Thursday, May 21, 2009
The Center on Race and Social Problems at the University of Pittsburgh gathered experts in the field of racial disparities in public education today for a daylong conference that included a look at strategies to build parent involvement. Ann Levett is the executive director of the School Development Program at Yale University. She says while there is a perception that African American parents are less involved in their children’s schools, the research shows that is not true. She says parental involvement among African Americans, like all races, is dependent on income. Levett says that is partial due to the “middle-class bias” in the public education system. She says schools assume parents can come to mid-day or early evening events and parent-teacher conferences. Levett says schools need to understand that most lower income parents can not get off work in the middle of the day, may have transportation problems in the evening and often need child care assistance at any time of the day. She says schools can easily address all of those issues by changing teacher and administration schedules and expectations and by partnering with other organizations to offer more family friendly events. However, Levett says most schools are so focused on academic achievement and test scores that helping parents be more involved is seen by teachers as, ”just one more thing they have to do.” She says the focus on parental involvement needs to be found and embraced at all levels. Levett says the effort is well worth it. She says the research clearly shows that tests scores, grades and graduation rates increase in schools where the level of parental involvement is high.