Blog: The Educated Reporter

The Big Picture: Family Life a Factor For Student Success

In Tuesday’s post I wrote about Education Week’s 2012 “Quality Counts” report, which looked at how prepared U.S. schools are to be globally competitive (most of them aren’t. Act surprised.). One of the most common arguments we hear from educators is that their potential impact is muted when compared to the influences of a student’s home environment.

I promised you some resources to start looking at how those home environments stack up, and what projections can be made based on data about family income, wellness, employment and education attainment levels.

A smart place to start is with the Ann E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count report, an annual digest of statistics that paint a comprehensive picture of life for children at the local and state level. The stats include infant mortality, teen death rates and the percentages of children in single-parent families.

Research has indicated that one of the single biggest predictors of a student’s academic success is the educational attainment level of his/her parents. Having educated parents can also mean healthier children (click here for an illuminating report from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation). We already know that healthier children make better students, in part because they miss fewer days of school and are more ready to learn when they are in class. (For an interesting take on addressing chronic absenteeism in California, check out Attendance Works.)

The point I’m making is that it’s not enough to just write about what schools trying to accomplish. We have to consider the hurdles students face before they can even get to the classroom door.



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