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Topic: [ncsm-members] Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools
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Jerry P. Becker

Posts: 16,576
Registered: 12/3/04
[ncsm-members] Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools
Posted: Oct 26, 2012 9:35 AM
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From Time Magazine, Wednesday, October 24, 2012. See

Why Parenting Is More Important Than Schools

By Annie Murphy Paul

Given all the roiling debates about how America's children should be
taught, it may come as a surprise to learn that students spend less
than 15% of their time in school. While there's no doubt that school
is important, a clutch of recent studies reminds us that parents are
even more so. A study published earlier this month by researchers at
North Carolina State University, Brigham Young University and the
University of California-Irvine, for example, finds that parental
involvement - checking homework, attending school meetings and
events, discussing school activities at home - has a more powerful
influence on students' academic performance than anything about the
school the students attend. Another study, published in the Review of
Economics and Statistics, reports that the effort put forth by
parents (reading stories aloud, meeting with teachers) has a bigger
impact on their children's educational achievement than the effort
expended by either teachers or the students themselves. And a third
study concludes that schools would have to increase their spending by
more than $1,000 per pupil in order to achieve the same results that
are gained with parental involvement (not likely in this stretched
economic era).

(MORE: Why Third Grade Is So Important: The Matthew Effect -- see

So parents matter - a point made clear by decades of research showing
that a major part of the academic advantage held by children from
affluent families comes from the "concerted cultivation of children"
as compared to the more laissez-faire style of parenting common in
working-class families. But this research also reveals something
else: that parents, of all backgrounds, don't need to buy expensive
educational toys or digital devices for their kids in order to give
them an edge. They don't need to chauffeur their offspring to
enrichment classes or test-prep courses. What they need to do with
their children is much simpler: talk.

But not just any talk. Although well-known research by psychologists
Betty Hart and Todd Risley has shown that professional parents talk
more to their children than less-affluent parents - a lot more,
resulting in a 30 million "word gap" by the time children reach age
three - more recent research is refining our sense of exactly what
kinds of talk at home foster children's success at school. For
example, a study conducted by researchers at the UCLA School of
Public Health and published in the journal Pediatrics found that
two-way adult-child conversations were six times as potent in
promoting language development as interludes in which the adult did
all the talking. Engaging in this reciprocal back-and-forth gives
children a chance to try out language for themselves, and also gives
them the sense that their thoughts and opinions matter. As they grow
older, this feeling helps middle- and upper-class kids develop into
assertive advocates for their own interests, while working-class
students tend to avoid asking for help or arguing their own case with
teachers, according to research presented at American Sociological
Association conference earlier this year.

(MORE: Born to Be Bright: Is There a Gene for Learning? -- see

The content of parents' conversations with kids matters, too.
Children who hear talk about counting and numbers at home start
school with much more extensive mathematical knowledge, report
researchers from the University of Chicago - knowledge that predicts
future achievement in the subject. Psychologist Susan Levine, who led
the study on number words, has also found that the amount of talk
young children hear about the spatial properties of the physical
world - how big or small or round or sharp objects are - predicts
kids' problem-solving abilities as they prepare to enter kindergarten.

While the conversations parents have with their children change as
kids grow older, the effect of these exchanges on academic
achievement remains strong. And again, the way mothers and fathers
talk to their middle-school students makes a difference. Research by
Nancy Hill, a professor at Harvard University's Graduate School of
Education, finds that parents play an important role in what Hill
calls "academic socialization" - setting expectations and making
connections between current behavior and future goals (going to
college, getting a good job). Engaging in these sorts of
conversations, Hill reports, has a greater impact on educational
accomplishment than volunteering at a child's school or going to PTA
meetings, or even taking children to libraries and museums. When it
comes to fostering students' success, it seems, it's not so much what
parents do as what they say.

(MORE: Failure Is Not a Bad Option -- see,9171,2123308,00.html?pcd=magpro
Jerry P. Becker
Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction
Southern Illinois University
625 Wham Drive
Mail Code 4610
Carbondale, IL 62901-4610
Phone: (618) 453-4241 [O]
(618) 457-8903 [H]
Fax: (618) 453-4244

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