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Parents Desire Better Tools, Information to Help High School Students Succeed, Report Finds

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Philanthropy News Digest, October 2008

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, a new report from Civic Enterprises finds.

Funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report, One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America's High Schools (44 pages, PDF), presents findings from a survey of parents of high school students in urban, suburban, and rural communities from diverse backgrounds and income levels. According to the report, only 15 percent of parents with students at low-performing schools feel that their school does a good job challenging students, compared with 58 percent of parents with students in high-performing schools.

The report also found that 47 percent of parents with students in low-performing schools said 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, while 25 percent said their school informed them about academic and disciplinary problems, compared to 53 percent in high-performing schools. The majority of all parents — 80 percent with students in low-performing schools and 85 percent with students in high-performing schools — said they believe parents should be involved as advocates for their children when it comes to picking courses and teachers.

A follow-up to a 2006 study that found lack of parental involvement to be a key factor in kids dropping out of high school, the new report recommends that school officials meet with parents before high school to clarify what constitutes success in school; that schools do more to recruit parent volunteers to serve as liaisons between the school and other parents; and that schools partner with community organizations to offer parent involvement classes.

"This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children's academic success," said John Bridgeland, president and CEO of Civic Enterprises and co-author of the report. "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."

“Report Reveals High Parent Frustration With America's High Schools.” Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Press Release 10/23/08.


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