The Washington Post

Home visiting linked to lower school truancy and better reading outcomes


Jerome Watkins and his wife, Nicole Jones-Watkins, discuss expectations for the coming school year for their son, Xavier Ferrell, 9, with Stanton Elementary teachers Melissa Bryant and Samantha Antunez at a teacher home visit in 2013. (Amanda Voisard/For The Washington Post)

Students whose teachers visited them at home to build relationships with their families were less likely to miss school, according to a new study from Johns Hopkins University.

Researchers also found that students who took part in a home visiting program were more likely to read at their grade level and that their teachers received higher marks on some parts of their teacher evaluations.

The study included 4,700 students at 12 elementary schools or education campuses that took part in a family engagement program run by the District-based Flamboyan Foundation during the 2013-2014 school year.

“We’ve always known anecdotally and emotionally that home visiting helps families connect to teachers, but now we know home visits are increasing attendance,” said Kristin Ehrgood, president and board chair of the foundation.

Over time, research has shown that children whose parents are involved in their education tend to do better in attendance, grades, graduation rates and other areas. But there is far less research about whether schools can make a difference in supporting greater engagement among families, said Steven B. Sheldon, a research scientist with the Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships who led the study.

“The question is: Can we encourage and support those who are less engaged to be more engaged?” he said.

The Flamboyan Foundation, which funded the study, trains and pays teachers to conduct home visits. The visits are designed to build trust between school and home. The goal is to make parents partners in their children’s academic growth and performance.

The report shows the effects of an effort that is gaining traction in the District. The foundation piloted the program in 2011-2012 with five schools and expanded last year to partner with 27 traditional and charter schools.

Now, about a quarter of teachers at D.C. Public Schools have been trained in the approach, and the school system plans to significantly increase the number of teachers who use the model.

The study looked at whether students whose families received home visits were more likely to have grade-level reading comprehension and fluency skills, whether they were absent less frequently, and how likely they were to re-enroll the next year.

In the participating schools, more than half of the students’ families and teachers had home visits; their outcomes were weighed against those who did not. The vast majority of students at the 12 schools are African American or Hispanic and come from low-income families.

The study found that students whose families received home visits were absent, on average, 2.7 fewer days than students whose families were not visited, a difference that translated into a 24 percent reduction.

Also, students whose families received home visits were 1.55 times more likely to score at the proficient level on a reading comprehension test.

The study found no improvement in results on a different reading-fluency test. It also found that students who were visited at home were no more likely to re-enroll in the same school the next year.

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