Grades rise if kids talk about studies with parents Program at Baltimore middle schools covered four years

April 10, 1996|By COX NEWS SERVICE Sun staff writer John Rivera contributed to this article.

NEW YORK -- Even during those difficult middle school years, if schools can get kids to talk to their parents about homework in meaningful ways, the academic payoff can be substantial, a leading education researcher reports.

As part of a Baltimore-based study begun four years ago, teachers developed weekly homework assignments that do two things: Let parents see what skills their child is studying, and get sixth- through eighth-graders talking to their parents or other family members about academics.

The study was carried out at two West Baltimore public schools -- Calverton and West Baltimore middle schools -- with overcrowded classes and many families that are led by struggling single parents.

Results, released Monday at the American Education Research Association's annual meeting, are impressive, researchers said.

Controlling for several factors, from family income to the student's previous English grades, the parent-child homework discussions clearly improve students' writing abilities and grades, said Joyce Epstein, leader of the Johns Hopkins University Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning.

"Parental involvement" is a hot topic in schools these days, as educators blame the demise of the Leave-It-to-Beaver-style family for making schools work harder.

Dr. Epstein said her findings are particularly relevant and will work for other schools.

"Of all the types of family involvement, the one that most parents want to know most about is how to help their children at home so the youngster will do well in school," she said.

The program, known as Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork (TIPS), was started at the two schools in 1990 and continued until the spring of 1994. It involved the participation of all language arts and science/health teachers and was phased in, first with sixth-grade students in September 1990, adding the seventh grade in 1991 and the eighth grade in 1992.

In informal interviews, several students said they learned something about their parents that they would not have known otherwise because of their discussions about homework assignments. Teachers said their students returned the TIPS homework assignments at a higher rate than regular homework.

Pub Date: 4/10/96

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