Black parents: High hopes, poor results for kids education

caines | 3/22/2012, 5 a.m.

New poll seeks to include more minorities in school debate

A new multilingual poll of parents opinions on education reform was recently released and presented to a wide array of educators, advocates, policy experts and members of the ethnic media. But those who needed to hear the information most which lends credence to the importance of being directly involved in childrens education Black parents were conspicuously absent from the table. Their omission points to a continued challenge for those who consider themselves to be education reformers how to empower minority parents so that they can take advantage of existing resources that will improve their childrens academic performance. The poll on school quality and titled Parental Aspirations Defy the Odds, was commissioned by New America Media whose executive director, Sandy Close, led the panel discussion. Fourteen- hundred parents of school children in the Southeast were interviewed by Bendixen & Amandi International in states that included Florida, Georgia and Texas. Interviews were conducted in several languages English, Spanish, Creole and Cantonese being just a few.

And the survey says . . .

Major findings included: 1) Parents have a positive view of the quality of their childrens education; 2) Parents were aware of the importance of teacher quality; 3) Parents have high educational aspirations for their children but their aspirations defy the odds. They are also heavily involved in their educational experience; and 4) Parents do not appear to understand the weaknesses of the education their children are receiving. They will only become energized to support efforts to reform schools if they are better informed. The media, especially ethnic media, has an important role to play in achieving this objective. But several members of the Black community said they felt like the panel discussion was an example of preaching to the choir. Our elected officials are not working for the benefit of our kids but rather to make money, said Marlene Bastien, founder and executive director of Haitian Women of Miami. We need to see an investment in and the creation of more parent leadership councils we need to help minority parents organize and they need to be informed of the true state of public education and how they can use their collective vote and voices to make much needed change. If not, our schools will continue to be the leading pipeline to this countrys prisons. Panelist Modesto E. Abety-Gutierrez, president/CEO, The Childrens Trust, says he is concerned about the formative years of childrens education. Close to half, 40 percent, of our pre-K children are not ready when they begin school that means the problem begins at home, he said. It just gets worse for them in each successive grade. By the time they reach the third grade, 1/3 are not reading on grade level. Parents can change this by instilling a love of reading in their children and reading to them right away, therefore arming them with a stronger vocabulary that will prepare them for school and lifelong learning. He also pointed out that in a recent national survey of young adults seeking to enter the military, 75 percent couldnt meet the basic requirements because they either could not pass the basic skills test, had felony records, tested positive for drugs or were too obese. I see no sense of urgency or outrage and because these are our children that we failing, we should both angry and determined to change things for the better, he added.