Saturday, October 25, 2008

Report Reveals High Parent Frustration with America's High Schools

This study has some interesting findings although it's important to mention that parental involvement in this study and the other cited in the article appear to define involvement based on few criteria (showing up to school).

What might be useful is how schools can also partner with parents outside of school and make use of opportunities to engage with them during events and activities where they are involved and supporting their children in diverse ways.

Research on low-income high-achieving youth reveal the impact of non-traditional methods of parental involvement that played a significant role in not only the confidence to do well in school, but the positive constructions of self (an understanding of their culture, history, retaining of a second language, etc) that were also key to their success. All of these factors combined with a supportive contact (teacher, counselor, mentor, etc.) in and out of school can/ should be viewed as a potential model that would help youth be successful in school.

Schools need to first recognize and place value on those diverse methods of involvement, then see how they can learn from and build upon parents' efforts so that they're stronger and more well versed on how to be advocates for their children's education. To see parental involvement efforts as a dichotomous phenomenon (present in school or not) really undermines those things that parents do for their children, and when schools (and research) promote this model it can create walls that make it difficult to forge reciprocal relationships between schools and parents.

Check out the full report


Oct. 23, 2008
WASHINGTON, Oct 23, 2008

-- Parents wish to be more engaged by schools, but need better tools and information
Parents across America share high hopes for their children's academic success and many know their involvement is vital. But parents with students in low-performing high schools say their schools don't give them the tools and information they need to be more effective in helping their students succeed, according to a national report released today.

"One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools," by Civic Enterprises, and based on research conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, captures the views of parents of high school students in America's urban, suburban, and rural communities from diverse backgrounds and income levels. The findings point to concrete steps that can improve parental engagement in schools and strengthen efforts to prepare all young people for success in college and the workplace. The report was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The full report can be accessed at:

"The critical role parents play in educating children is often a blind assumption or a target of attack," said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the report. "The findings of this report call for a halt to the blame game. This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children's academic success. The opposite is true. Parents, especially those with students trapped in low-income or low-performing schools, desperately want to be involved and want their students to succeed. What parents need is an access point - a way into schools - so they can become partners in helping students learn and achieve."

Many parents surveyed believe that schools should do a better job of reaching out to them or engaging them as partners, particularly parents of students in low-performing schools. In fact, 80 percent of all parents surveyed, and 85 percent of parents of students in low-performing schools, believe parents should be involved as advocates for their children when it comes to picking courses and teachers.
The report reveals a stark contrast between the experiences of parents with students in low-performing schools and those with students in high-performing schools. According to the survey:

-- Only 15 percent of parents with students at low-performing schools feel
that their school is doing a very good job challenging students,
compared with 58 percent of parents with students in high-performing
-- Forty-seven percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
said that their schools were doing a good job in encouraging parents to
be involved compared to 85 percent of parents with students in
high-performing schools.
-- Twenty-five percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
say that their school informed them about academic and disciplinary
problems compared to more than half (53 percent) of parents with
students in high-performing schools.
-- Less than 20 percent of parents with students in low-performing schools
believe schools do a very good job preparing their students across four
categories: preparation for college; helping students develop
confidence, maturity, and personal skills; developing a special talent;
and preparing them for a good job. Half of parents with students in
high-performing schools feel this way.
-- Half of parents of students in low-performing schools said they felt
welcomed in the schools compared to four out of five parents with
students in high-performing schools.

Each year, more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. Research shows that when parents are involved, students perform better and are less likely to drop out. Yet studies have shown that as students grow older, parents tend to become less involved with their children's academic lives due, in part, to unique barriers like difficulty in helping them with homework or lack of resources for parents of high school-aged students.

The report is a follow-up to the 2006 Gates Foundation-funded survey of high school students, "The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts." "The Silent Epidemic" report noted lack of parental involvement as one of the key reasons dropouts gave for leaving school. Out of 470 dropouts surveyed around the country, only 21 percent said their parents were "very involved" in their schooling. More than 70 percent of dropouts said that one key to keep them in school was better communication between parents and schools, and increasing parental involvement in their education. "One Dream, Two Realities" suggests that parents can play a significant role in reversing this trend.
"Unfortunately, parents of students trapped in low-performing schools--those who need the most support--are the ones that are least likely to be engaged by their children's schools," said Geoff Garin, president of Peter D. Hart Research Associates. "But we know there is a clear pathway to help improve student achievement in these low-performing schools, and that is through schools and parents working together to create opportunities where parents can play an active role in their children's academic success."

The report includes parents' recommendations to strengthen opportunities to support their children's academic success. The report suggests schools meet with parents before high school starts to be clear on what constitutes success in school. Other suggestions include: providing a prompt notification of academic problems; establishing an ongoing dialogue, not just when problems occur; partnering with community organizations to offer parent involvement classes; providing information packets that give parents details about the school and the courses each child is taking; assigning a single point of contact within the school to allow each parent to address key questions or concerns regarding their children; recruiting parent volunteers to serve as liaisons between the school and other parents to help identify ways of including otherwise disengaged parents; and including parent perspectives in the America's Promise Alliance 100 dropout summits in all 50 states over the next three years.

"We know that ensuring that every student is prepared for success in college, career, and life means keeping the doors of our high schools and communication lines open to parents," said Vicki Phillips, director of education at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. "This report shows that we must do more to ensure that all parents, particularly those with students in low-performing schools, are given new and better ways to enlist their full participation and engage them as even stronger advocates for their children's success."

Civic Enterprises

Civic Enterprises is a public policy development firm dedicated to informing discussions on issues of importance to the nation.

Statement from America's Promise Alliance President and CEO Marguerite Kondracke on "One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools"

"Our Cities in Crisis report revealed the stark contrast between the graduation rates of high schools in our nation's largest cities and their surrounding suburbs. This new report by Civic Enterprises shows that there is also a stark contrast that exists when it comes to providing opportunities for parents of students who attend low-performing high schools to be fully engaged in the academic success of their children compared to those whose children attend high-performing schools.

"This report makes clear that parents of students at both high- and low-performing high schools want to play an active role in their children's education, but there is more work to be done to ensure that parents in all communities have the resources and the support to be as actively engaged as they want to be. Research tells us that their involvement is essential to our young people's success, and the lack of it is a tragic, but real factor in young people failing to graduate on time.

"Two years ago, Civic Enterprises released a watershed report revealing just how dire the high school dropout crisis was in our country. Appropriately titled, 'The Silent Epidemic,' this study illustrated for the first time the true depths of an educational and social catastrophe that was jeopardizing the financial security and future of our nation. Each year, more than one million students drop out of high school--that's one teenager every 26 seconds and 7,000 each school day. The cost of this crisis is equally staggering as dropouts from the class of 2007 alone will cost the nation more than $329 billion in lost wages, taxes and productivity over their lifetimes.

"America's Promise Alliance's national Dropout Prevention Campaign is working hard to reduce the dropout rate. In the next two years, we will sponsor 100 Dropout Prevention Summits in all 50 states and parental involvement in education is a key element of this campaign. In addition to parental involvement, we need curriculum reform, after-school programs, efforts to improve health care and nutrition programs, increased resources and greater accountability. Most of all, we need to recognize that no one entity can solve this crisis alone, but working together, we can make enormous strides to ensure our children succeed."
SOURCE Civic Enterprises, LLC

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