The objective of this study is to examine how family dynamics affect student performance. This work will examine the history of equal opportunity education and answer how it is that students receive opportunities they currently have in public education and what current issues are affecting equal opportunity education today. Finally, this study will answer as to how the obstacles to equal educational opportunities be addressed.
The work of Ng and Rury (2006) states that high percentages of children in the United States live in poverty and that it is important that teachers understand the specific challenges faced by these children if they are to be well-served. (Paraphrased) It is reported as well to be consistently documented that "most educators themselves come from middle-class backgrounds, making it difficult for them to relate personally with students who live in poverty. As a result, the capacity of teachers to work with poor children is shaped by teacher educators, school district administrators, educational researchers, and other experts." (Ng and Rury, 2006, p.1) What is not clear according to Ng and Rury is "just what lessons about the poor are being transmitted to teachers and other educators, and how they are being prepared to work with them more effectively. In the absence of a well-defined research base on educating children affected by poverty and corresponding programs of training and professional development, a wide range of perspectives and approaches can flourish." (Ng and Rury, 2006)
I. Rand Corporation Research Study Report
The work entitled "Student Performance and the Changing American Family: Student Performance and Family Environment: What's the Connection?" reports a study that examined the relationship between family characteristics and student performance and how these trends differ for various racial/ethnic populations? Findings of the study include:
(1) The most important family characteristic influencing student performance is parents' education. For example, students with one or two college-educated parents performed significantly better than students whose parents were not high school graduates.
(2) Income, family size, and mother's age at child's birth were modestly significant. For instance, a student whose family earned $40,000 annually outperformed one whose family earned only $15,000; a student with one sibling performed better than a student with four siblings; and a child of an older mother scored higher than a child born to a young mother.
(3) Surprisingly, whether the mother worked had a negligible effect, after accounting for other family factors.
(4) In addition, single-parent status by itself was not significant. This result suggests that any performance gap between students from one- or two-parent families arises from other differences, such as family income or size or parents' education. (Rand Corporation, 1994)
II. International Issues of Social Mobility and Education Research Report
The work entitled "International Issues of Social Mobility of Underprivileged Groups -- Equality Education and Equity, Significant Educational Interventions" reports that children of lower socioeconomic status (SES) groups "tend to perform worse in school than upper SES groups, and they tend to stay in school a shorter time. In addition, these children tend to be underrepresented in higher education." (State University, nd, p.1) From a series of "comparative longitudinal studies of factors influencing what is learned in school and level of educational attainment suggests that as societies industrialize and modernize" it is reported that social class increasingly plays a significant role in determining educational outcomes." (State University, nd, p.1) Well-designed interventions with the objective of bringing about improvement in the quality of instruction are such that may make a difference. Stated as inclusive are quality preschool and early childhood programs with nutrition and health care services in addition to "…more adequate school infrastructure so that poor, rural and indigenous children have the same amenities enjoyed by their more advantages peers in urban and private schools" as well as a calendar year that is more "…flexible and responsive to the socioeconomic context of schools in different regions of a country, sufficient supplies of textbooks and culturally sensitive as well as socially relevant curricular materials in the appropriate languages; teaching guides matched to transformed curricula; student-centered, more active pedagogies that involve collaborative work as well as personalized attention to each child; significantly improved pre-service and in-service teacher education and professional development programs and opportunities; incentive pay for teachers working under difficult conditions and, generally, more adequate remuneration and social recognition of the importance of teaching; and, importantly, greater participation of teachers, parents, and communities in the design of education programs to meet their self-defined needs." (State University, nd)
It is reported that it is supported by evidence that education "increasingly is becoming the strongest determinant of occupational status and the type of life chances individuals experience." (State University, nd) However, it is not supported in evidence that the "relationship between family background and how far one goes in school and what one learns is decreasing over time. Indeed the relationship between family SES and school success or failure appears to be increasing since the 1980s as the result, in part, of public policies that tend to decentralize and privatize education. (State University, nd) Primary education while expanding "to near universal coverage of the relevant age group" at the same time "access to the levels of education that are most important for social mobility and entry into the most modern and competitive sectors of the increasingly globalized economies remain elusive for all but elites." (State University, nd) The reported result is that the relationship between parents' SES and their children's SES has shown little evidence of changing over time." (State University, nd)
III. Impact of School, Family, and Community on Student Achievement
The work entitled "The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement" reports findings that studies have demonstrated that students with involved parent, regardless of their income or background were more likely to:
(1) earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs;
(2) be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits;
(3) attend school regularly;
(4) have better social skills, show improved behavior and adapt well to school; and (5) graduate and go on to postsecondary education. (National Center or Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, p.1)
The higher performing schools that are successful in engaging families from diverse backgrounds are reported to share three primary practices including: (1) focusing on trust-building, collaborative relationships between teachers, family, and community; (2) acknowledge and respect the needs of families in terms of class and cultural difference; and (3) emphasize educational partnership with power and responsibility sharing. (National Center or Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, paraphrased) When the community is organized and working collaboratively the results are stated to include such as: (1) school facilities that are upgraded; (2) leadership and staffing in school that is improved; (3) learning programs that are of a higher quality; (4) programs and resources that are new for improving both the teaching and curriculum of a school; and (5) after-school programming and family support initiative receive new funding opportunities. (National Center or Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, paraphrased) These findings can be used effectively in designing programs to support families in guiding their child's learning and through developing the school staff's capacity to work with diverse families. As well, the school should link efforts for engaging families both in the school and the community and build on families' social and political connections. As well, it is important to emphasize the efforts to engage family and members of the community in trusting relationships characterized by respect and to "Embrace a philosophy of partnership and be willing to share power with families. Make sure that parents, school staff, and community members understand that the responsibility for children's educational development is a collaborative enterprise." (National Center or Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, p.8) In addition, it is reported that building strong connections between the school and community is important as is including families in all strategies geared toward bringing about a reduction in the achievement gap between white, middle-class students and low-income students and students of color. (National Center or Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, paraphrased) High performing schools are reported to share certain characteristics including a shared focus and high standards and expectations for all students. Effective school leadership along with high levels of collaboration and communications is also stated as critical elements in high-performing schools as well as monitoring of teaching and learning on a frequent basis, a focus on professional development, a learning environment that is supportive, high levels of parent and community participation and assessments, curriculum and instruction that are aligned to state standards. Four types of basic parental involvement are identified and are stated to include: (1) discussing school activities; (2) monitoring out-of-school activities; (3) contacts with school staff; and (4) volunteering and attending parent-teacher conferences and other school events. (National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools, 2002, p.22) Three types of supports are identified as the type that are provided by parents in regards to…