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Stop Blaming Black Parents for School Achievement Gaps

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    by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

    Helping your kids, or neighbors’ kids, do their homework almost certainly will not improve their school performance, according to a new study. “The idea that parental involvement will address one of the most salient and intractable issues in education, racial and ethnic achievement gaps, is not supported by the evidence.” However, a demonstrable commitment to social values can change a child’s whole outlook on life.

    Stop Blaming Black Parents for School Achievement Gaps

    by BAR executive editor Glen Ford

    Racial gaps in school achievement are no more nor less “intransigent” than the economic chasms that reproduce themselves from generation to generation.”

    An extensive study by two Black academics shows there is no positive correlation between student achievement and parental help with homework or involvement in school activities. The findings, based on longitudinal surveys over three decades and assessments of 63 different types of parental involvement, tend to once again confirm that achievement gaps are not the fault of uninvolved Black parents, but rather, closely hew to patterns of poverty and historical racial oppression.

    In an article for the April 12 issue of the New York Times, Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris, professors of sociology at the University of Texas, Austin, and Duke University, respectively, conclude that “most forms of parental involvement, like observing a child’s class, contacting a school about a child’s behavior, helping to decide a child’s high school courses, or helping a child with homework, do not improve student achievement. In some cases, they actually hinder it.”

    Black parents try as hard as whites and Hispanics to help their children in school, to just as little effect, say Robinson and Harris. “Regardless of a family’s social class, racial or ethnic background, or a child’s grade level, consistent homework help almost never improved test scores or grades,” they write. In fact, “Even more surprising to us was that when parents regularly helped with homework, kids usually performed worse.”

    Robinson and Harris have published their findings in a new book, Broken Compass: Parental Involvement with Children’s Education (Harvard) that should shatter the racist notion that lackadaisical parenting is to blame for Black children’s poor school performance. “The idea that parental involvement will address one of the most salient and intractable issues in education, racial and ethnic achievement gaps, is not supported by the evidence,” the two social scientists maintain. They point out that both President George W. Bush’s No Child Left Behind Act and President Obama’s Race to the Top “promote parental engagement as one remedy for persistent socioeconomic and racial achievement gaps” – with no basis in actual fact.

    Blaming Black parents for the racial achievement gap is simply another variation on the theme of Black cultural pathology – a slander deployed by a ghastly spectrum including white racists, Black opportunists and economic oligarchs to saddle the victims with guilt for the rich man’s historical and contemporary crimes. Racial gaps in school achievement are no more nor less “intransigent” than the economic chasms that reproduce themselves from generation to generation – and which are becoming even more calcified and immutable in the era of neoliberal capitalist austerity.

    The deficit that must be corrected is in the arena of demonstrable social and political commitment.”

    The solution is not less engagement in civil and political affairs by Black and other oppressed people, including parents, but more of it, and in much broader ways than simply attempting to help kids with homework. Robinson and Harris report that the short list of parental activity beneficial to children’s school performance includes communicating “the value of school, a message that parents should be sending early in their children’s lives and that needs to be reinforced over time.”

    The young Black sociologists findings indicate that children internalize the general moral and political commitment to the social values of parents (and, we believe, adults in general in their communities). Therefore, the deficit that must be corrected is in the arena of demonstrable social and political commitment. Just as children will respond to the perception that their parents value education, so will they be shaped by the perception that responsible adults are motivated by social values, such as belief in the necessity for social change. Don’t worry so much about the kids’ homework, but more about the social values they are absorbing and the role models they will follow in life.

    Worry that their model of Black adult behavior has a Kill List, like Obama, or a spy-on-your-friends briefcase, like Al Sharpton – both of whom also support the privatization of education and blame Black parents for racial performance gaps.

    BAR executive editor Glen Ford can be contacted at Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.

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    This Story is Misleading

    No one ever said black parents helping their kids with their homework was the sole solution to the achievement gap between blacks and others especially if they themselves are so poorly educated that they can't do the work themselves.  The authors of the study do tell us what the problem is: too many black parents do not value education.  And education is more than just what's learned in a book, on the computer, or in the classroom.  It is a worldview.  It is your outlook on life shaped by your parents, your peers, your community, your religion, your classroom education, and your experiences.  A worldview shapes how you approach education, politcs, economics, science, culture, religion, ethics, music, and pop culture.  Chances are if you have a strong sense of self, your family, your community, and your race, you'll be more engaged in politics, business, economics, science, and every other human endeavor worth noting.

    Your first teachers are your parents.  Most of your education occurs outside of the classroom.  It's what you see others do. It's what you learn from watching and listening to others.  The problem with our people, regardless of class, is we are not teaching our kids anything except Uncle Tommism, materialism, slothfulness, superstition, promiscuity, and criminality.  How else do you explain the black-white achievement gap for blacks of every class?  Black kids of every stripe often come to school without knowing how to read and write their own names and without any hometraining or how one behaves in both public and private.  You know manners, proper hygiene, respect for their elders, and a sense of how I act not only reflects on me but also on my family.

