NYT op-ed "How About Better Parents?" (to ensure educational success)

Karla - posted on 11/22/2011 ( 25 moms have responded )

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(My thoughts at the end...)
Op-Ed Columnist
How About Better Parents?
By THOMAS L. FRIEDMAN
Published: November 19, 2011

IN recent years, we’ve been treated to reams of op-ed articles about how we need better teachers in our public schools and, if only the teachers’ unions would go away, our kids would score like Singapore’s on the big international tests. There’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers. But here’s what some new studies are also showing: We need better parents. Parents more focused on their children’s education can also make a huge difference in a student’s achievement.

How do we know? Every three years, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, or O.E.C.D., conducts exams as part of the Program for International Student Assessment, or PISA, which tests 15-year-olds in the world’s leading industrialized nations on their reading comprehension and ability to use what they’ve learned in math and science to solve real problems — the most important skills for succeeding in college and life. America’s 15-year-olds have not been distinguishing themselves in the PISA exams compared with students in Singapore, Finland and Shanghai.

To better understand why some students thrive taking the PISA tests and others do not, Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the exams for the O.E.C.D., was encouraged by the O.E.C.D. countries to look beyond the classrooms. So starting with four countries in 2006, and then adding 14 more in 2009, the PISA team went to the parents of 5,000 students and interviewed them “about how they raised their kids and then compared that with the test results” for each of those years, Schleicher explained to me. Two weeks ago, the PISA team published the three main findings of its study:

http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/4/1/49...

“Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family’s socioeconomic background. Parents’ engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.”

Schleicher explained to me that “just asking your child how was their school day and showing genuine interest in the learning that they are doing can have the same impact as hours of private tutoring. It is something every parent can do, no matter what their education level or social background.”

For instance, the PISA study revealed that “students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘every day or almost every day’ or ‘once or twice a week’ during the first year of primary school have markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents reported that they had read a book with their child ‘never or almost never’ or only ‘once or twice a month.’ On average, the score difference is 25 points, the equivalent of well over half a school year.”

Yes, students from more well-to-do households are more likely to have more involved parents. “However,” the PISA team found, “even when comparing students of similar socioeconomic backgrounds, those students whose parents regularly read books to them when they were in the first year of primary school score 14 points higher, on average, than students whose parents did not.”

The kind of parental involvement matters, as well. “For example,” the PISA study noted, “on average, the score point difference in reading that is associated with parental involvement is largest when parents read a book with their child, when they talk about things they have done during the day, and when they tell stories to their children.” The score point difference is smallest when parental involvement takes the form of simply playing with their children.

These PISA findings were echoed in a recent study by the National School Boards Association’s Center for Public Education, and written up by the center’s director, Patte Barth, in the latest issue of The American School Board Journal.

The study, called “Back to School: How parent involvement affects student achievement,” found something “somewhat surprising,” wrote Barth: “Parent involvement can take many forms, but only a few of them relate to higher student performance. Of those that work, parental actions that support children’s learning at home are most likely to have an impact on academic achievement at school.

“Monitoring homework; making sure children get to school; rewarding their efforts and talking up the idea of going to college. These parent actions are linked to better attendance, grades, test scores, and preparation for college,” Barth wrote. “The study found that getting parents involved with their children’s learning at home is a more powerful driver of achievement than parents attending P.T.A. and school board meetings, volunteering in classrooms, participating in fund-raising, and showing up at back-to-school nights.”

To be sure, there is no substitute for a good teacher. There is nothing more valuable than great classroom instruction. But let’s stop putting the whole burden on teachers. We also need better parents. Better parents can make every teacher more effective.

A version of this op-ed appeared in print on November 20, 2011, on page SR11 of the New York edition with the headline: How About Better Parents?

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/11/20/opinio...

My Questions:

This is easy, why are so many parents failing?
What can a community do to encourage or even ensure the early success for parents that will in turn ensures the child's educational success and the success of the community and society?

