90% of parents: My kid’s at grade level

Ninety percent of parents think their kids are performing at or above grade level in reading and math, according to a Learning Heroes survey. Welcome to Lake Wobegon.

Reading results broken out by student subset. Source: The Nation's Report Card

Parents held fast to this sunny belief no matter their own income, education level, race or ethnicity, writes Anya Kamenetz on NPR. But most are wrong, according to the Nation’s Report Card, or NAEP.  Less than half of white students and less than a quarter of black and Latino students are on grade level by fourth grade.

“Build deeper relationships and ask tougher questions of your student’s teachers,” Learning Heroes founder Bibb Hubbard advises. “Instead of the teacher just saying, ‘He’s a great kid,’ ask, ‘Is he reading on grade level?’ ”

According to Parents 2016: Hearts and Minds of Public School Parents in an Uncertain World, 75 percent of K-8 parents surveyed also said a college education is “very important” or “absolutely essential” for their children.

Morgan Polikoff, who researches K-12 education policy at the University of Southern California, says the “Lake Wobegon effect” is actually no surprise.

“Kids are getting passed on from grade to grade, a large percentage of kids graduate high school on time,” he explains. “So certainly parents have been getting the message for a long time that their kids are doing just fine.”

Fewer than 2 percent of students are held back a grade, so perhaps parents can’t be blamed for thinking their own kids are at least on par with their peers,” writes Kamenetz.

Learning Heroes aims to inform parents about the Common Core, which it describes as ” a set of clear, consistent learning goals in mathematics and English language arts” and “new state tests that measure critical thinking, problem solving and reasoning skills that students need to be prepared for the next grade level.”

School-based pre-K doesn’t work

School-based pre-K doesn’t improve the lives of disadvantaged children in a “significant, sustained” way, write researchers Katharine B. Stevens and Elizabeth English on the American Enterprise Institute blog.

Some early childhood programs do make a lasting difference, they write. “Intensive, carefully designed, well-implemented programs” such as Abecedar­ian, Nurse-Family Partnership and the Perry Preschool Project, “target very young children, engage parents, and teach a broad range of skills.”

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Stresssssss

. During the lunch period, Skylar Relova, 15, left, and Bailey Smith, 14, both San Ramon Valley High students from Danville, visit with Max, a Shih Tzu mix therapy dog, in the school quad in Danville, Calif., on Monday, March 14, 2015. San Ramon Valley High\'s PTSA is hosting a \"Low Stress Week\" March 14-18 with therapy dogs and a hot breakfast served to students. (Susan Tripp Pollard/Bay Area News Group)
Skylar Relova, 15, left, and Bailey Smith, 14, meet Max, a therapy dog, in the San Ramon Valley High quad during the lunch period. Photo: Susan Tripp Pollard, Bay Area News Group

Student stress is worrying educators at top-performing Silicon Valley schools, reports Sharon Noguchi in the San Jose Mercury News. “They’re pushing back school start times, re-examining homework loads, coordinating tests and warning parents about buying into college myths.”

Two suicide clusters in Palo Alto have raised fears. Around the Bay Area, there are more reports of panic attacks and eating disorders, students cutting themselves, suicide attempts and other mental-health issues.

In a recent two-week period at Irvington High in Fremont, mental health authorities or parents were summoned because nine students were suffering so much distress they needed to be involuntarily confined for protection, assistant principal Jay Jackson said.

A (St. Louis University) survey last spring found 54 percent of Irvington students suffering from depression and 80 percent showing moderate to severe anxiety levels.

Students think their life is over if they don’t get into a “great college,” say counselors.

“The better you are, the better the college you get into, and the better your life will be,” said Ella Milliken, a sophomore at Los Altos High.

Palo Alto schools have “added counselors and trained staff to spot troubled students,” reports Noguchi.

Dr. Grace Liu, a psychiatry resident, plays the part of an embarrassed teen with Dr. Rona Hu, psychiatry, playing the role of Liu's mother, during a skit at Jane Lathrop Middle School in Palo Alto. Photo: Jim Gensheimer, Bay Area News Group

Psychiatrists Grace Liu and Rona Hu play a teen and her mother in a skit at a parenting forum at a Palo Alto middle school. Photo: Jim Gensheimer, Bay Area News Group

San Ramon Valley High “staged a low-stress week” with hot breakfasts of quiche and oatmeal, supplied by parent volunteers, and therapy dogs at lunchtime. “Relaxing music wafted over the quad, where students did yoga” and “email was banned for a day.”

