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Success in school depends to a large degree on parents

by Sheri Foreman, president and CEO of the Houston Center for Literacy

familyLet's stop blaming teachers for lack of student progress

Recently, the federal No Child Left Behind program released its annual progress report. It is not surprising that more Texas schools failed to pass than ever before, and nearly all of Houston's schools earned failing grades.

Fingers are already pointing in every direction. Some people believe the standards are too high; others think schools are not doing an adequate job. But one important topic is missing from the conversation: parental involvement.

Does a child's success in school depend solely on his or her teachers' ability to present material in a relatable way? Or does the education level of the child's parent matter just as much?

According to a 2010 special report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the No.1 predictor of a child's early school success is his or her mother's education level. Would it be surprising to learn that nearly a quarter of Texas children live in homes where the head of the household is not a high school graduate? Or that one in five Houston residents lacks basic literacy skills?

Over the course of a year, children spend more time at home than at school. A teacher's education and expertise cannot replace a parent's education, nor should it.

Think about how you raised your children or how your parents raised you. Did you go over homework with your kids each night? Did you review tests your child brought home? Now think about how difficult it would be to help your child succeed if he or she went to school in a foreign country where you did not understand the language or studied a course you knew nothing about.

We can continue to blame our schools or state and federal standards, or we could take an unexpected path toward improving childhood learning by focusing on parents. When parents are literate, they are more likely to have books in the home, read to their kids, attend parent-teacher conferences and understand report cards.

Let's stop blaming teachers and stop blaming the schools. Instead, let's create a system where parents and teachers collaborate to give children the necessary tools to reach academic success. Too often our society misses the link between adult literacy and childhood education. If we make gains in adult literacy today, then we will see improvements in children's test scores tomorrow.

This article appeared in the Houston Chronicle on August 30, 2012

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About Houston Center for Literacy

houston center for literacy logoHouston Center for Literacy (formerly Houston READ Commission) is working to build a literate, prepared workforce by supporting literacy organizations and programs.

Literacy Advance is a member of the Houston Center for Literacy coalition.

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