New Research on How African-American and Latino Parents See Public Education

A new study commissioned by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation shows that African-American and Latino parents have high educational expectations for their children, see big problems in their communities with high dropout and low graduation and college-attendance rates—and seek improvements that match up well with the agenda for educational progress advanced by the American Federation of Teachers.

Some 57 percent of African?American parents and 60 percent of Latino parents surveyed said that high school dropout, low college attendance, and graduation rates are pretty big or very big problems in their communities. In response to those problems, the parents and other caregivers surveyed want to fix public schools rather than close them down, to help teachers improve rather than weeding them out of the profession, and to provide rigorous college-prep courses for far more students.

Among the highlights from the research, which surveyed samples of more than 600 African-American and 600 Latino parents:

* When asked if it is important that their child graduates from college, 91 percent of Latino and 86 percent of African-American parents said it is quite or extremely important.

* Parents of color want their children to take rigorous college-prep courses, even if they struggle. When asked what kind of math course parents would prefer their child to take, for example, the majority (85 percent of Latinos and 77 percent of African-Americans) said the “more challenging college-prep math course, even if it is far more difficult to pass,” compared with the “less challenging math course that teaches basic skills but does not prepare them for college math.”

* When asked what to do about poorly performing schools, the parents surveyed said the first option should be to try to fix them rather than close them. Parents want districts to redouble their efforts to improve the quality of teaching in these schools as well as provide more learning resources.

* To improve the quality of public education children in their community receive, vast majorities of parents emphasized more parent involvement in schools (95 percent of African-Americans and 88 percent of Latinos). In addition, nine out of 10 parents said that more support to help teachers improve would help a lot in improving the quality of education.

* When it comes to assigning responsibility for shortcomings in the education system, such as high dropout and low college completion rates, more than two-thirds of respondents primarily blamed parents and home life rather than the school system, teachers and the government.

More information about the research is available here: http://publiceducation.org/pdf/2011_National_Conference/Communities_of_Color_Summary.pdf.

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