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The Effect of Parental Involvement on the Use of a Digital Homework Tool and on Math and Language Performance for Secondary Students – A Randomized Field Experiment

In this paper we analyze the effect of parental involvement on the use of a digital homework practice tool and on math and language performance of all students in grade 7 to 9 of two secondary schools in the Netherlands by means of an individually randomized experiment. The experiment consists of the provision of an app which allows parents to follow their child’s practice behavior in the digital homework tool.
Using an Instrumental Variable approach, controlling for non-compliance, the results indicate that parental involvement via app-use positively affects the use of the homework tool of 7th and 8th grade students, but negatively affects the use of the tool of 9th grade students. The positive effects are mainly driven by low-SES students and males, whereas the negative effect is driven by high-SES students and no effects are found for medium-SES students. Furthermore, we find positive effects of the use of the app on students’ math score, mainly for grade 8 students, but we find no effects on language scores. Correlational analysis of parental and student questionnaire answers shows that 7th and 8th grade students and their parents are more likely to be aligned with respect to the desired amount of parental involvement, whereas there is a clear discrepancy in this for 9th grade students and their parents.
In sum, the provision of a smartphone-based follow-up app for parents proves to foster homework activities as well as performance of students, especially in low-SES families and in the early years of secondary education. This implies that parental involvement can easily be increased for low-SES families as well, using technology and specifically asking for it, resulting in positive effects for those students that could often use an additional help to focus on their school.
JEL-Classification – I21, I29, C93.
Key words – Parental Involvement; Randomized Field Experiment; Homework Practice; Math and Language; Secondary Education.

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