Getting serious about parental involvement
From a recent essay by former Washington Post reporter Dale Russakoff (it's on Pages 4-20):
When Phyllis Hunter, former director of reading for Houston's public schools, talks about the importance of parents to their children's education, she begins with a tale of three mothers and an eggplant in a supermarket. The first mother wheels her shopping cart down the produce aisle, where her Kindergartner spots an eggplant and asks what it is. The mother shushes her child, ignoring the question. A second mother, faced with the same question, responds curtly, "Oh, that's an eggplant, but we don't eat it."
The third mother coos, "Oh, that's an eggplant. It's one of the few purple vegetables." She picks it up, hands it to her son, and encourages him to put it on the scale. "Oh, look, it's about two pounds!" she says. "And it's $1.99 a pound, so that would cost just about $4. That's a bit pricey, but you like veal parmesan, an eggplant parmesan is delicious too. You'll love it. Let's buy one, take it home, cut it open. We'll make a dish together."
Hunter's parable makes clear why an attentive, engaged parent is one of life's greatest academic advantages. It also makes clear why educators have long believed that low-income children would soar as students if only they got more support at home. But what never has been clear, despite 40 years of voluminous research, is whether myriad strategies schools are now using to engage low-income parents have actually been effective in raising their children's achievement.