An article recently came out in The Atlantic by Dana Goldstein. The article is entitled: Don’t Help Your Kids With Their Homework.
The article references a study by Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke. The study was the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement.
According to The Atlantic article, the study found that “most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.”
With all due respect, I find these results hard to believe. Let me remind you of my background.
I am a high school English teacher in an inner city public school. Between my five classes (3 senior and 2 sophomore), I have 140 students (3 classes have 34 students). There are approximately 10-15 students who never show up to class. I’ve called their houses but never heard back.
Here is my first hand evidence to counter the article and referenced study in The Atlantic.
Parent-teacher conferences recently concluded. Less than 20% of parents showed up. Those numbers are not atypical. A number of my colleagues who I spoke to reported the same attendance rate.
I have been in the school 11 years. The attendance rate at parent teacher conference has fallen from approximately 65% to the now less than 20%. It has been steadily declining.
And so has the school.
The typical student is less able and motivated than in the past. I’d like to add that the percentage of students who passed has fallen as well. Again, I don’t think all of this is a coincidence.
The media and politicians seem to enjoy bashing teachers these days. All the nation’s problems are because of poor teachers. If we had good teachers, all would be in the good world.
I am biased and have a limited perspective. I’ll admit it. So, read on with a grain of salt.
The mass majority of teachers I have worked with and met are caring individuals. They want to help their students grow, learn, and succeed and are willing to work hard to make it happen.
I have also come across ineffective teachers. And lazy teachers. And teachers who are burnt out and counting down the days till retirement.
Tell me what profession are you in? Does everyone in the profession meet the highest standards of the calling? Didn’t think so.
Of course, teachers are a huge factor in the education process, but they are NOT the only element. Most obviously, the student him or herself matters. There is the administration. There are the therapists, guidance counselors, etc. And then there are the parents.
I’m not blaming the parents, or denying that there are multiple reasons why their involvement has declined. However, I very much believe that their involvement in the educational process would help.
Now, the influence of parents does not have to come via parent teacher conference. Many times the teacher will not be able to see the influence of the parents. However, they often see the result.
Did you ever see the movie Waiting for Superman? The movie Waiting for Superman follows a few students as they strive to get into Charter Schools. I’ll never forget the scenes where parents whoop it up as if they won the lottery when they recognize their child got in to the public side. On the flip side, those whose children did not get in are so clearly dejected. It’s as if they have been told they have months to live.
It’s not a coincidence that Charter Schools, as a whole, have students who achieve higher results than those kids in public schools.
Again, I know there are other factors that one would be naive to ignore. However, the naivety would be just as great if one ignored the influence of the parent(s).
Therefore, I say sorry to The Atlantic, but I can’t agree with The Robinson and Harris study. Parents matter in the educational process.