MOST HELPFUL POSTS

Janice - posted on 11/25/2011

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Meggy I'm sorry that happened to you! That really is not okay. ADD/ ADHD is is now a LD that students have IEPs for and the regular teacher is supposed to make accommodations based on the IEP. Some regular Ed teachers do a better job than others. Unfortunately there are sooo many teachers who are not well trained and are jerks and just keep teaching because it is a secure job. I don't know about standards in other states but in NY the requirements to get a teaching degree are high and students are trained (basic) to work with students with disabilities and how to collaborate with special ed. So hopefully less children are having the experiences you had in school.

As for my "class" related comments I would say that most parents who are not involved either dont know how they should be involved or are just too tired to make a big effort. However, my post lumped the poor and some working class together. I think that in my personal experience it is the working class-middle class families who value education most. They are typically working very hard and are where they are because they worked hard in school or they are working barely making ends meet because they didnt do great and want better for their child/ren. Of course these are generalizations and there are people of EVERY class that may or may not being doing their part in their child's education. Typically, those who lose all faith in schooling are those in the worst areas where crime is high and there are gangs and in general much despair.

Janice - posted on 11/23/2011

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If there was one thing that was drilled into every piece of my education degree was that partnerships with families is essential for student success!



I think in general our the American attitude is to blame others and this is making teaching and learning very difficult. Parents blame teachers, teachers blame parents and students as little as 5 have little motivation to learn.



I think there are two broad types of parents who are "failing" their children.

There are the middle & upper middle class parents who have taught their child that everything they do is great and that extra curricular activities trump school. They send letters to the teachers to excuse there child from homework because they were at soccer practice. (not all middle class families are like this of course)



Then there are the working class or poor families who either do not value education because of their own experiences or are from a different culture and do not understand how they can help their child or are so exhausted after working 2-3 jobs that they just cant put in the effort. (Of course there are many working class and poor families who value education and do all they can to help their children)



I just completed my BS and we were taught strategies to help involve families of all backgrounds. Of course this means going much farther than just teaching children. This means the teacher must work "overtime" in order to meet the needs of the families they serve. Unfortunately about half the time these extra efforts go unrewarded so teachers give up.



All students should have an adult at home to read with them, help them with homework and in general make sure they are learning at school. I don't know what it will take exactly to alleviate all of the "parental issues." I know with so many working class and poor families that understanding from the teacher can really make the difference on whether they work with the school or not. A parent who feels looked down on may not help their child because of that feeling not realizing how badly it is impacting their child. However, how can we really get through to drug addicts or parents who have zero belief in the importance of education.

As for those families on the other end who think they are above the school system and have taught their children the same I'm not sure what to do. We somehow need to convince people that hardwork has value. Its hard to do that when we live in country in which acting like an ass on a reality TV show can make you rich, while getting a college education puts you in incredible amount of debt fighting 100 other applicants for 1 job!



One more idea in the article that I must address is that we really do need more young teachers. I have been a "student" in many classrooms and so much of what I was taught to do and was told is best, I did not see happening in classrooms. I was trained how to differentiate learning in order to meet the needs of different children, and how to work with and involve families, and how to advocate for students who are falling behind. Many (not all) older teachers have very little training in what is considered best practice and therefore implement it so minimally or not at all. So yes, teachers unions that keep mediocre teachers in there jobs with out consequence is a very real problem.

Karla - posted on 11/23/2011

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Jeanette, you cut down the premise of the article, but then you list all the things you do in your home that are recommended by this study and article. I find that confusing, as though you think the article is directed to you personally and it’s not.



From Jeanette, “Here's is my problem with your slanted article. It focuses on how American parents are raising their children, not anyone else. AND it focuses on a portion of how parenting can affect the child, not a wide spectrum.”



