While better teachers can certainly help a student achieve, better parenting can make a huge difference in a student’s academic achievement as well. GCP has been shouting this from cyberspace rooftops since the day we launched, and a column in today’s New York Times confirms that we need to turn up the volume. In “How About Better Parents?”, found here, Pulitzer prize winning columnist Thomas L. Friedman writes that better parenting can make a huge difference in a student’s academic achievement across all economic strata.

Friedman cites a recent study conducted by the Program for International Student Assessment (“PISA”), the people who test teenagers around the world on their math, science and reading skills, and then compares countries scores. In an effort to determine what factors enable students in various countries to perform better than others (and many countries perform better than the U.S), PISA researchers interviewed the parents of students in 23 countries about how they raised their children and then compared the interview results with the test results. Two weeks ago, PISA published the three main findings of their study, which were that:

• Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all;
• The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socio-economic background; and
• Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.

The study also notes that the quality of parental involvement matters. Reading, telling stories and talking about the day with your child has a greater positive impact than just playing with him. This study is worth reading and can be found here. It concludes with a powerful “bottom line”: “All parents can help their children achieve their full potential by spending some time talking and reading with their children – even, perhaps especially, when their children are very young. Teachers, schools and education systems should explore how they can help busy parents play a more active role in their children’s education, both in and out of school.” To which GCP says a hearty “Amen!”

Friedman also cites a recent study by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, which further determined the kinds of things parents can do to help student academic achievement. He notes “The study found that getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending P.T.A. and school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights.” GCP advocates that parents try to find ways to do as many of these things as possible, as they help your child consider himself an integral part of his school, and keep you in the loop as to what is going on there. However, if you find yourself spending more time volunteering at school than focusing on your son’s daily schoolwork, a shifting of priorities is in order.