Why Does Family Involvement Matter In Urban Education?
“It takes a village to raise a child”
No one knows exactly where the proverb above originated from but studies show it’s relevant regardless of it’s origins. Students with parents who are actively involved in their educational development see a decrease in disciplinary actions, an increase in performance through the achievement of higher grades and better attendance overall. The advantages of family involvement are also seen by educators who understand how parental involvement can assist children in adapting and succeeding in educational environments. If much of this is proven, statistically, why hasn’t there been a significant change in urban education involvement?
A 1999 study, conducted by Oakes and Lipton, found that urban families were often marginalized in educational environments because of language barriers, issues of racism, cultural differences and poverty. There was also the perception that public education was created for the offspring of middle class families that were of the majority and not the minority. Another study conducted in 2009 found similar, if not startling, conclusions that low-income minority disenfranchisement created lower levels of participation by working-class parents. The multiple barriers of involvement and success continue to be fought on the political stage but some researchers have been calling for a re-evaluation of research itself because of a disconnect in how urban families are perceived versus what takes place in reality.
Dr. Susan Auerbach, a professor and researcher at California State University, suggests that there is pseudo parental involvement but it’s a little different than the standards of suburban involvement. She presents a continuum for minority parents that focuses on three categories.
- “Moral Supporters” – encourage their children without making appearances at the school nor taking part in school activities;
- “Struggling Advocates” – try to fulfill the traditional requirements of parental involvement at school but face barriers;
- “Ambivalent Companions” – parents who want their child to succeed but no efforts to advocate for them and assist.
While the debate over what needs to be done to connect parents with schools continue, many agree that in order to increase parental involvement we must first tackle the issue of stabilizing the economy so that parents have time to focus on matters at home.
Auerbach, S. (2002). “Why do they give the good classes to some and not to others?” Latino
parent narratives of struggle in a college access program. Teachers College Record, 104(7),
Oakes, J., & Lipton, M. (1999). Teaching to change the world. Boston: McGraw Hill.