The article includes this statement that indicates the sole purpose of the study was to look beyond the classroom (as in: for a change look past the classroom.):

”To better understand why some students thrive taking the PISA tests and others do not, Andreas Schleicher, who oversees the exams for the O.E.C.D., was encouraged by the O.E.C.D. countries to look beyond the classrooms..



and



From Jeannette: “So, while the article is making an effort to blame parents who never liked to read themselves, it is quite basic and too simple an argument. We have to do more than read to our kids and ask about how their school day went if we really want to compete academically with many of these other countries.”



You are saying we must do “more than read to our kids and ask about how their school day “… but isn’t it a starting point, or at least a valid practice?



I disagree that the article made an effort to blame parents, the article is a op-ed about a study that found what is done in homes with successful students and how that is different than homes where they are not successful. It is absolutely imperative to look at the whole picture, and home is a huge part of that picture.



I understand what you are saying about teaching for the test, and I agree that the practice is wrong. Teaching for the test is a bigger problem than teaching for standardized tests though, even before this, teachers were teaching for their own tests – tests are a way to measure whether or not the student learned anything. That’s all a test is, but it’s emphasized for lack of a better measuring method. Students begin to be closed to anything that is not relative to their current studies for their current test (if they care at all) – and that has grown in the education system to include standardized tests. This does not promote a love of learning.



Also, the author said ”there’s no question that a great teacher can make a huge difference in a student’s achievement, and we need to recruit, train and reward more such teachers.”



That was acknowledged.



But besides all that, some kids find NO value in education. Some kids go to school until they can legally dropout; they are giving up at very young ages. Inner city schools often have a 50% drop out rate and that counts only 9th – 12th grade, it does not include the kids who were held back year after year and were 16 and able to drop out before they reached 9th grade.



Here’s another issue schools have: the 7th and 8th grade students my daughter teaches have so many discipline issues that she is frustrated with the situation daily. She tells me that in college she learned all these great teaching methods, (not just one) ways to capture the students’ attention, ways to bring the topic to their level, and to their life, but she can rarely use these methods in her current classroom because she is spending so much time on discipline issues. Does that come from her as a teacher? Not likely. It comes from a home environment that is not supportive of education, that is not teaching even the basics that Jeanette mentioned ”how to say thank you, what clothes to wear in which season, hygiene, sharing, charity, compassion, etc. “ These students don’t even know about these basics.



What I’m saying is that the parents of FAILING students are usually FAILING at parenting – of course there’s always that kid who fails no matter what the parent does, and the kid who succeeds no matter how much they are neglected, but that is not the norm.



Jeanette, all of your arguments address issues other than what is happening in the home, and you have used only your home as an example. The problem is in the homes that are not like yours. I know some of your arguments are valid, but they sidestep the issue of parents who are either unwilling or unable to simply read to their child or ask how their day went.



Unfortunately this trend is self-perpetuating within families, and a community must come together to find ways to break the cycle. It’s not a personal attack; it’s a need for outreach.



I included this in the OP, but I want to stress it again...

http://www.pisa.oecd.org/dataoecd/4/1/49...

Lindsey - posted on 11/22/2011

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Jeannette



I agree with some of your points. I agree that the article isn't looking at the whole picture, and there are a lot of generalizations used to support the writers' opinion, but I think the overall idea of the article is sound and is worthy of discussion.



You said that you feel that the educational system is "warped" and that "children are taught to pass national tests rather than ensuring they comprehend the content". And I absolutely agree with you.



But I think that those points support the idea that parents need to be more involved in their children's education. We know that the system is broken, we know that it isn't going to be fixed any time soon, and so as parents it is our responsibility to pick up the slack. We need to help our children comprehend what they are being taught in school, we need to teach them to be critical thinkers, and we need to teach them that learning and educating yourself is a lifelong pursuit.



