If parents fail, schools will too

In Raising the Curve: A Year Inside One of America’s 45,000 Failing Public Schools, Ron Berler takes readers inside Brookside Elementary in Norwalk, Connecticut, which is trying to raise chronically low test scores. About half the students come from Hispanic immigrant families; 41 percent qualify for a subsidized lunch.

The book follows two fifth-grade friends: Hydea does her work, but has only second-grade reading skills. Marbella is only a year behind in reading, but would rather obsess about her social life — and Justin Bieber — than do homework.

The literacy teacher works with teachers to improve their skills, but breaks away before the state exams to coach a small group of children who are close to passing. She has no time for those who are way behind or for children in untested grades. Some students have been passed along with subpar skills. Others have received tutoring or summer school help, but remain behind.

Berler, who volunteered as a mentor and teacher’s aide at the school, is sympathetic to teachers and the principal, but frustrated with uninvolved parents. Some don’t know how to help, he writes. Others are too busy working to supervise their children closely.

When fifth-grade teacher Keith Morey asks students about their responsibilities at home, a clear pattern emerges. The responsible students are expected to do chores; the kids who don’t do homework don’t work at home either.

Schools need to engage parents and teach them how to support their children’s learning, writes Berler in the Huffington Post.

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  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    IOW, culture counts. “engage children” is a euphemism–presuming a euphemism can be inadvertent–for changing the culture.
    The stereotype of poor immigrants is that they’re all working their behnds off and the kids are helping from an early age…like Laura Ingalls and her sisters.
    Apparently not.
    Cultures differ, said Thomas Sowell, and differences have consequences.
    What we don’t know is if the kids who don’t work at home and those who do are separable by whether their parents are on welfare.

  2. Ruth Joy says:

    Somewhere there is an old study that shows that kids who have chores at home do better at school–which makes sense. I used to refer to it when I wore my elementary-school-principal’s hat to encourage parents to give their kids chores.

  3. Like many in my generation whose daddy was away at war, I didn’t have homework in elementary. We all learned to read just fine. What we had was grouping by instructional need combined with competent teachers & principals that did not accept disruptors.

    • There was also a decent curriculum and an expectation that learning the material in it required paying attention and putting in the necessary effort. Learning was not expected to be easy and fun, all of the time, and teachers were to instruct, not to entertain.