Report Reveals High Parent Frustration with America’s High Schools

Parents across America share high hopes for their children’s academic success and many know their involvement is vital.

But parents with students in low-performing high schools say their schools don’t give them the tools and information they need to be more effective in helping their students succeed, according to a national report released.

“One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High Schools,” by Civic Enterprises, and based on research conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, captures the views of parents of high school students in America’s urban, suburban, and rural communities from diverse backgrounds and income levels.

The findings point to concrete steps that can improve parental engagement in schools and strengthen efforts to prepare all young people for success in college and the workplace. The report was commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

“The critical role parents play in educating children is often a blind assumption or a target of attack,” said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the report. “The findings of this report call for a halt to the blame game. This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children’s academic success. The opposite is true. Parents, especially those with students trapped in low-income or low-performing schools, desperately want to be involved and want their students to succeed. What parents need is an access point—a way into schools—so they can become partners in helping students learn and achieve.”

Many parents surveyed believe that schools should do a better job of reaching out to them or engaging them as partners, particularly parents of students in low-performing schools.

In fact, 80 percent of all parents surveyed, and 85 percent of parents of students in low-performing schools, believe parents should be involved as advocates for their children when it comes to picking courses and teachers.

The report reveals a stark contrast between the experiences of parents with students in low-performing schools and those with students in high-performing schools.

According to the survey:

-Only 15 percent of parents with students at low-performing schools feel that their school is doing a very good job challenging students, compared with 58 percent of parents with students in high-performing schools.

-Forty-seven percent of parents with students in low-performing schools said that their schools were doing a good job in encouraging parents to be involved compared to 85 percent of parents with students in high-performing schools.

-Twenty-five percent of parents with students in low-performing schools say that their school informed them about academic and disciplinary problems compared to more than half (53 percent) of parents with students in high-performing schools.

-Less than 20 percent of parents with students in low-performing schools believe schools do a very good job preparing their students across four categories: preparation for college; helping students develop confidence, maturity, and personal skills; developing a special talent; and preparing them for a good job. Half of parents with students in high-performing schools feel this way.

-Half of parents of students in low-performing schools said they felt welcomed in the schools compared to four out of five parents with students in high-performing schools.

Each year, more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. Research shows that when parents are involved, students perform better and are less likely to drop out.

Yet studies have shown that as students grow older, parents tend to become less involved with their children’s academic lives due, in part, to unique barriers like difficulty in helping them with homework or lack of resources for parents of high school-aged students.

Source: Civic Enterprises, LLC

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