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Have Parents Thrown Teachers Under the Bus?

Recent education reform initiatives have focused heavily on the alleged shortcomings of the teaching profession. But New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman points to new research suggesting that there's considerable room for improvement outside the classroom as well. He quotes from a multi-country study that looked at the relationship between parents' engagement in their children's learning and results on the much-discussed Program for International Student Assessment:

Fifteen-year-old students whose parents often read books with them during their first year of primary school show markedly higher scores in PISA 2009 than students whose parents read with them infrequently or not at all. The performance advantage among students whose parents read to them in their early school years is evident regardless of the family's socioeconomic background. Parents' engagement with their 15-year-olds is strongly associated with better performance in PISA.

One of the researchers told Friedman that even seemingly mundane gestures of support by parents—e.g., just talking to children about what they are learning in school—"can have the same impact as private tutoring." A separate study by the National School Boards Association, Friedman reports, reached similar conclusions.

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