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The Broken Compass

The Broken Compass

Keith Robinson
Angel L. Harris
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Harvard University Press
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  • Book Info
    The Broken Compass
    Book Description:

    It seems like common sense that children do better when parents are actively involved in their schooling. But how well does the evidence stack up?The Broken Compassputs this question to the test in the most thorough scientific investigation to date of how parents across socioeconomic and ethnic groups contribute to the academic performance of K-12 children. The surprising discovery is that no clear connection exists between parental involvement and student performance. Keith Robinson and Angel Harris assessed over sixty measures of parental participation, at home and in school. While some of the associations they found were consistent with past studies, others ran contrary to previous research and popular perceptions. It is not the case that Hispanic and African American parents are less concerned about education--or that "Tiger parenting" among Asian Americans gets the desired results. Many low-income parents want to be involved in their children's school lives but often receive little support from school systems. For immigrant families, language barriers only worsen the problem. In this provocative work, Robinson and Harris believe that the time has come to reconsider whether parental involvement can make much of a dent in the basic problems facing American schools today.

    eISBN: 978-0-674-72629-1
    Subjects: Education, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. 1 The Role of Parental Involvement in Children’s Schooling
    (pp. 1-25)

    It is safe to say that most adults in this country believe that parent involvement is critical to improving educational outcomes for all children. Parent’s contributions of time and eff ort are thought to be greatly benefi cial in helping schools meet various state and community educational goals. This sentiment is well captured by Epstein (1996, 213), who claims, “We have moved from the question, Are families important for student success in school? ToIffamilies are important for children’s development and school success,howcan schools help all families conduct the activities that will benefit their children?” The idyllic...

  4. 2 Parental Involvement and Social Class
    (pp. 26-43)

    One of the major changes to the educational system since the early twentieth century is the policy mandate for parents to serve as home assistants to schools in educating children. Formerly, parents’ primary role in the home with regard to schooling was to ensure that children were properly fed, adequately dressed, and ready to learn when they attend school. Since the 1950s, educational policy has made parental involvement at home an integral part of the wider educational system. De Carvalho (2001) notes that “by prescribing family education or aligning home education to the prevailing school curriculum, it penetrates the private...

  5. 3 Implications of Parental Involvement at Home by Social Class
    (pp. 44-61)

    In Chapters 1 and 2, we observe that social class is associated with both higher levels of academic achievementandparental involvement in children’s education. Naturally, one might conclude that students’ achievement is greatly determined by their parents’ level of involvement. With social class as the common denominator in rates of both achievement and parental involvement, the narrative that affluent youth perform better academically because their parents are highly involved seems logical. At the same time, the reciprocal narrative can emerge that the low achievement of youth from more disadvantaged class backgrounds stems from a lack of parental involvement. Many...

  6. 4 Implications of Parental Involvement at School by Social Class
    (pp. 62-84)

    The positive association between economic status and parental involvement shown in Chapter 2 indicates that parents will vary in their knowledge about the schooling process and, accordingly, about the opportunities their children have to learn. What it means to participate at school in various ways (e.g., attending parent-teacher meetings or open house) could be fundamentally different for parents from different socioeconomic backgrounds. Compared to more affluent parents, who have an advantage in social capital gained from relationships fostered with teachers and extended networks (Heckman and Peterman 1996; Lareau 1987, 2000), parents from disadvantaged backgrounds have greater challanges negotiating the school...

  7. 5 Academic Orientation among Parents at Home by Race
    (pp. 85-113)

    If we were to conduct a national poll of the U.S. population asking people to rank whites, Asians, Hispanics, and blacks in terms of parental involvement in children’s schooling, it is likely that the majority of people would place whites and Asians at the top and Hispanics and blacks at the bottom. This arrangement would be consistent with the widely held notion that Asian parents have raised model children with respect to education (Osajima 2005) and the contrasting view that Hispanic and black parents are unconcerned with their children’s education. The latter view is related to a wider narrative that...

  8. 6 Effectiveness of Parental Involvement at Home by Race
    (pp. 114-128)

    The belief that parental involvement works is deeply ingrained in the American educational system ethos. An online search of parental involvement will take you to the websites of numerous organizations, coalitions, and various other entities that make strong calls for parents to become more involved at home and for schools to develop partnerships with parents to assist child learning. Yet, many of the academic benefits they pur-port children will receive from home involvement are unattached to empirical evidence. As discussed in the previous chapters, some evidence supports the belief that high-achieving students are more likely to have active, intrested, and...

  9. 7 Parental Involvement at School by Race
    (pp. 129-152)

    Having outlined the ways parents can promote educational success in the home, we turn our attention in this chapter to parents’ involvement at school by race. Despite the lack of overwhelming support in Chapter 5 for the notion that minority parents are less involved in their children’s education, the perception that minority parents—mostly Hispanic groups and blacks in particular—care less about their children’s schooling still persists. This belief might be driven by patterns of involvement at school rather than at home. The opening epigraph partially captures this sentiment. Essentially, the pervasive belief of teachers and school administrators is...

  10. 8 Implications of Parental Involvement at School by Race
    (pp. 153-178)

    Throughout this book, we have discussed that advocates of school involvement believe that students gain in academic development when their parents show that they value education on a regular basis. Parent involvement at school has been identified as a key promoter of achievement, and as De Carvalho (2001) notes, educational policy has turned previously informal and limited parental involvement into a mandate. We show in Chapters 2 and 7 that not all parents will be involved with school-related activities to the same extent. But we argue that an important question still remains: Which forms of parental involvement at school are...

  11. 9 Parenting and Poor Achievement
    (pp. 179-198)

    Despite all the research that has been conducted on parental involvement and achievement, there is virtually no insight into how parents deal with poor academic performance in particular. That is, most research on parenting and achievement examines parental involvement in general; there is a dearth of research on how parents deal specifically with poor achievement and the implications that their approach has for their children’s academic outcomes. Asking parents to be involved in their children’s schooling is conceptually and empirically distinct from asking them to address inadequate academic performance. Whereas the former condition for involvement is intended to help a...

  12. 10 Setting the Stage for Academic Success
    (pp. 199-219)

    The analysis in this book suggests that what is traditionally deemed “parental involvement” is generally inconsequential (or even negatively related) to academic achievement. Yet conventional wisdom tells us that parents play a key role in the educational success of their children. A major question we grappled with conducting this analysis was if our sixty-three involvement measures were failing to capture fundamental ways that parents help their children academically. In reflecting on our own experiences, we recalled that our parents did very few of the activities we discuss in this book, yet they were instrumental to our academic success. Well then,...

  13. 11 Conclusion
    (pp. 220-232)

    The issue of parental involvement is complicated. Research continues to communicate that families provide the child’s most important learning environment, yet remains unclear about how exactly parents can contribute to the academic success of their children. A review of the literature on parental involvement provides an informative but limited understanding of this issue. What we are left with is a series of studies that provide snap-shots of parental involvement from various angles.

    What has been missing from the literature is a study that provides an in-depth quantitative assessment of parental involvement across an extensive set of measures and across the...

  14. APPENDIX A: Sources of Data
    (pp. 235-240)
  15. APPENDIX B: Methodology
    (pp. 241-256)
  16. APPENDIX C: Descriptive Tables
    (pp. 257-270)
  17. APPENDIX D: Guide of “Effects” by Race
    (pp. 271-272)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 273-278)
  19. References
    (pp. 279-304)
  20. Acknowledgments
    (pp. 305-306)
  21. Index
    (pp. 307-312)