Children should be happy, they should have the opportunity to do the things that they enjoy, and they should be taught to be well-rounded. But education and academics are also important. I've seen a lot of parents spend hours shuttling their kids from one extra-curricular activity to another (piano lessons, soccer, dance, swimming, art) and those same parents spend little to no time helping their children with their homework and reading to them.



Most teachers (sorry for the wide generalization) have one or two styles/methods of teaching and in reality that doesn't work for most students. Even if the teacher uses a wide variety of methods, it doesn't mean that any of those methods is going to work for your child. That is why it is so important to work with your children's teachers and school to help your child to excel.



How many of the kids on the average little league baseball team will wind up pitching for the major leagues? How many of the little girls who take dance lessons will end up being professional dancers?



What are the chances that your child will pursue a higher education if you encourage them and help them along the way?

Karla - posted on 11/24/2011

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Meggy, I'm so sorry to hear that you had such an awful experience with a Special Ed teacher and school psychiatrist, I cannot imagine how painful that must have been. (Are those people still in the school system? It sounds as though they need further education about how to treat students!)

I'm glad to hear that you are making an effort to rise above such treatment. You know the problem was them, and not you. I hope you and your children continue to find supportive teachers.

Having hope and working towards a better way are important.

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♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 11/25/2011

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My SIL called that teacher a psycho Bitch to her face so I know she was still teaching after I graduated since my brother and SIL are 3 years younger than me.

I had some good teachers so I knew that it wasn't me it was them and when it came time for my daughter to attend school back where I'm from I spent the extra money to send her to a private school instead.

Recently my mom saw my 1st grade teacher at a church function and she was going on about how great a teacher she was. My mom had to hold her tongue to not say what kind of teacher she really was. Luckily she's retired.

I agree that hoping that teachers now know how to deal with more minor learning disabilities (I consider what I have minor because I've taken care of people with severe developemental disabilities) is better than dwelling on what happened.

Michele - posted on 11/24/2011

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Karla, I agree that after school programs and support services for students and parents can help. I just finished an auction for the school that funds free after school enrichment classes for students, which include dance, art, computer classes, science, music, cooking, gardening and many more. The school pays for intervention classes for students who are far below grade-level proficiency. And as mentioned, we also try to fund supports for parents. With funding the way it is and fundraising being down, it can be hard.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 11/24/2011

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Karla, I was never given a paraprofessional and neither was my brother. In our school district there are varying severities. As I stated I have ADD and bi-polar. My disabilities are mental, but they aren't bad enough to affect my ability to be in mainstream classes, attend college or have a normal life. I was in school with a boy who did need someone with him because he was nearly legally blind and I'm not sure what else was wrong with him.

As I said in my other post there are some special ed teachers I've encountered who shouldn't teach ducks, goats or other animals nevermind children. One of them had this brilliant idea along with the school psychiatrist (who I had to see once a week) to allow my classmates to go around and say why they hated me. My brother and SIL also had her and she wasn't much better with them. She would freak out over everything!

However all my bad experiances don't keep me from wanting what is best for my daughters and working with their teachers to help them do their best. Of course with my baby there's no one but my husband and I to teach her. But luckily my 7 year old has had nice teachers who are willing to work with her and help with her ADHD. IMO it's a good thing that teachers now are taught how to deal with that instead of blaming the child, shaming them and blaming parents which is what used to happen.

Karla - posted on 11/24/2011

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From Janice: ”However, how can we really get through to drug addicts or parents who have zero belief in the importance of education.



Other studies have shown that afterschool support and summer programs improve the outcome of children in these dysfunctional homes. Unfortunately that does require money and they are non-required programs and therefore the first to be eliminated with current budget cuts.



Also from Janice:

“As for those families on the other end who think they are above the school system and have taught their children the same I'm not sure what to do.”



Now there is an interesting dilemma. Actually, it would be good to explore whether or not this trend is harmful to the student in the long run. I’d be interested in a study of these homes to explore whether or not these are the larger percentage of kids that end up as adults living in their parents’ basement. Or perhaps these kids end up fine.



