Ralph Lee has identified a critical idea for those who seek to narrow the achievement gap: It affects children and young people of all races [Taking another look at the achievement gap at OPRF, Viewpoints, Dec. 1]. With that background, a next step is to consider the work of Annette Lareau, a professor of sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. Her book, “Unequal Childhoods: Class, Race and Family Life,” compares the child-rearing practices of parents to the achievement of their 10- to 12-year-old children. I highly recommend her book to anyone interested in the subject. It can be found if you Google her name.

To summarize her conclusions, children whose parents are more involved with their education — visiting the school, monitoring homework and such — tend to achieve more than those whose parents take a hands-off, less involved posture. Related to Lee’s comments, it seems likely that those parents who are most tenacious and effective in affecting school districts’ actions might also be parents who monitor homework, enforce curfews and withdraw privileges when students aren’t successful. This surely isn’t a “silver bullet” that leads to an easy solution to the problem, but it’s an avenue worth exploring. If I recall correctly, several years ago Rich Deptuch and others carried out a study comparing characteristics of higher- and lower-achieving students. A revisiting of that study might begin to shed some light on the topic. Most importantly, read the study, rather than relying on my brief summary.

Marion Hogenboom
Oak Park
D97 board member, 1975-1978

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