February newsletter

PVM Principal's Letter


I've read some studies recently that have strongly reinforced Pleasant Valley's strongly-held premise that home and school must partner to produce the best possible academic achievement for our scholars. A study by researchers at North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the University of California-Irvine, for example, found that parental involvement-checking homework, attending school meetings and events, discussing school activities at home-has a more powerful influence on students' academic performance than the school the students attend.

    Another study, published in the Review of Economics and Statistics, reports that the effort put forth by parents (reading stories aloud, meeting with teachers) has a bigger impact on their children's educational achievement than the effort expended by either teachers or the students themselves. A third study concludes that schools would have to increase their spending by more than $1,000 per pupil in order to achieve the same results that are gained with parental involvement (not likely in this stretched economic era).

    This research also reveals something else: that parents, of all backgrounds, don't need to buy expensive educational toys or digital devices for our kids in order to give them an edge. We don't need to chauffeur our scholars to enrichment classes or test-prep courses. The research states what we need to do with their children is much simpler: Talk. For example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of Public Health and published in the journal Pediatrics found that two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in promoting language development as when the adult did all the talking. Engaging in this reciprocal back-and-forth gives children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter. As they grow older, this feeling helps kids develop into assertive advocates for their own interests, asking for help or arguing their own case with others, including teachers, parents, and peers.

    The content of conversations matters, too. Children who hear talk about counting and numbers at home start school with much more extensive mathematical knowledge, report researchers from the University of Chicago-knowledge that predicts future achievement in the subject. Psychologist Susan Levine, who led the study on number words, has also found that the amount of talk young children hear about the spatial properties of the physical world-how big or small or round or sharp objects are-predicts kids' problem-solving abilities as they prepare to enter kindergarten.

While the conversations parents have with our children change as kids grow older, the effect of these exchanges on academic achievement remains strong. And the way mothers and fathers talk to their middle-school students makes a difference. Research by Nancy Hill, a professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of Education, finds that parents play an important role in what Hill calls "academic socialization"-setting expectations and making connections between current behavior and future goals (going to college, getting a good job).

    Engaging in these sorts of conversations, has a greater impact on educational accomplishment than volunteering at a child's school or going to PTA meetings, or even taking children to libraries and museums. When it comes to fostering students' success, it seems, it's not so much what parents do as what we say, and how we say it. Interesting, right?

Tamarah Grigg
PVM Principal

Pleasant Valley Middle School 

14320 NE 50th Avenue
Vancouver, WA 98686

(360) 885-5500
(360) 885-5510

Student Hours

Office Hours
7:15am - 3:45pm

Staff Hours
7:45am - 3:15pm

Emergency Closure
(360) 885 - 5343

(360) 885-5343