Four of the last nine Palo Alto teens to kill themselves were Asian and Asian youths have killed themselves in San Jose, Fremont and Contra Costa County in recent years. Palo Alto school and community leaders have started conversations on “parenting, expectations and a traditionally taboo topic — mental illness,” with Asian parents, Noguchi writes.

However, plans to ease pressure are controversial. Saratoga High considered limiting AP classes, but students and parents rejected the idea.

. . . a proposal to push back Saratoga High’s start time by nearly an hour, to 8:40 a.m., ran into furious opposition, especially from Asian parents. The idea was to coordinate times with the district’s other school, Los Gatos High, and to give students a chance to get more sleep — a benefit that some researchers tout as the single most effective tool to improve student health.

The plan, the product of monthslong research by a 28-member committee, was enthusiastically backed by many teachers and counselors, alarmed at rising stress disorders they see among students.

But the proposals were never publicly debated. And the committee itself, while intended to be broad-based, lacked Asian-American parents — even though Saratoga High is about three-fifths Asian. Criticism spread by social media saw the plan as an attack on academic rigor, in part by shaving five minutes from each class period.

Test scores are higher at Saratoga than Los Gatos, said parent Becky Wu. “Why ask Saratoga to match Los Gatos’ and not the other way around?”

Saratoga will compromise on a 8:15 a.m. start time.

The all-powerful U.S. News rankings reward colleges for selectivity, writes Alia Wong in The Atlantic. Mid-level colleges recruit students — including those they have no intention of admitting — to push up their rejection stats.

Latino, black parents: Expect more of our kids

Latino and black parents think educators expect too little of their children, according to a survey, by The Leadership Conference Education Fund.

Both groups — but especially black parents — set a very high value on school safety, with school resources and high-quality teachers coming next in priority.

Both said family support made the most difference in students’ success in school, following by individual effort.

Ninety percent of Latinos and black parents said schools should hold low-income students to the same or higher standard as other students, reports Natalie Gross on Latino Ed Beat. “Some teachers have low expectations for low-income students of color – and parents know it.”

As in many school surveys, most parents liked their children’s schools, reports Education Week. However, 53 percent of African-American participants said schools nationally were doing a poor job preparing African-American children for the future.  Only 28 percent of Latino respondents agreed.

Also, about one-third of African-American and one-quarter of Latino participants responded that schools “are not really trying” to educate African American and Latino students.

“Children of color” are the “new majority” in public schools, the Leadership Conference observes.

School apologizes for survey on parents’ views

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What do your parents think about race and economic equality? Who’s more “caring,” your mother or your father?

A Boston-area school district is apologizing for asking middle and high school students to fill out a survey for the Harvard Graduate School of Education’s “Making Caring Common Project.”

“How fair do your parents think it is that some people in this country have a lot of money and others just have a little money?” asks one question, prompting students to select responses ranging from “very fair” to “unfair” to “I’m not sure.”

“Do your parents do anything to help people who have less money?” another question asks.

Although the survey was optional, parents complained the questions were intrusive.
No mistake: Other questions ask about parents' views on race and ethnicity. Harvard agreed to delete all the data submitted by students in the Trident School District but the graduate school is standing by their survey. 'We don't think it was a mistake,' said Harvard psychologist Richard Richard Weissbourd

“My kids have no idea how much money I make and how much money I give to people,” one  mother told Fox News. “And frankly, it’s none of the school’s business or Harvard’s for that matter.”

Christopher Farmer, the superintendent of Triton Regional School District, agreed some questions were inappropriate. The district has withdrawn from the project. Data from Triton students will be deleted.

Richard Weissbourd, a Harvard psychologist who runs Making Caring Common, said, “We stand by the survey.”

“We are trying to gather information that will help schools and parents engage young people in discussions about race and inequality,” Weissbourd said. “Hard to have those discussions if you don’t hear from young people.”

Halloween costume parade is on!

The Halloween costume parade will take place at elementary schools in Milford, Connecticut, thanks to parents’ complaints. The district had moved holiday celebrations to the evening, so parents could attend — and children who objected to Halloween for religious or cultural reasons would not be pressured to participate.

Supt. Elizabeth Feser sounded testy in a letter rescinding the parade ban. “We have been accused of being un-American, of denying children participation in an American tradition” by protesting parents, she wrote.

In the CBS story, many commenters assume the district is trying to accommodate Muslim parents. I think they’re actually worried about conservative Christians, who object to making light of devils, witches, etc. But most will dress their kids as a non-supernatural being and make no fuss.

The Asian advantage

Why do Asian-Americans do so well in school? asks Nicholas Kristof in a New York Times column. What’s the “Asian advantage?”

