard Family Research Project are overwhelmingly positive in their assessment of parent involvement in the schools. The only disadvantages of note were parents who became what is commonly known as a "helicopter parents" and teachers and/or parents who didn't know exactly what to ask for and/or how to implement the help provided.
The best approach may be for parents to work as equal partners with teachers to educate their children. Anne T. Henderson, Senior Consultant Community Organizing and Engagement, Annenberg Institute for School Reform, spoke to the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions. She believes that by training parents or other caregivers to assist teachers, the gap between those students who graduate and those who don't will be narrowed significantly. This partnering approach between families and schools seems to have worked well in Georgia, where families can take virtual tours of their child's school to see how it is reaching out to families.
In her book, "The Schooling Practices That Matter Most," Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory researcher Kathleen Cotton takes a broader look at how parents can be significantly more helpful by differentiating between parents who are actively involved and those who are passively involved.
An active parent is one who works directly with his children at home, engages in school activities, assists in classrooms and accompanies children on field trips. Cotton describes a passive parent as one who might correspond with the school through written documents and attend, but not engage, with the teacher during a parent-teacher conference.
Though it would appear that teachers really want active parental involvement, a study conducted by The Harvard Family Research Project discovered that many teachers did not know how to articulate what they wanted from a parent, or even how to ask for help. The percentage of schools that do include courses on parent-teacher relationships is quite low. This was determined to be a weakness in teacher education programs. The researchers suggested that university teacher training programs implement a component on parent involvement. They recommend that the schools and teachers make the first move since parents look to the school for guidance.
At a certain point, parental involvement in education can be a disadvantage. An example is the parent who clings on to a child after the child has graduated high school. Any parent heavily overly involved in a child's education, especially at the college level, is commonly referred to as a "helicopter parent" who only impedes the child's independence and self-esteem.
Though college students do need to learn self-reliance and independence, there is another side to the "helicopter parent" too. According to "The Washington Post," the hovering parent seems to actually be helping. Surprisingly, data accumulated from 24 colleges found that students whose parents were in constant contact with them had a better sense of what they needed to do in order to succeed. The students were happier and more enthusiastic about their college experience.