Thursday, February 13, 2003

In upscale suburb, parents of black students less involved

The Associated Press

SHAKER HEIGHTS, Ohio - Less parent involvement got a lot of the blame for the failure of black students to perform as well as whites in this upscale Cleveland suburb, a new study said.

In his new book, Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic Disengagement, researcher John Ogbu concluded that, unlike many white parents, many black parents do not stress homework, attend teacher conferences or encourage advanced-placement classes.

Ogbu also blamed mistrust of schools by blacks, discrimination, lower teacher expectations of black students and a lack of black role models who have excelled academically.

In response, Claude Steele, a professor of psychology at Stanford University, said such anecdotal information can be useful for illustrating problems but should not be used to draw sweeping conclusions.

The study was done at the invitation of black parents who wanted to know why more white students than black students enrolled in advanced-placement classes and went on to college.

Shaker Heights, a community of Tudor-style homes and wide boulevards, has about 32,000 residents and a 5,600-student public school district. The district is about 51 percent black, and about 35 percent of the school staff is made up of minorities.

Ogbu's book suggested that Shaker Heights schools hold a community forum to discuss getting parents more active in the schools.

"At school, parents' participation or involvement was dismal," Ogbu wrote. "We wish to emphasize that it was not just working-class parents who did not participate enough in the education of their children at school. Middle-class and professional parents likewise did not."

Ogbu is a Nigerian immigrant and an anthropology professor at the University of California at Berkeley.

The district paid him $15,783, of which $14,000 was for consulting fees and the remainder for expenses.

Ogbu spent several months studying the schools, students and parents.

He and his assistant researcher mingled with teachers, black parents and students.

At times, he interviewed students in their homes.

Ogbu found that many black students and parents distrusted the school district because it is controlled by white officials.

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