Lewis W. Diuguid

Minority parents value high-quality schools

Updated: 2013-11-13T00:26:53Z

By LEWIS W. DIUGUID

The Kansas City Star

Never assume that black, Latino, low-income and immigrant parents don’t care about the quality of their children’s education.

They do. A recent report also indicates that they worry even more about school quality than middle- and upper-income white parents. The research poll should prompt area schools to redouble efforts to improve education, teacher quality and inclusively enlist more parents as volunteers.

Changing demographics of the country are key. School-age children of color now fill about half of all seats in America’s classrooms. It means schools must do a better job of closing the achievement gap to better serve families of color.

A particular concern is a good quality preschool program. The Kansas City Public Schools’ Early Childhood Education Commission determined that it would cost $38 million a year to provide high-quality pre-kindergarten teachers and classrooms for the community’s 6,000 youngsters ages 3 and 4.

It’s encouraging that a national poll found that 76 percent of parents strongly or somewhat favor using public funds so all 4-year-olds in America can attend preschool. A universal preschool program for every child in America is among President Barack Obama’s second-term goals.

High quality preschool for all kids is a way to close the achievement gap. A good preschool boosts language, math and reading skills and helps children become lifelong learners. The poll found that urban, black, Latino, low-income and immigrant parents favored publicly funded preschool more than white, suburban, rural and more affluent parents.

Minority and immigrant parents also rate teacher quality higher than their white and more affluent counterparts. They put a greater emphasis on teachers having a college degree and advanced degrees in the subject or grade level they teach.

“Nearly three-quarters of parents say they would favor making it easier for school districts to fire teachers for poor performance, including 45 percent who strongly favor this approach,” The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs research poll found. Whites favored it more than blacks and Latinos. A majority of parents want school districts to invest more resources and provide more training for teachers, especially new educators.

But higher percentages of Latino, African American and immigrant parents compared with white and more affluent parents also want teachers to share their values, be role models for children and demonstrate a passion for teaching. They are concerned that teachers’ low expectations for their children stifle student achievement.

Low expectations give kids and parents a mistaken sense of achievement. When young people enter college they realize how far behind they really are.

Minority and low-income parents want their children to do well, and they want teachers to push kids harder. They also cite “inequality in funding among school districts as a very or extremely serious problem.”

Although black, Latino and immigrant parents say they volunteer less in schools than white and more affluent parents, they nevertheless said they have a greater influence over their children’s education. Minority families often stress the value of a good education even though they aren’t in schools as much.

The poll showed that unlike white and affluent parents, low-income, minority parents said they thought the quality of the education their children get today is better than when they were in school. That’s not surprising because of computer use and accelerated learning needed for kids to be college and career ready.

Minority and low-income parents place more stock in standardized tests than white and more affluent parents. That’s despite criticism of standardized tests being culturally insensitive.

For parents to get an accurate assessment of how well kids are doing in school, tests must improve. Anything less could result in a fall from superpower status for this country and its children.

To reach Lewis W. Diuguid, call 816-234-4723 or send email to ldiuguid@kcstar.com.

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