A few weeks ago, we introduced you to College Bound, our new online program designed to help parents raise college-ready high school graduates. This week, we’ll introduce you to our ideas about how parents make such a difference in their children’s education. We’ve boiled it down into four key roles and we’ve designed College Bound to help parents play these four roles more effectively.
1. Set high expectations
Parental expectations can be the most influential element driving student performance. Expectations get communicated all the time; parents don’t have to be elaborate or formal about it, just consistent and frequent. Expectations influence children’s behavior and decisions and affect a range of outcomes from the rigor of selected courses to grades earned. One study of more than 20,000 high school students found that not only can students clearly articulate the grades they need to bring home to stay out of trouble — their “trouble threshold” — they frequently earn that threshold grade. In other words, when parents expect Cs, students earn them. The same goes for As. Parents also play a crucial role in having high expectations of schools. When parents advocate for college-prep curriculum, content, experiences, resources and supports, they improve both their own child’s educational experience and the schools they attend.
2. Cultivate character traits that underlie school success
Recent research in psychology and neuroscience suggests that about half of an individual’s intellect and ability is inherited or genetic, and the other half is nurture or a product of environmental and societal factors. In fact, teachable character traits such as willpower, self-discipline, and the ability to delay gratification are more highly correlated with high achievement and goal attainment than IQ. Parents support achievement when they cultivate a belief in the importance of effort instead of emphasizing native talent; children who develop this outlook are more likely to try harder when faced with challenges.
3. Support learning at home and at school
Literacy development starts early; the frequency and complexity of parental language, as well as the degree of encouragement, make a big difference in children’s development. As children grow, parents don’t have to become experts in algebra to help with homework — children are more likely to complete homework and view it as valuable when parents simply provide a structured routine and a quiet and organized workspace. How children spend their time out of school has a tremendous impact on their intellectual development, and a large portion of the achievement gap has been attributed to the absence of summer learning.
At school, student achievement goes up when parents attend teacher conferences and school programs. Parents who communicate with teachers and stay informed about school resources are more likely to secure necessary supports for their children. Informed parents are better able to make quality choices about the schools their children attend, the programs in which they participate and, in some cases, the teachers who can best serve their children.
4. Guide children in planning for college
When parents discuss college — starting from an early age — and help their children to investigate and apply for postsecondary options, children are much more likely to attain a college degree.
There’s no magic formula to parenting for education success, just a lot of little things every day. College Bound inspires and guides parents to do these things, beginning when their children are young.