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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Comments

  1. Richard Aubrey says:

    Bill Cosby said something like that. Anybody hear anything about him the last two/three years?
    Me either

  2. This is how Asian parents do it; even if they arrived here with nothing (the Vietnamese boat people, for ex) and not speaking English, the kids are usually highly successful because the parents’ make academic success THE priority. That’s likely to happen even in the same schools where blacks and Hispanics fail. The Asian parents make sure their kids have minimal contact with kids with lesser work ethics and undesirable behaviors.

    The valedictorians in both of my older sons’ classes were Chinese kids who had arrived here in early ES, speaking no English. One also won the state spelling bee in 8th grade. Admittedly, their parents were educated and had good jobs, which enabled the kids to attend very good schools, but they worked their tails off, along with their other Asian classmates (mostly Chinese, Indian, Korean).

  3. Crimson Wife says:

    My great-grandparents were like that. My great-grandfather had little formal education and earned low wages as a garbage collector, but was apparently known around his neighborhood for reciting Shakespeare in a thick Irish brogue. All 6 of his kids who survived to adulthood graduated college, including the 3 girls, at a time when hardly anyone did.

  4. I think it was on the City Journal website that I read and article called “Where Are All the Korean Grocers?” (approx – who used to be so common. It was mainly discussing NYC (IIRC), but probably applies elsewhere. They have now retired and sold their stores and their kids have moved into professions. A number of the kids they interviewed said that their absolute priority was academics; their parents might work 20 hours a day in the store, but their own job was to study and get top grades.

  5. “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.”

    Okay, I’m very familiar with Overfelt, and it’s almost entirely Hispanic. So I find it extremely hard to believe that Hispanic kids were dissing immigrants for their funny accent–unless the kids being dissed were Asian. Makes for a nice story, though.

    That said, parents aren’t enough.

    • I can believe that hispanic Americans sound different from folks whose primary language isn’t English and are from different countries. It’s not as if English-speaking people never make fun of other English-speaking people for their accents. Making fun of southern accents is a comedic genre, and southerners find some NY accents hard to understand.

      • Richard Aubrey says:

        Got some Mexican friends who are quite well off. So well off that at their daughter’s wedding reception–sit down dinner for 650–the only people who looked Mexican were the help.
        When they speak English, and some speak it well and some not so well, they do not sound like Hispanic immigrants. Not even close.

    • Florida resident says:

      Yes, “culture of learning” grows not
      on a biologically “Blank Slate” substrate.