The Role of Parents in Academic Outcomes

This weekend, Tom Friedman of the New York Times wrote about parent involvement in American education.

Friedman lauded Education Secretary Arne Duncan’s recent speech to the National Assessment Governing Board Education Summit for Parent Leaders.

Although Secretary Duncan’s focus was on traditional public schools, we think most successful Calvert homeschoolers — as well as our teachers in both virtual schools and brick-and-mortar classrooms —  would agree with this statement in the Secretary’s speech:

“But to really help our kids, we have to do so much more as parents. We have to change expectations about how hard kids should work. And we have to work with teachers and leaders to create schools that demand more from our kids…” (Read the full transcript of Secretary Duncan’s speech)

Calvert Education Services’ regular surveys of satisfied homeschooling parents show the same results:  Calvert parents value the program’s rigor and structure because it helps them set and reinforce high academic standards for their children.

Calvert also works with hundreds of professional teachers who support in-home instruction, including our own Education Counselors and teachers in our affiliated Virtual Charter Schools.  These professional educators consistently make the same point: parents who are engaged in their children’s learning program and ensure that their children spend the appropriate time on challenging assignments consistently see the best results.

Duncan cited research from Amanda Ripley’s book  “The Smartest Kids in the World and How They Got That Way”,  which seeks to explain differences in student performance around the world.

“Repeatedly, she found that school in the United States was simply easier than in higher-performing countries.  That’s a point that was echoed, with devastating clarity, at a panel she moderated recently with me and a group of foreign exchange students from Korea, Brazil, Germany and Australia.”

“Some of them were going to really strong high schools here in the United States – but they all said that school here was easier than at home.  Four teenagers, from four different countries, and all said they were challenged more back home.”

“And Amanda points a finger at you and me, as parents – not because we aren’t involved in school, but because too often, we are involved in the wrong way. Parents, she says, are happy to show up at sports events, video camera in hand, and they’ll come to school to protest a bad grade. But she writes, and I quote:  ‘Parents did not tend to show up at schools demanding that their kids be assigned more challenging reading or that their kindergartners learn math while they still loved numbers.'”

Calvert Education supports this goal for the nation’s schools. At the same time, we applaud the families we serve for doing the hands-on work of keeping their children on track using our intellectually challenging, but easy-to-follow lesson manuals.  Calvert’s system has proven effective year-after-year by our many successful Calvert home- and virtual- schooling parents and instructors, who make all the difference in the effectiveness of our program.

As a parent, what has been your experience with the Calvert program?

Do you find the Calvert program to be more rigorous than any U.S. alternatives you may have tried at home or in the classroom?

If you have used Calvert outside of the U.S. , how does it compare with local programs available to you?

Let us know your thoughts.  We are always eager for feedback from parents and teachers using the Calvert program.

In addition, this year you have an opportunity to give us feedback on the new Calvert High School Program, currently in development.  If you are interested in participating in our pilot testing program, please fill out this form to put yourself on the waiting list for this invitation-only trial opportunity.