    So, we send our children out into world unprepared and we wonder why they get their asses kicked!  The Bible tells us to put on the Full Armor of GOD so that we can resist the schemes of the devil.  We don't even send our kids out there with a BB gun. You can better fight oppression and discrimination if you're healthy enough to get into fighting shape.  Right now, we're taking fire from all sides (Whites, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans, Latinos, and even other blacks) and we're in no shape to defend ourselves let alone return fire. On top of that every black organization, even so-called black radical organizations like the BAR, are telling us we need to have solidarity with other non-whites just because they aren't white and are discriminated against by whites.  Many of them don't want solidarity with us even if it would benefit them.  A proper worldview says that you should first have solidarity with your own race before you can have solidarity with others.

    Every other group indoctrinates their children with a worldview that tells them who they were; who they are; who they will be; and who they are expected to be except us.  That's why they see the world as their oyster and we only accept whatever life hands us and then turnaround and say this is GOD's Will.  Don't blame GOD for your triflingness.  Be A Man and A Woman and make the sacrifices and hard choices today so that you, your children, and grandchildren can have a better tomorrow.  Stop leaving up to our youth to figure it out on their own!

    None

    I thought the first two paragraphs were well written and are true in any persons life regardless of race. How your home life(parents) and values are at a young age do matter.

     

    Misleading how?

    This article has plainly stated themes of  communicating "the value of school" as well as moral and political commitment to social values. Then you come on here talking about imparting a "worldview" like you thought of it, and the article is somehow off the mark.

    Really funny, too, the way you wag your finger about teaching Uncle Tommism and superstition, and then go on with so much blather about god and the bible. Right there is something else we can talk about that's keeping us down. You just gave me a really good chuckle.

    The Title is Misleading...

    ...because it says stop blaming black parents for the achievement gap when too many black parents do bear much of the responsibility for it as well as society at large.  2nd, it is clear that many if not most of the people who write for or read this blog are skeptics toward religion and/or the existence GOD.  If you fall into that category, then my use of religious references was not for you.  If you are a theist, then my use of religious references was relevant because I am asking you to think critically without casting down your faith.  If religion keeps us down, it is because we refuse to think critically about it and to take responsibility for our actions and try to hide behind religion to justify them.  No, I did not invent to the term worldview just like you didn't invent the word chuckle but you're free to talk about the latter as I am free to talk about the former.  The problem with people like you is that you is that you want to live in an echo chamber where only people say and think as you do and where there is no real analysis of the issues or critique of ideas. (Fox News & MSNBC come to mind.)  For you the issues are simple and clear-cut.  It's either racism or black self-destruction. But, for me it is "and" and "both."  You seem to only want to focus on racism and classissm.  I prefer to focus on the things we can control.   Now, if you want to have an intelligent debate, I'm all for it.  If you want to talk trash, save it for the schoolyard.

    Misleading to YOU maybe

    Quoting the article:

    "The solution is not less engagement in civil and political affairs by Black and other oppressed people, including parents, but more of it..."

    "[C]hildren internalize the general moral and political commitment to the social values of parents "

    "[C]hildren will respond to the perception that their parents value education..."

    This article does NOT attempt to absolve black parents from responsibility for the achievement gap. Intelligent debate is only possible when you debate what has actually been said, not when you argue against what YOU think the other party just said.

    Furthermore, you accused me of wanting to live in an echo chamber where people only think like me; for me it's "either racism or black self-destruction." You can't point to anything in my brief comment that supports your accusations. You're awfully eager to lecture others and rail against BAR while going off on tangents that have nothing to do with the issue being discussed.  Taking fire from all sides (Whites, Asians, Arabs, Native Americans, Latinos, and even other blacks)? I don't even want to know where that one came from. Maybe you are one of those "other blacks" of which you speak?

    That's why you're so amusing.

    Africancentered Schools, black people's salvation

    J. S. Chicks Elementary School, in Kansas, is one of the many model schools that teaches black children their history and culture.  Africancentered Curriculum, every part of the curriculum is based on the history and culture of African people.  Explicitly black curriculum improves grades and reduces absents, and other problems, once we get this total curriculum in all our black schools, black children attend, in the next decade, America will be a totally different place for black people.  We will be an educated proud group, we need to do this.  Go to your school boards, instead of Charter Schools, this is what we need, and nothing else.  Hardly any black boys going to jail and prison.  Go online, do the research on how self esteem make our children want to learn, the more thye learn about the accomplishments of African people, especially before colonization and slavery in Africa, we taught the world.  All history is a current event.

    Choice for Everyone

    I think it is interesting and appropriate for schools to provide a black curriculum for those who are interested.  I support all theme learning experiments including school focused upon art, music, science, and history.  Linking a students interest with their school work has benefits that extend to other subjects.  However, insisting on your choice without allowing other parents and students to have choices, including charter schools, seems unfair and inappropriate.

