Naapid Then What? Powerful Parent Strategies For Closing The Black/white Student Achievement Gap

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Most people have never even heard of it, many educators have still to learn of it, yet it is a day that many schools observed this year on February 13, across the nation. An unusual flurry of eager parents took their children to school, visited their classes, enjoyed private or sponsored luncheons with them and listened to special speakers. Organizers encouraged school districts to make concerted efforts to render the day particularly parent friendly. NAAPID (National African American Parent Involvement Day) celebrating its eleventh anniversary this year is the brain child of Joseph Dulin, an insightful Ann Arbor Michigan principal who decided to concretize his Million Man March pledge by encouraging parents to visibly demonstrate support of their childrens education on this special day.

Nor is it by accident that NAAPID is ensconced in the month of February. The auspicious Black History month celebrates the momentous contributions of African Americans and, of course, that of some Anglo Americans without whose support these tireless, brazen, formidable achievements would have proven less effective. It is a month of reflection, of seeing how far we have come, as a nation,and how far we still need to go. With the recent passing of Mrs. Rosa Parks, the commemoration of the birth of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January, and the passing of Mrs. Coretta Scott King, measuring how far we have come is evident. What bellows how far we yet have to journey vis a vis our schools is the dismal achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. This yawning gap is a definite litmus test of what yet has to be done. Notwithstanding all the pledges made on that day (NAAPID) by parents to teachers, teachers to parents, parents to their children and children to parents ... all these pledges raised like a banner of hope, and swaying in our idealism come tumbling with the thud of a discus in the extant stark reality that to this day, on the average, a Black 12th grader has the achievement level of a White 8th grader.

No doubt, fueled by this recommitment to becoming more involved in their childrens education, many parents must have left school that day resolving to fulfill their task of improving home, school, and community relations. The problem is, however, that far too many parents are not clear on what that task really entails and how exactly to fulfill it. And it is precisely this task, somehow not being fulfilled, that is partially responsible for the woeful achievement gap between students of color and their white peers. (Note that I said partially, because another crucial part has to come from the school and will be discussed separately.) NAAPID should be every day not just one day of the school year.

What separates most students of color (as a group) from their successful peers has less to do with socioeconomics, or number of parents in the home, or urban blight, or the usual suspects we cannot control. The separation, the dismal chasm has more to do with issues regarding much ignored and too often welcome facets related to values and micro-culture. In other words, the problems are definitely fixable. And parents can start fixing them along with their children. Without question, parents of color want the best for their children, but I believe parents need to make a few changes right where they are before they can see the kinds of changes in their childrens attitudes about school, attitudes about their teachers, their work ethic, their grades, and their level of overall success.

Following are two tips you as a parent can follow after NAAPID:

One tip is to believe that a solid education is the sharpest tool your child needs for a brilliant future. Many parents have already bought into the dream but are stuck at the level of transmuting it into reality.

Another tip is to Fortify Your Child with Abundant Academic Support at Home:

We hear all the time that poverty is one of the major reasons that children of color do poorly in schools, or that single parent households is another reason. These claims are absolutely not true. Despite economic privilege, a disproportionate number of children of middle income Blacks..are not achieving at a rate comparable to that of Whites of similar economic status. So something is still lacking. They may have to work hard at overriding social pressures.

Parents with children in the elementary levels can help them with very basic education. There is really no need to leave all the teaching for teachers. You can help teach them the alphabet, numbers, and to distinguish basic colors. Invent little counting games with them. For example, when you go to the park, ask them how many boys have on red hats, or how many girls are wearing something blue, or what letters they see in the sign displayed. Make up songs using the alphabet. You can help your child write his or her name. It is all about practice, practice, practice.

Children generally like to do what their parents do,therefore,capitalize on this. And children are clever. They grasp things easily. Start to give the impression that education is important to you... that you are participating in the educational process. Start developing the discipline of participating in your childrens education, from early on. This means that you need to model the behavior. If education is important to you, it will become important to them...

Whether your household is headed by one or two parents should in no way deter you from reading to your children. Give a name to this special time. During this Reading Time, Family Time, Family Learning Time Time to Read,"select topics of interest to them. As they get older, let them read to you. Yes, even through multiple mistakes, and stumbling over unfamiliar words, let them read to you. This process will give your youngsters the opportunity to become better at word recognition. As they become more fluent in their reading, they will enjoy it and look forward to these meaningful sessions. With this minimal investment of carving out just one hour at least four times a week, your children's school performance and confidence will soar by leaps and bounds.

How about middle and high school students? You may say, I cannot possibly help my children with their work.
Well, it does not matter. I repeat. It does not matter if you can actually tutor them in any specific course. But what you can do is provide these blossoming minds with the environment in which they can work.

Turn off unnecessary noise. Limit telephone calls, etc. during this Reading time or Study time. Make your home conducive to learning.

You want to limit the number of stimuli your children have to filter. You want to encourage them to delve deep in thought, to immerse themselves in a particular task. You want to encourage your children to be more focused and not scattered in their thinking.

Give Them Emotional Support:
As a parent, you are making a major contribution to your childs education by just being there. Make your child feel important while doing homework. Just be there... OK, so you are fixing dinner, you are doing the laundry, but they know you are there with them. They are not hearing you laugh merrily with your friends, having a good time, and wishing that they too could be talking on the phone with their friends. You are all in this together...

One way you can expand your own horizons is to be truly interested in what your children are learning in school. You can become interested in that area of knowledge so that they will become more intensely interested in it themselves. See how much things have changed since you were in school. Capitalize on the opportunity for you to develop or update your own knowledge base. Show your children that you are a lifelong learner because you can always glean new aspects even from the same old topics.

Do not just ask, How was school today?

You really want to know, what new thing or things s(he) learned.

Tell me, in your own words, about what you learned in Biology today...

And be truly interested. Listen carefully. Ask questions for clarification.

See,When you allow children to explain... A mysteriously important process occurs. It is called meta-cognition. What happens is that as they teach you, they are simultaneously teaching themselves. When parents make themselves available to be taught, their children are offered the opportunity to ask and answer important questions about areas that were not even clear to them up to that moment. But as they struggle to explain it, the answers are revealed to them. This is one way in which they really get it!

Every day should be parent involvement day in childrens education. You as a parent can make each school day extra special, and in this manner the benefits of NAAPID will last longer than one day. The next celebration of NAAPID will then merely represent a rejuvenation, a special booster of what you will have been doing all year long. It will serve as a prod, as an impetus. It will remind you that you are committed to real change, and that you are doing your part in hermetically closing the achievement gap and keeping it closed.
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