From Meggy:

”I do wonder how much training is given to non special education teachers to deal with students with different behaiveral (I can't spell that properly) and learning dissabilities which aren't severe enough to be in a special education class.”



I think it would be nearly impossible to train teachers to deal with every disability they are faced with. Students with IEP status often have a paraprofessional to aid them, but I wonder about the aid’s skill level as well. Also, because of budget issues there are not always enough paraprofessionals as needed. As for teachers I fear some colleges stress the special needs students more than others creating unequal abilities among teachers, and I believe some teachers (persons) behave differently than the methods taught in their education classes. This is where well trained administrators could aid teachers in their methods, reinforcing positive methods.



As for the OP, I would like to see a follow up study to learn whether or not outside aid, such as afterschool programs, summer programs, quality of daycare make as much an impact on successful students as compared to parental care, etc.



My argument used to be that including mandatory classes in Psychology, Sociology and Child Development in the High School curriculum would help our society in the long run, but the more I read about the problems involved I believe the cycle would not be broken at that level. By the time they reach high school too many students simply do not care, many drop out, some are already having children.



The OP article and study can make a difference to families that care, but for the ones who believe they are fine, or don’t care, this study won’t help. I’m feeling at a loss as to what will help, except for Ashley’s input… ”We provide(in our area) after schools to support the young people in there homework.



Its there for children who cannot get the support at home. We still(service) promote parental involvement.I have seen the change first hand this service can do for a child.Its an excellent service.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 11/23/2011

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I'm curious about what experiances by working class families you refer to Janice. I'm middle class/working class myself and had a horredous time in school because I was bullied by teachers and students from the time I was in Kindergarten to the day I graduated from high school. There were only reprieves in middle school because I went to a very small middle school. My husband also had a terrible time in school because of teachers who didn't understand that he learned differently from other students due to dyslexia.

However we both make it a point to help our 7 year old in school and be involved with her school and other activities. Because we both believe that we were good students despite the teachers' failings to help us with certain aspects.

I do wonder how much training is given to non special education teachers to deal with students with different behaiveral (I can't spell that properly) and learning dissabilities which aren't severe enough to be in a special education class. I have ADD and bi polar and except for the special ed teachers (one of which IMO shouldn't've been allowed to teach ducks to swim let alone children) none of them actually know how to deal with children with IEPs.

Lindsey - posted on 11/23/2011

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I just wanted to add another point...

Jeannette has mentioned that her husband was upset by the fact that the teacher asked both of them to work on their son's reading skills, and he felt that he shouldn't have to do her job for her. I completely agree that teachers are paid to do a specific job and that they should do it to the best of their ability. We need to have expectations for our children's educators.

However, we should also have expectations of ourselves. Karla mentioned the fact that her daughter spends much of her time in her classroom dealing with disciplinary issues. I don't want to put words in Karla's daughters mouth, but I imagine that if I were a teacher and I spent most of my day dealing with issues that should be dealt with at home I would probably say this... Why should I be doing the job of the parents?

Does anyone see the irony in this? Parents are upset that teachers aren't doing their job, and teachers are upset that parents aren't doing theirs.

The fact is that parents and educators need to work together, and both need to understand their respective roles. A teachers primary job is to educate our children in core subjects and areas (math, science, reading, etc), and a parents primary job is to teach our children life skills (respect, responsibility for our actions, appropriate behavior, etc). If parents do their job, then teachers will have more time to devote to educating (rather than disciplining). And if teachers do their job to the best of their ability, it makes things easier for parents.

But there has to be an overlap on both parts. It doesn't mean that parents shouldn't be involved in their children's education, or that teachers shouldn't be teaching their students the values of hard work, respect, honesty, etc. But those would be secondary responsibilities.

Of course, I'm talking about a perfect situation in which all parents do their jobs and all teachers do theirs. And that is never going to happen (at least not in my lifetime).

