Blaming teachers for low test scores, poor graduation rates and the
other ills of American schools has been popular lately, but a new survey
wags a finger closer to home.

An Associated Press-Stanford University Poll on education found that
68 percent of adults believe parents deserve heavy blame for what's
wrong with the U.S. education system — more than teachers, school
administrators, the government or teachers unions.

Only 35 percent of those surveyed agreed that teachers deserve a
great deal or a lot of the blame. Moms were more likely than dads — 72
percent versus 61 percent — to say parents are at fault. Conservatives
were more likely than moderates or liberals to blame parents.

Those who said parents are to blame were more likely to cite a lack
of student discipline and low expectations for students as serious
problems in schools. They were also more likely to see fighting and low
test scores as big problems.

"Nobody is too busy to raise a child for a successful future," said
Wilfred Luise Vincent, 65, of Coppell, Texas. Vincent worked early or
late shifts for Delta Airlines during most of his career so his two
daughters would have a parent at home after school.

Now he's retired, and he helps his granddaughter while his daughter works.

The problems children and their parents deal with inside and outside
of school every day are growing, said Julie Woestehoff, executive
director of Parents United for Responsible Education, a Chicago advocacy

Children are tired; they're hungry; and they need someone to help
with their homework. Some kids face violence at home or in their
neighborhood. Some parents are trying so hard to keep a roof over their
family that they can't help with school.

More than half of those polled said student discipline and fighting,
violence and gangs were extremely or very serious problems in schools.
Nearly as many expressed concern about getting and keeping good

But a majority of parents see improvement in the system since they
were in school: 55 percent believe their children are getting a better
education than they did, and three-quarters rate the quality of
education at their child's school as excellent or good. Most say their
child's school is doing a good job preparing students for college and
the work force.

A variety of research in past years backs up the poll respondents' sense that parenting plays key roles in school performance.

One in 10 kindergarten and first-grade students misses a month of
school every year, which can put them behind their classmates for years,
according to Attendance Counts, an advocacy group. By ninth grade,
missing 20 percent of school is a better predictor of a student dropping
out than test scores are, said Attendance Counts director Hedy Chang.
In the poll, 41 percent said students' lack of time in school is a
serious problem.

Exposing kids under 2 to too much television can cause them to
develop language skills later, researchers at the University of
Washington have found.

Hungry students do worse on standardized tests and are absent more
often, according to several studies that have connected poor nutrition
with students who have trouble concentrating.

Educating parents about how the school system works and welcoming
them to get involved might also help their children, according to Joyce
L. Epstein, research professor of sociology at Johns Hopkins University.

"Without programs to educate parents, everyone is working in some stage of ignorance." she said.


Source: The Augusta Chronicle –

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