Monday, January 7, 2008

Parents and the Education Game

I've been reading a bit on parental involvement lately, but I promise that I will not even mention the phrase "helicopter parent."

Firstly, of particular interest to the Latino community, are the ideas of Edwin C. Darden, Appleseed's director of education policy, who writes on how to teach low-income parents to "work the system" to guarantee their children's best education. Noting that many low-income parents do not understand how the educational system operates and do not believe that they can influence it in any way, Darden cites the need for legislation like NCLB, which, he claims, "has the potential to address these problems [see above] and spark greater parental involvement throughout the United States." He also recognizes that, "The grand battles over testing, adequate yearly progress, and reconstruction of failing schools threaten to swamp efforts to strengthen compliance with NCLB's parental involvement provisions."

Obviously, Darden is right that parents are not effectively engaged in their children's education. But are the mandates of NCLB really all that helpful? Here's what NCLB gives parents: a few letters home, saying, "Your child's school did not make AYP, therefore, you may enroll him/her in free tutoring classes." Is that engaging parents, truly educating them and empowering them to make decisions about their children's education?

I much prefer some of the other ideas that Darden includes, such as Montgomery (MD) County's Parent Academy, which offers more than 35 free workshops for parents. These workshops are not mandated by NCLB - but they seem to be a much more effective way to get parent's involved in their children's education and not just act as spectators.

Secondly, a thank you to the blog Historical/Present for directing me to the report Deciding on Postsecondary Education, from the National Postsecondary Education Cooperative. Some key points critical to the Latino community:

- Focus groups with first generation students revealed that it is not unlikely for academically under-prepared and/or first generation students to delay the college search process for a few years following their high school graduation.

- Research by Zimbroff (quoted in the study), revealed that youth in cultures that emphasize community values and discourage "standing out" are less likely to leave home and tend to prefer local institutions over prestigious or geographically distant colleges.

- Focus group research indicated that Hispanic first generation college students were encouraged to stay close to home for college, since they would "need the support of their families."

Some other interesting findings in the study - I suggest you check it out.

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