So until it does, those parents who care about their children's future and their education are going to have to treat their child's education as a primary responsibility and be as involved as possible.

And to be honest, even if teachers were able to do their job properly (without overcrowded classrooms, disruptive children, and uninvolved parents) I would still WANT to be involved.

I hope I didn't get ahead of myself, and I hope I made some sense in what I am trying to say. As I mentioned earlier I am passionate about education and sometimes my ideas are forming and churning much faster than my fingers.

♥♪Megan♫♥ - posted on 11/23/2011

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My 7 year old can speak and understand Spanish as well as English. This is because she had a Hispanic babysitter from just over 1 year to the time she was 5 and I also speak spanish with her. She can also read chapter books, colour in the lines and make up her own stories.



I wonder if the article takes into account the students who don't learn by traditional teaching methods

Karla - posted on 11/23/2011

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Ashley, thank you for offering such great advice on how a community can help promote the benefits of education to kids, your input in very timely after Michele’s very valid points about the limitations that many parents have.

Michele points to some of the limitations that my daughter is seeing as a first time teacher in an inner city school. She just had parent teacher conferences and of her (7th and 8th grade) 175 students, she saw 18 parents. I’m sure the lack of interest represents many issues ranging from odd work hours, language/culture issues, to simply not making school a priority.

I could see many parents having a lack of confidence in their own ability and education to the point that they are too self-conscious to read aloud, even to their own children.

Jeannette - posted on 11/23/2011

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There is another point I would like to make. Sometimes no matter how bad a situation is, children will work to overcome. Sometimes no matter how good a situation is, children will work against their support.
I believe we have people with varying degrees of interest. I believe that our educational system is primarily set up to teach one style to the majority of the kids. I believe this is a flawed thinking. I believe that when you compete with countries who have little else but an education to offer their kids, their kids will probably do better in academics. For one, they do not have the luxuries and distractions of more developed countries. Also, their parents demand they do school work for hours outside of school. Some of these countries America is competing with go beyond the 5 day school week. So, while the article is making an effort to blame parents who never liked to read themselves, it is quite basic and too simple an argument. We have to do more than read to our kids and ask about how their school day went if we really want to compete academically with many of these other countries.
With that said, I do not believe standardized tests are a measure of anything but the ability to memorize - and not guaranteed comprehension or ability to retain. I am more interested in seeing that our children have educations that are more centered on how they learn and what they excel in doing. Therefore, the children who love to read (with or without mom or dad) will be encouraged in subjects laden with reading, but most certainly will have the exposure and experience of the subjects they are not in love with. Those who are Scientifically inclined should be encouraged there. Those who are inclined in all directions should be encouraged to branch out.
Instead, we have this 'one size fits all' educational system that requires students to have the same number of credits of each type of course. In a country where the possibilities are supposedly endless, that is rather limiting and confining.
With the various 'special' programs school districts are forced to create/adhere to, I would think a more tailored individualized education would be possible. But we would have to fire all of the bureaucrats first, they suck up entirely too much of our educational dollars.

Jeannette - posted on 11/23/2011

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Cathy, I do believe I stated in my original post, there are lazy parents to be sure.

[deleted account]

"We are the primary educators of our children."

"Our childrens first learning begins at home".



Its our responsibility to help our children to achieve there potential academically.Before they attend school and after.We need to work in partner ship with schools and preschools etc.As parents.Its vital i feel.



To even at least show an interest in how there doing, asking how there day went.How there feeling in school towards subjects.To step in if they feel there child could do with extra support.



If its a struggle esp with a child who needs homework support as it can cause problems between parents and child if done at home.Especially if a parent has learning difficulties and there a single parent.

We provide(in our area) after schools to support the young people in there homework.



Its there for children who cannot get the support at home.We still(service) promote parental involvement.I have seen the change first hand this service can do for a child.Its an excellent service.

