Advancing a Free Society

We Have a Parenting Problem, Not a Poverty Problem

Monday, November 7, 2011

I glimpsed a quote from Kati Haycock yesterday, kicking off the Education Trust annual conference, saying that we can’t let “bad parenting” be an excuse for poor educational results. She’s absolutely right, of course. It’s not as if our schools are running on all cylinders (especially schools serving poor kids), and if only parents were doing their jobs too, achievement would soar. And we’ve got several examples of school models that are making a tremendous difference in educational outcomes for kids, regardless of what’s happening at home.

That said, it strikes me as highly unlikely that we’re ever going to significantly narrow the achievement gap between rich and poor unless we narrow the “good parenting gap” between rich and poor families, too. (And yes, I know I’m going to catch a lot of grief for saying that.)

Let’s admit it: The broader/bolder types are right when they say that a lot of what influences student achievement happens outside of schools, and before kids ever step foot in kindergarten. Where they are wrong, I believe, is in thinking that turbo-charged government programs can compensate for the real challenge: what’s happening inside the home.

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