Parental Influence, School Readiness and Early Academic Achievement of African American Boys

Article excerpt

This study examined the relationship between parental influence and the school readiness of African American boys, using data from the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study: ECLS-K, Parents' influence, via their academic beliefs and behaviors, was associated with the cognitive performance of African American boys during kindergarten. While previous research has produced similar results, the present study indicates there are differences in which academic beliefs and parenting behaviors are most effective in facilitating school readiness and early achievement. Emphasizing the importance of academic skills for African American boys was associated with higher reading and mathematics achievement as well as prior enrollment in center-based child care. Parenting behaviors, such as discussing science topics, reading books, and discussing family racial and ethnic heritage, differed in their significance in predicting cognitive outcomes. Implications for differences in the kinds of parental involvement in the education of African American boys are discussed.

Recently there has been a significant amount of attention from researchers, educators, parents, and policymakers on the academic achievement gap and the disproportionate number of African American males who are represented among underachievers (Davis, 2008; Mickelson & Greene, 2006). This increased interest in the academic performance of young African American males in particular is often linked to negative consequences for future educational and social opportunities. Certainly, lags in early achievement particularly in reading and mathematics become more difficult to overcome for students who are located in under-resourced schools with limited access to high quality instructional and learning activities (Brown, Dancy, & Davis, 2007; Ferguson, 2003). Evidence also suggests that differences in early academic achievement among children begins prior to their school entry, and is significantly influenced by families' race/ethnicity, poverty status, parental educational attainment, and children's health and living environments (Currie, 2005; Reichman, 2005).

Empirical investigations of the influence of family characteristics on children's academic outcomes emphasize the role of parent as an important mediating factor in children's academic achievement, and this is particularly true for African American boys (Boyd-Franklin & Franklin, 2000; Ferguson, 2000). Research has also been conducted concerning the educational experiences of African American boys (Entwisle, Alexander, & Olson, 2007; Ferguson, 2003) and the roles parents play in preparing their children for success in school (Brook-Gunn & Markman, 2005; Hill & Craft, 2003; Jeynes, 2005). While a few studies indicate mat parental involvement and several aspects of parenting are associated with academic achievement among African American boys (Mandara, 2006; Toldson, 2008), research is unclear regarding how early schooling experiences and social contexts affect school readiness and the early academic achievement of African American boys (Davis, 2003).

Educational policy initiatives such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2002) has increased accountability among institutions, educators, and parents to better prepare children to succeed academically. However, there is little empirical evidence regarding the extent to which parents' roles (within the home and their children's schools) influences the school readiness and early academic achievement of African American boys.

This study presents a unique examination of parental involvement in its use of a nationally representative sample, Early Childhood Longitudinal Study (ECLS-K). With such an increased emphasis on children's academic performance, in addition to the disproportionate number of African American males entering elementary schools at an academic disadvantage, the collaboration among those actors (i.e., teachers, parents), factors (i. …


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