Making schools better “should be only one part of our national strategy” on education, writes Harvard’s Ronald Ferguson. “Life at home has been a relatively neglected topic and needs to come out of the shadows.” In a commentary at CNN.com Ferguson, who heads the Achievement Gap Initiative at Harvard University, says helping parents do their best needs to be as big a priority as achieving excellent schools.
This goes beyond public policies. I am talking about changes in mindsets and lifestyles in a national social and cultural movement to close achievement gaps between groups — a movement to achieve excellence with equity. More reading at home is a place to start….Black and Hispanic students reported less leisure reading at home compared to whites, watched television more, were much more likely to have televisions in their bedrooms and (perhaps as a consequence) were more prone to become sleepy at school. Also, blacks and Hispanics, including those with college-educated parents, reported fewer books in their homes than whites whose parents had fewer years of schooling.
Ferguson cites research indicating that high achieving students across racial lines have parents who are “both responsive and demanding.”
According to the study, white parents were much more likely to be both responsive and demanding than black and Hispanic parents; whereas black parents, in particular, were often highly demanding, but tended not to be as responsive in the ways the study measured. Among early adolescents, differences along these dimensions helped account for the higher test scores of whites as compared with blacks and Hispanics.
“Findings like the above should be part of the conversation among black and Hispanic community leaders as they respond to the fact that even the children of college-educated parents often achieve at lower-than-expected levels,” Ferguson writes.