Black and Latino parents recently had the unique opportunity to share what they believe to be the most important components a school must have in order to be great and there is no room for doubt that high quality teachers top their list.
On behalf of The Leadership Conference Education Fund, Anzalone Liszt Grove Research recently conducted a survey of 800 “new majority” parents and families’ views on education (400 African American, 400 Latino). While children of color literally now constitute a majority in America’s public schools, their voices continue to be the least amplified and their representation in the education debates is minimal at best. This poll begins to chip away at that void by elevating the voices and the priorities and perceptions of parents of color.
A Question of Priorities
As far as priorities go, there are three that stand out from the rest: Great Teachers, Strong Academics, and Safety.
When asked an open ended question about what’s most important for a school to be great, majorities of both African American and Latino parents cite teacher quality and no other answer even came close. (The next highest answer was core/general curriculum with 16 percent.) So while academics and education wonks make claims about teachers being the most important in-school factor for student learning, we now know that a majority of parents of color agree.
While many in mostly white suburban America are known to bemoan the high levels of academic stress on their children, parents of color actually bemoan the opposite and in their view, this is largely due to lower expectations based on race. Simply put, they do not believe that their children are held to the same standards as white children.
Nine-out-of-ten African Americans and 84 percent of Latinos disagree that students today work hard enough and instead believe that students should be challenged more to help ensure they are successful later in life.
Academic expectations are not the only place where the parents polled see disparity; on the contrary, they are keenly aware that there are glaring disparities in funding and school quality and believe that both break down along racial lines. While they see funding as the biggest driver of the disparities in the education and opportunities available to their children, they also cite the impacts of teacher quality and racism.
“They don’t have the funding. They cut some programs. They don’t have books and they don’t have highly qualified teachers.” – African-American parent, Philadelphia
“The schools in the Latino communities are run-down, smaller and less funded than those in the White neighborhood.” – Latino parent, Chicago
The Power To Drive Change
Perhaps the most hopeful information from the poll is that a majority of the ‘new majority’ believe they, as parents, together, can be drivers of change. While they see the government — at all levels– as responsible for addressing funding inequities (and by extension, racial inequities), they also believe that they have “a lot of power” as parents.
“When you have parents that get together and say they want to do this – it’s the unity of the parents. It’s just not the teachers. It’s becoming involved and getting other people to be involved. One voice isn’t enough.” – Latino parent, Chicago
Identifying the problem is always the first step. Now, let’s get to work and help ensure that the parent voices in this poll are heard by the people with the power to drive the much needed change.