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ONE DREAM, TWO REALITIES: Report Finds Many Parents Feel Shut Out of Their Children’s Schools

“This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children’s academic success.”

An overwhelming majority of parents have high aspirations for their children and think it is important to be involved in their children’s education. However, parents of children in low-performing high schools feel that they lack the tools and information to do so.

So finds One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High Schools, the new report by Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation—the same team behind The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts. The earlier report, for which almost five hundred dropouts were interviewed, found lack of parental involvement to be a key reason why many dropouts left school. Following up, One Dream, Two Realities explores parents’ views on their own level of involvement in their children’s education, as well as their educational goals for them.

According to the report, most parents consider going to college very important, especially African American and Hispanic parents (92 and 90 percent, respectively, compared to 78 percent of white parents). In addition, parents in general see the world as “more demanding” now than in years past, with six out of ten believing that what their children need to learn to graduate from college and to be ready for work is much different than it was twenty years ago. Parents with lower incomes, less education, and with children in low-performing schools were the most likely to believe this.

“This report disproves the prevailing myth that low-income parents are not interested in their children’s academic success,” said John Bridgeland, CEO of Civic Enterprises and coauthor of the report. “The opposite is true. Parents—especially those with students trapped in low-income or low-performing schools—desperately want to be involved and want their students to succeed.”

Eighty percent of all parents surveyed feel that parents should be advocates for their children regarding picking classes and teachers. However, while 85 percent of parents who feel their children’s schools are high performing—that is, they send most of their students to college—say that their schools do a good job in encouraging parental involvement, only 47 percent of those with children in low-performing schools feel the same way. Parents with children in low-performing schools were overwhelmingly dissatisfied with how well schools involved them in a variety of areas, as this chart from the report indicates.

The report details the surveyed parents’ recommendations of ways schools can better involve parents. Chief among them is that schools promptly notify parents of any academic problems their students are facing; they also want schools to ensure that they know what their child needs for success starting in the eighth or ninth grades (e.g., what courses to take). Parents wanted schools “to take steps to ensure that opportunities to be involved fit well with the kinds of lives that parents are living today.” The report also notes that involving parents is especially difficult given that, in two-parent households, both parents often work outside the home and many single parents work full-time jobs.

For the complete list of recommendations, and to download the full report, please visit

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