The News in Numbers: Closing the Achievement Gap with Parent Engagement

Ronald Ferguson is a Harvard professor, a national speaker at racially mixed public schools and a leader in education gap research. His research has been influential in the Gates study on evaluating teachers; the Council of the Great City Schools study of the widening gap between white and black boys; a front page New York Times story on the effectiveness of large schools versus small schools; and in landing him a spot on the eight-person panel deciding if Cathleen Black should qualify for New York City chancellor. A recent New York Times article “Closing the Achievement Gap Without Widening a Racial One” brought Ferguson into the spotlight and revealed some of his numbers on the growing gap.

- In a typical wealthy suburb:

  • 79% of blacks are in the bottom 50% financially, while 73% of whites are in the top 50%
  • 40% of blacks owned 100 or more books, compared with 80% of whites.
  • The percentage of black and white parents who read to their children in first grade on a daily basis is the same.
  • By fifth grade, 60-70% of white parents still read to their children daily, compared to 30-40% of black parents.
  • 55% of white girls reported earning an A or A- average, while less than 20% of black girls and boys reported an A or A- average.

These statistics showed Ferguson that the solution to shrinking the achievement gap might not be what a teacher can do in the classroom, but rather what parents can do in the student’s home. Research has long shown the correlation between parent engagement and student success, finding when parents are involved, students gain:

  • Higher grades and test scores,
  • Better attendance and more homework done,
  • More positive attitudes and behavior,
  • Higher graduation rates and greater enrollment in post-secondary education.

In Denver Public Schools, Jefferson County and others who serve Title 1 populations with primarily low-income students, we have conducted sessions for parents on establishing a culture of learning at home, identifying and removing any personal barriers that may be affecting their children’s growth, and committing to modeling success in ways their kids need to understand success and how to be successful.

Geoffrey Canada begins this work with pregnant moms. His work in Harlem is based off Ferguson’s research and has been instrumental in the Harlem Children’s Zone Project with whole neighborhoods, communities and schools who have successful, committed and involved parents to advocate for their students and be participants in the academic advantages that they have over time.

On March 1, LifeBound is offering a parent engagement webinar for parents who want to improve their effectiveness with their students but are unable to attend a session in person. Click here for registration information. This webinar is designed for parents, counselors, educators, and administrators with students in 5-12 grade. Space is limited. Register now to ensure your participation.

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