Narrowing the Achievement Gap

Schools and Parents Can Do It

By (author) William Alfred Sampson

Publication date:

17 October 2013

Length of book:

186 pages


R&L Education

ISBN-13: 9781610489478

While it is quite clear that black and Latino students in general, and poor black and poor Latino students in particular do not do as well as white students in school, the road to real solutions to this very important and vexing problem is far from clear. Some champion vouchers and charter schools as the ideal solution, despite strong data suggesting that neither is particularly effective. Others point to smaller classes. Increasingly scholars and politicians support more accountability on the part of teachers, despite the reality that teachers do not have a great deal of control over much that influences performance. This book addresses the various “solutions”, and suggests that any solution to the gap that ignores the role of families is limited at best, and misguided at worst.

The book details an effort to help poor black and poor Latino families learn to do the things necessary to help their children to do better in school, and argues that this family centered approach, while complicated, should be considered along side the school centered efforts.
'Achievement gap' is a phrase commonly used in American education. It often refers to a persistent disparity of performance among individuals because of race (black/white) or socioeconomic status. The result of more than a year and a half of work, this book expands the discussion to include Latino students and explores the link between academic success and family values, beliefs, and specific behaviors. Sampson carefully outlines the research methods of this study, which focused on seven families (four black, three Latino) who agreed to participate. Trained observers intensively observed the families to determine parental involvement and the use of behaviors to improve educational achievement levels. Parent training was based on a curriculum individualized for each family to change (improve) factors known to influence children's academic performances. Most of the book is dedicated to a narrative reporting on each family/child in a case-study format that focuses on one major factor (e.g., need for attention or problem behavior). Finally, Sampson summarizes key points of the results and discusses their implications for the future. Cleanly written, this book expands readers' understanding of a family-centered approach to improve school performance. Summing Up: Recommended. Upper-division undergraduate, graduate, research, and professional collections.