Parents are the silver bullet for kids in poverty

Parents, not teachers, are the “silver bullet” for kids in poverty, writes Pérsida Himmele in Charting My Own Course on Ed Week Teacher.

Her immigrant father, who had an eighth-grade education, asked all seven of his children the same question. “To what college you go?”

 Though we lived in the poorest neighborhood, surrounded by rampant drug use, teen pregnancy, and violence, we all followed through on his expectations for us. Our highest earned degrees consist of two PhDs, two master’s degrees, one theology degree, one bachelor’s degree, and one high school diploma (earned by my sister, who has special needs). Our success was no accident.

Now an education professor, Himmele tells future teachers to help parents understand that their expectations are likely to determine their children’s future.

Do the parents in high-poverty areas know that the schools can’t educate their children alone? Do parents of children at-risk know that the odds are against their children, unless they start pressuring their children to do well in school, and pressuring the school to do well by their child? Do Latino and Black families know that in some urban programs, their children’s chances for completing high school are less than 50 percent? Do they realize that if their child drops out he or she will be working twice as hard for less than half the pay as compared to their college-bound friends? Do they know that a dropout is eight times more likely to end up in prison than a high school graduate?

She tells parents in high-poverty areas about the choices: “Your kids can work twice as hard for a little while, or they will work twice as hard for the rest of their lives.”

At San Jose’s high-poverty Overfelt High School, two-thirds of students who started four years ago have earned a diploma. Many of the “miracle” graduates heading for college grew up in immigrant families, reports the San Jose Mercury News.

Jessica Nuñez, who started school speaking no English, won a scholarship to Berkeley.

Ruben Contreras Rios, 17, received a full scholarship to Santa Clara University, where he’ll major in mechanical and aerospace engineering. “The comfort he found in science and math, when ostracized as a new immigrant, is paying off.”

Juan Guzmán, who “retreated into books when classmates teased him for his immigrant accent and clothes, hopes to become a teacher like Natalia Baldwin, an Overfelt teacher.

With Baldwin’s encouragement, Cesar Torres raised his grades from F’s to A’s. He plans to study business at Chico State and become a billionaire, so his parents won’t have to get up at 4:30 a.m. to work long hours at tough jobs.

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