I still agree not only as a support worker but as a mom myself 100% as the primary educators of our children its our full responsibility.

Michele - posted on 11/22/2011

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I understand the importance of parental involvement and am very involved myself. I have seen first hand though, the issues for other parents. My 2 older kids went to a school where nearly 70% of the students were on free and reduced lunch, about 55% were English language learners. Parents who were low income tend to have agricultural jobs or hospitality industry jobs (hotel maids, dishwashers, etc.). They work long and unusual hours, which is not conducive to reading times. They also are not typically well-educated (many did not graduate high school). Of that group, some really push their kids to take advantage of the opportunities of education, and a few are actively against education. Most are too busy trying to make it for their family as described above. Often, the extended family is in charge of the students after school and the older generation is even less literate.



And then there is the language/culture issue. There are many parents who speak enough English to get by, but cannot read it (some can't read their own language either). I have also been told that traditionally, parents are not heavily involved in formal schooling and are accustomed to minimal contact with teachers and school staff. It would be considered disrespectful to interfere with their child's formal education and questioning the authority of the teacher, at least for low-income families, who tend to consider themselves inferior.



At this school, a great deal of effort has been put into involving parents. All of the teachers are bilingual, since this is a dual immersion school. They have classes for parents who are learning English and a Spanish/English conversation class, where each can try to learn from each other. Sometimes it is really funny for the English learners to hear us mangle Spanish and makes them feel better. They have conferences regularly with parents, and send home ideas/articles about how parents can help their students. It is still hard, even for this school. so I can't imagine a school with less cross over doing well.

Becky - posted on 11/22/2011

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It sounds like common sense to me. Maybe since so many kids are doing so poorly, it's not though. I would think that children whose parents are actively involved in various areas of their lives will generally do better in most areas of life than children whose parents aren't very involved. Education is something I value very highly, so being involved in our children's education will always be a priority for us. Even though our boys aren't school-age yet, we read to them daily, watch their TV programs with them and point things out to them, and take every opportunity we can to turn whatever we're doing into something educational -without making it boring. My kids are pretty smart. :) (I may be a bit biased!) Once they start school, I still expect to be reading with them daily and sitting with them looking over their homework and helping them with it when they need it. I guess I just kind of thought that was what a parent did. It's what mine did.

They mentioned socio-economic status in this article, but they didn't mention a lot of other factors that I'm sure contribute to parental involvement. I would guess that in many cases, parents who are under-educated themselves would be less likely to take a very active role in their children's education. I can also see this being the case in households where both parents work full-time. I'm not trying to bash working parents, but I could see how a parent who has worked all day and been away from their children could prefer to take the time just to relax and enjoy being with their child in the couple of hours they have together, rather than worrying about school.

Ashley - posted on 11/22/2011

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I think parents fail in communicating with their children. They accept the answers of things were ok in school or that they didn't learn anything important... but what is the point of school if it isn't teaching your child, you should be concerned! But most importantly you should push, be specific about your questions. I also think parents should learn the childs lesson plans for the month/ year from teachers that way you can start a dialogue, maybe you can learn something from your child.

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I think parents tend to feel education is 100% the responsibility of the school. It's not. A child's first and best teacher is their parent. A parent can value and support education or trivalize it. A lot of parents trivalize it.

Jeannette - posted on 11/22/2011

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Cathy, a parent's job is to teach their children, for certain. Teach them how to tie their shoes, how to say thank you, what clothes to wear in which season, hygiene, sharing, charity, compassion, etc. We hire teachers and send them to school where they are expected to learn Math, Science, History, English, Literature, and whatever electives (which equals in number to the core classes as they get older) they fancy.
My son's kindergarten teacher told me I needed to really work with him on his speed of reading. That did not make sense to me, that he had to be a speed reader. At any rate, she said he is having difficulty. I told her that he reads to me just fine, but she insisted he's not. I bought the exact same reading system my niece was using in her school out of state. He breezed through. My husband was perturbed that we were expected to teach him how to read, when that is the very reason we send them off to school every day. He visited the teacher and told her that we will continue reading to our child because we like to, but other parents may very well be too tired after a 12 hour shift to then go home and do her job (we refuse to work beyond 8 hrs most of the time). She did not like my husband.
Parents and teachers need to work together, but in a better system.

