In this study, we seek to evaluate the efficacy of teacher communication with parents and students as a means of increasing student engagement. We estimate the causal effect of teacher communication by conducting a randomized field experiment in which 6th and 9th grade students were assigned to receive a daily phone call home and a text/written message during a mandatory summer school program. We find that frequent teacher-family communication immediately increased student engagement as measured by homework completion rates, on-task behavior and class participation. On average, teacher-family communication increased the odds a student completed their homework by 42% and decreased instances in which teachers had to redirect students’ attention to the task at hand by 25%. Class participation rates among 6th grade students increased by 49%, while communication appeared to have a small negative effect on 9th grade students’ willingness to participate. Drawing upon surveys and interviews with participating teachers and students, we identify three primary mechanisms through which communication likely affected engagement: stronger teacher-student relationships, expanded parental involvement, and increased student motivation.
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