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Aspiration Helps… but Parent Engagement Is Key

April 30, 2012

The Naked Capitalism blog posted a report summarizing a study done in England on the effects of aspiration on educational performance of low income students. The report made some interesting points, many of which were made by quotes from the researchers. I added emphases in some places:

Importantly, the review found that low-income families already have aspirations for their children to go on to  but often other barriers can get in the way of them realising these . Liz Todd also found that teachers, policy makers and other  professionals underestimate the ambitions of young people and the aspirations that families have for their children.

Professor Todd said: “For more than 10 years national and local policy has focused attention on raising aspirations. But there is no evidence that if you want to impact on the attainment of lower-income pupils that changing attitudes and aspirations is the way to go. There is an urgent need to change direction.”

She added: “It’s not that aspirations aren’t important. It’s not about turning them on but keeping them on track. It’s highly unlikely that any child starts school wanting to be unemployed.”

I especially like the last quote! And what IS the best way to help low income children and parents?

….the most effective way of helping children from low-income households to achieve their ambitions is engaging parents in their children’s learning and in their own learning and in providing a range of support for children such as mentoring. Parents need to understand how the education system works and what choices are available for their children and, critically, how they can work with schools to help their children reach their full potential.

It also stated that we need to develop approaches that don’t blame families and children for the effects of poverty on their education.

The more I read and reflect on my personal experiences, the more clear it is that ENGAGEMENT is the key to success: parent and student engagement at the entry level of schooling and student engagement in the high school. It strikes me that there are ways engagement can be measured and it also strikes me that EARLY engagement is especially vital for poor children. As this blog has said repeatedly: we need to change our metrics if we want to change our schools!

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