    It is important to note that in San Diego, the public school district has public charter schools and many magnet schools with themes.

    A very interesting idea

    Thanks for your comment; I'd never heard of J.S. Chicks before!  

    I think you're really on to something.  A comprehensive study found that high school students who participated in the Mexican American Studies program in Tuscon Arizona--which racists in state government unfortunately shut down a couple years ago--performed better and were more likely to attend college than their peers.  When students learn about their own heritage, successful collective struggles in the past, and the need for social change, it does appear to have an amazing positive impact.  I agree with your prescription completely: we should be working to "scale up"programs like they have at J.S. Chicks and had in Tuscon rather than expanding the test-centric, rote learning model advanced by corporate ed "reformers." 

    Africancentered Schools, black people's salvation

    J. S. Chicks Elementary School, in Kansas, is one of the many model schools that teaches black children their history and culture.  Africancentered Curriculum, every part of the curriculum is based on the history and culture of African people.  Explicitly black curriculum improves grades and reduces absents, and other problems, once we get this total curriculum in all our black schools, black children attend, in the next decade, America will be a totally different place for black people.  We will be an educated proud group, we need to do this.  Go to your school boards, instead of Charter Schools, this is what we need, and nothing else.  Hardly any black boys going to jail and prison.

    For the most part, no.

    For the most part, I do not agree with the article, however, I feel if black parents would do what they can and should, it would make a difference, in their child's education.  In the inner city, at least half of black parents are not involved in their children's education. What I mainly wish to comment on, charter schools.  Charter Schools:  Code words for privatization and corporated pocket lining.  Charted Schools are a miserable place for learning with inexperienced teachers and a terrible school atmosphere.  Not only that they lack teaching science, and little or no PE.  There is more.  I believe Charter Schools are ran by the same corporations, or people involved with them, that run the prison industrial complex.  We see Charter Schools closing every day, because their accountibility is not nearly what they claim it would be, in fact they are worse than our traditional schools.  They do not have school boards, their schools are ran by their coorporate offices.  Having said that, black parents can shut them down before they get started, by looking at their accountability records, which is easily available.  They are fooled by these crooks, they come into the black community, and they use code words to fool the parents, words like your child has been ACCEPTED.  If they feed them, I am willing to bet the children are eating dog foot.  I just need to say to black parents, if you want your child to be educated, take them out or do not put them in Charter Schools.  I believe school boards acoss the country have stepped up, and said to the principals and teachers, if you do not educate the students, you will be out of business, and the principals and teachers are scrambling to make a difference.  Parents need to work with traditional schools, because Charter Schools are nothing but a pipeline to the prison iindustrial complex. 

    A Rant without Documentation?

    Saying charter schools feed their children dog food should be cause for all to question your credability.  Both of my children went to public schools and I worked hard giving both time and money to support all the teacher in these public schools.  Charters are no threat to good public schools.

    maintaining the gap

    Robinson and Harris in their over 30 year study found evidence that parental involvement in their students’ education doesn’t address the issue of racial and ethnic achievement gaps, and that this phenomenon, more or less, points to patterns of poverty and historical racial oppression”, which are from my research, the major culprits in widening this gap.  A history and culture of white supremacy and economic depravity is not without blame.

     

    The PTA, within a public school setting, is democracy at work.  Don’t let charter schools,  standardized tests, and other privatization schemes take away our rights to engage in the education of our children.  Join the PTA because progressive teachers and parents must articulate a pedagogy of resistance to what now exists for educating our minority students.  We should especially give attention to the coercive power relations between teacher and student that occur within the social educational structures and policies of the classroom itself.  The social educational context where learning takes place must be scrutinized more carefully.  We must look at how these coercive power relations between dominant and subordinated groups in the wider society influence educational structures and classroom instruction in our schools, and more importantly, how they affect the achievement of the minority student.  

     

    Yes, we must confront the white supremacists’ attitudes of school personnel, be they white or black.  We must be aware of and challenge these coercive relations because they, as opposed to collaborative relations which enable and empower the student, are disabling by maintaining the status quo of the gap. 

    Communicating the value of

    Communicating the value of school is very important.  But part of this communication must include being involved in and aware of what's going on in the child's school life.  Helping with homework (or better yet, seeking a afterschool or summer tutor if child is having problems with particular subject), discussing what courses child takes, and meeting with teachers to discuss behavior or academic issues - I find it difficult to believe these things will not have a positive effect on a child's education.

    As for political commitment, if this entails simply voting for whatever Democrat is on the ballot, then it won't have much positive effect on education especially when providing a good education for all is low or absent on the agenda of the Ds and Rs.

    Yes, poverty and related social ills can negatively effect academic performance but parental involvment of some sort will always have a positive impact.

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