It’s not IQ, writes Brooks, citing Richard Nisbett’s book about intelligence.

Columbia University’s commencement in 2005. Photo: Peter Turnley, Corbis

Columbia University’s commencement in 2005. Photo: Peter Turnley, Corbis

Chinese-American and white children with the same IQ scores were followed into adulthood by researchers. Fifty-five percent of the Chinese-Americans entered high-status occupations, compared with one-third of the whites, Nisbett writes. Chinese-Americans with a 93 IQ did as well as whites with a 100.

In The Asian American Achievement Paradox, Jennifer Lee and Min Zhou note that many recent Asian immigrants are educated professionals. But working-class Asian-Americans tend to do well in school too. That’s certainly true of the children of the Vietnamese boat people.

The “model minority” may be a myth, but Asian kids walk into a math or science classroom knowing their teachers will expect them to excel.

Kristof credits the Confucian emphasis on education.

Immigrant East Asians often try particularly hard to get into good school districts, or make other sacrifices for children’s education, such as giving prime space in the home to kids to study.

There’s also evidence that Americans believe that A’s go to smart kids, while Asians are more likely to think that they go to hard workers.

Asian-American parents have high expectations for their children. A B is an “Asian F,” kids joke. (Kristof says A-, but I think that’s extreme.) And a B is “a white A.”

Asian-Americans also are likely to grow up in two-parent families.

“The success of Asian-Americans is a tribute to hard work, strong families and passion for education,” he concludes. “Ditto for the success of Jews, West Indians and other groups.”

But their success does not “suggest that the age of discrimination is behind us,” he argues. The “black boy in Baltimore who is raised by a struggling single mom, whom society regards as a potential menace” will not be reassured by the success of Asian-Americans. “Because one group can access the American dream does not mean that all groups can.”

Shouldn’t that kid be reassured by the success of West Indian blacks?

NYC’s door-to-door push to involve parents


Tameka Carter, left, and Bliss Requa-Trautz, knocked on doors of families with Public School 112 students in the Edenwald housing projects in the Bronx. Photo: Karsten Moran, New York Times

In hopes of turning around struggling schools, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio’s administration has spent a million dollars to “train parents in organizing techniques and to hire people to knock on the doors of roughly 35,000 parents,” reports the New York Times.

“Bringing families into their child’s education is essential,” Mr. de Blasio’s schools chancellor, Carmen Fariña, said. “Study after study shows that family engagement improves student performance and attendance.”

The initiative is modeled after Cincinnati’s “community schools.”

 So on a hot afternoon in late August, one of the outreach workers, Tameka Carter, a single mother of four from Brooklyn who said she had always been active in her children’s schools, went from building to building in the Edenwald housing project in the Bronx, knocking on doors of families with children in Public School 112.

When Ms. Carter did find the parents who were listed on her clipboard, typically mothers, they listened as she explained what it meant that their child’s school was becoming a “community school.”

Parents were asked to rate “how much they would value potential new programs, like medical services, tutoring or summer activities” or “an opportunity for parents to sit at the decision-making table.”

“Meaning?” Maria Pena, a 31-year-old mother of three, asked.

Ms. Carter explained that she could “sit at the table” with P.S. 112’s “community school team,” a group of parents and staff members who would decide what programs the school needed.

“I would definitely sit,” Ms. Pena said. “The problem is if they would listen.”

The administration will spend $106 million over two years to add social and health services at schools.

Parents will come to student performances or award ceremonies, but not to workshops on how to help their children with schoolwork, says Susan Barnes, principal of P.S. 112. “Most of my parents are non-readers,” she said. “People don’t want you to know that they can’t read or write.”

Most types of parental involvement have little or no effect on children’s academic performance, said Keith Robinson, a University of Texas professor who’s studied the issue. Parents’ expectations — will their child go to college? — does make a difference.

Parents can check kids’ schoolwork, but should they?

I Will Not Check My Son’s Grades Online Five Times a Day, vows Jessica Lahey in The Atlantic.

Her son’s high school offers a “parent portal” to its information system. Parents can check their child’s attendance, grades and test scores online.

“Our best data suggests that over 80 percent of parents and students who have access – meaning their school has enabled remote access – use the system at least once a week…and many users check multiple times a day,” said Bryan Macdonald, senior vice president of PowerSchool.

Lahey trusts her son to tell her how he’s doing. But some parents love the information portal, she writes.

Teachers also have mixed feelings. The portal makes it easy to communicate — and for overanxious parents to drive their kids (and their kids’ teachers) even crazier.

Four charged for cheering at graduation

Four people face disrupting the peace charges for cheering for a family member at a Mississippi high school graduation.