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Can texting parents about their child's school work improve student achievement?
Texting parents about a child's academic performance may be the simple answer to improving student achievement, but is it the right one? - photo by Megan McNulty
Texting parents about a child's academic performance may be the simple, inexpensive answer to improving student achievement, but is it the right one?

A new British study from researchers at the University of Bristol and Harvard University found texting to be an effective way for parents to get involved with their child's education.

The research was part of the Parent Engagement Project, a project aiming to increase parental involvement in children's learning to improve educational outcomes. Parents of 15,697 students from seventh, ninth and 11th grades in British secondary schools were either sent 30 texts over the trial period (September 2014 to July 2015) or they received no texts.

The texts included information about upcoming tests, whether their kid's homework was turned in on time and what was being taught.

According to the study report, children whose parents were texted had one month of additional math progress and reduced absenteeism than students whose parents weren't texted.

According to Quartz, texting parents updates about their children may be the most inexpensive way to improve children's math skills "the British government spends 500 per month per student. The texting program cost 7.55 ($10.04) for the whole year."

Raj Chande, a senior advisor for the Behavioural Insights Team in the UK, told Quartz "students from the intervention group liked the idea of continuing the program more than those who weren't part of it," he said. "That means parents, teachers, and even obstinate teens are on board for a program that could boost academic attainment."

Chris Berdik, in a review for Slate of the book "The 160-Character Solution: How Text Messaging and Other Behavioral Strategies Can Improve Education" by Benjamin Castleman, reported that texting could be a solution to the "summer melt" where after teenagers graduate high school, they decide not to pursue college. The "summer melt" is a time of vulnerability for teenagers because they are cut off from professional support while they are forced to balance financial tasks.

Castleman found a company where "texting teams programmed software that would send a summer's worth of weekly, personalized texts to thousands of recent high school graduates in several cities, offering deadline reminders, links to documents and resources, and connections to professional advisors ready to answer their texted questions," according to Slate.

However, schools and other organizations texting parents or graduated teens may not encourage self-sufficiency.

According to the Mother Company, a parenting blog of compiled expert advice, encouraging independence throughout childhood is essential to their individual development.

"If you have a child in high school and you are touching base with your kid's teachers on a daily or weekly basis then you are profoundly disempowering your child," Mark Reford, vice chair of BASIS Independent Schools told U.S. News. "The message you are sending is, 'I dont trust you to handle yourself.'"

The Washington Post noted that once teens graduate high school, self-sufficiency will trump advanced skills in academic areas. Graduated teens must learn how to budget, handle emergencies, have digital and analog skills and develop social skills before they even graduate to be prepared for daily tasks incorporated into the rest of their lives.
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