Jeannette - posted on 11/22/2011

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Here's is my problem with your slanted article. It focuses on how American parents are raising their children, not anyone else. AND it focuses on a portion of how parenting can affect the child, not a wide spectrum. When you study places such as Singapore you have to wonder what those children's school day is for them. In many of these other countries the main focus is on academics. However, in America, we focus on creating a well-rounded student who is encouraged to do what they love.
We support our children being in football, baseball, theater, dance, cheer, band, choir, art, basketball, volleyball, golf...the list goes on and on.
Our children are taught to pass national tests rather than ensuring they comprehend the content. When my daughter was not comprehending division in 5th grade I asked for her to get tutoring and was denied. I was told because she was not failing any of her tests she did not qualify for free tutoring. Two of her teachers told me she would "get it eventually". So, I hired a private tutor.
I believe we pressure our teachers to teach our kids how to be pc people, rather than academic hounds. They do not have time to visit the library but once every two weeks, so I took our kids to our city library each week to give them more opportunity to read. They do not have time to make certain kids are mastering content, because they have so much content to cover, and the number of practice TEKS tests are anywhere from 4/month to 2/month depending on the subject.
We are teaching our kids how to pass tests; not how to do meaningful research, not how to write a synopsis of a book, not how to spell correctly, not how history affects us now - there is much lacking for my kids that I learned. Maybe because we had fewer distractions and I enjoyed more hands-on learning.
There are lazy parents, no doubt. But our educational system is warped, and I don't care how much money you throw into the system, money does not teach. Poorer countries are scoring better on these tests because their focus is academics, not the feelings of the kids. We have counselors who are ready for every drama our kids want to throw at them.
Parents could do more - I've seen examples of complete carelessness firsthand outside of the schools; but our children would score higher on academics if we actually made the core classes the most important. Instead my daughter's band teacher was encouraging them to go talk to teachers who were giving them a 70, so they could march. He should have been telling them to work harder, not sweet talk a teacher into a 5pt extra credit assignment.
It's about priorities, that's for certain. Americans are consumers. We teach our children individuality and how important each and every one of us are, not in a community, but to ourselves.

Lindsey - posted on 11/22/2011

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Where to start on this one? There are two things that I feel strongly about when it comes parenting... health and education. So I tend to be pretty opinionated on both subjects.

In answer to your first question, I don't believe there is a clear-cut answer. I think it is probably a combination of factors. I think there are a lot of parents who are misguided in their thinking in that they believe that their children's education is best left to the educators (who they feel are better qualified). Then, of course, there are those parents who just aren't willing to invest the time and effort necessary to ensure that their children get the best education possible. I'm sure that there are other factors as well, but I think those two are probably the most prevalent.

As for your second question... I just don't know. I often look at issues like this and have a difficult time getting past the fact that, for me, it is just plain common sense.

Perhaps if schools would encourage (and in some cases require) more parental involvement, it might help the situation? Perhaps if schools offered seminars for parents to teach them not only the importance of reading to their children and being involved in their eduction, but also how to get involved, it may encourage some parents to invest more time and energy into shaping their children's minds?

I really don't know how effective those solutions would be. It would depend on the circumstances, on the reason why the parents are not involved.

I'm sure that if I had school age children I would probably have more to add, but my little guy is only two.

By the way, I read to him every day (although reading the exact same book five times a day two weeks in a row gets a little repetitive). I would also like to add that I believe that reading to your children isn't enough, I think it is important that your children see you read and enjoy your own books (magazines, newspapers). After all, they learn by example.

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