light bulb and the word ResearchHome visits are well established as a high-impact family engagement strategy. Research and direct experience confirm that visiting with families in their homes or another convenient and comfortable location they identify can be a powerful way to build relationships and strengthen communication.

Despite widespread respect for the practice, home visits are not as widely used in school settings as we might hope. Which raises the question, is it worth the investment of time and resources to try to expand this practice?

A recent study by Institute for Education Sciences strongly suggests that the answer is yes. According to their findings from work in D.C. area schools, just one home visit by a classroom teacher can result in improved attendance, lower disciplinary rates, and even improved academic performance among students from participating families. More precisely, participating students:

  • had about 3% fewer disciplinary incidents
  • had about 1% fewer serious disciplinary incidents
  • had .35% better attendance
  • had .03% better ELA performance
  • Had .12% better performance in math

These numbers may seem small, but in school district the size of Washington, D.C. – which enrolls roughly 19,500  – this translates into 585 fewer students having any disciplinary incidents during the school year. And, researchers estimated their mathematics gains at approximately 2 months of learning for 4th graders and 2.5 months of learning for 5th graders.

Even better, a cost analysis demonstrated that this can be accomplished at a “Low Cost” — defined as educational interventions that cost less than $500 per pupil.  In other words, home visits are a good investment for districts seeking to make an impact on student academic achievement. 

The study is particularly persuasive because it followed a randomized, controlled model – the gold standard for research studies – which can be challenging to accomplish in educational settings. Specifically, students who participated were chosen randomly, and then matched to “control” students who had exhibited similar patterns of attendance and behavior in the past.  In this way, students whose families received one home visit during the summer before they started school were able to be compared to students with similar profiles who did not receive a home visit.

Read study highlights or the full contents of the study at this link. Then, consider using this information to start a conversation about implementing home visits in your school or school district.