Closing the Achievement Gap: What Parents Can Do

The achievement gap is evident by the time children start kindergarten. This is known as the school readiness gap, which refers to the differences in academic performance and social skills among children entering kindergarten and first grade.

The learning that takes place before children enter school sets the foundation for their academic trajectories. This has led researchers to consider the role of parenting in narrowing the achievement gap.

Parents not only play an important role in their child’s early learning, but they also have a strong impact on their long-term academic success. While some may think that closing the achievement gap is in the hands of schools and policymakers, research suggests that parents also hold the potential to make a significant difference. 

A child’s early math and literacy skills are strong predictors of their academic performance in later life. On average, low-income children are behind in each of these areas upon school entry. By age 4, the vocabularies of children from low-income families are half as extensive as more affluent children. 

These findings raise the question of how different levels of parental engagement can impact a child’s academic performance. As the role of parenting has become a stronger focus in closing the achievement gap, researchers have found several strategies to be effective in doing so. 

What Parents Can do to Help Close the Gap:

Literacy activities

Reading to and with your child can create significant benefits for their development. This is especially important during the early stages of literacy because it helps to familiarize children with different sounds, and this is a precursor of further reading skills.

Literacy activities do not need to be highly structured. They can be as simple as speaking to your child more frequently or singing them a nursery rhyme. When parents seek opportunities to introduce new words and phrases, this will improve the vocabulary and long-term reading skills of their child. 

It is important to note that a parent’s attitude towards reading can significantly influence their child. When families value reading and view it as an enjoyable activity, their child will likely share those values. Some researchers believe this to be the most important aspect of teaching literacy skills.

School involvement 

As mentioned in the previous article, increasing parent involvement in their child’s school is a key component in closing the gap. When parents are actively involved in their child’s education, they are better equipped to support them through their academic endeavors.

The parent-teacher relationship is an important aspect of school involvement. Parents and teachers should maintain close lines of communication so that parents can be aware of their child’s areas of improvement and overall classroom performance. It is important that both schools and parents prioritize this relationship, because low parent-teacher involvement is a proven risk factor for poor emotional and behavioral skill development.

Parents can get more involved by reaching out to their child’s teacher, attending school and community events, or even expressing interest in their child’s schoolwork.

Social and emotional development

Parents are the primary role models and teachers of their child. The behaviors and attitudes that parents demonstrate serve as a main source of guidance for their child, which is why it is important to model healthy social and emotional skills.  

As schools become more aware of the academic benefits of social and emotional health in children, it is important that parents support this aspect of their development at home. While social and emotional learning encompasses a wide range of skills, here are a few ways that parents can support their child in this area: 

  • Establish consistent routines at home to improve their time management skills.
  • Use positive discipline by praising your child for what they did right rather than focusing on what they did wrong. 
  • Teach your child the importance of having a growth mindset. You can model this by demonstrating persistence when faced with a challenge. 
  • Engage in conversations with your child often. Simply conversing with your child can teach them about good communication skills which are necessary for academic success. 

Parents play an important role in their child’s education, giving them the potential to either help or harm their academic performance. By engaging in literacy activities, getting involved with the school, and supporting social and emotional development, parents can increase their child’s likelihood of academic achievement and therefore narrow the achievement gap.

Still want to know more about closing the achievement gap? Check out “Closing the Achievement Gap: How Policy Can Make a Difference”

Also see: Closing the Achievement Gap – What Teachers Can Do

For additional information, please contact Austin Kids Can! Today!