A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Education Reforms and Students at Risk: A Review of the Current State of the Art - January 1994

Chapter 4: Interaction of Risks and Resources

It is misleading to assess the risks posed by home or school characteristics in isolation from one another. Parent and teacher expectations that pose no risk to children in and of themselves may cause problems if they are in conflict. Furthermore, research suggests that there are cumulative, interactive effects between risk factors and resources. As students progress through school, the interaction of risks and resources over time may lead to achievement disparities.

Dissonance Between Home and School

Congruence between home and school socialization seems to be related to student success. Examining the relation between home environment and the development of literacy skills in first graders from low-income, Portuguese-American families, Becker (1991) finds that the degree to which parents expect good grades or high school completion does not distinguish high- from low-achieving students. Rather, children who perform well in reading tend to come from homes in which parents set high expectations for and praise the completion of household tasks. Becker conjectures that high achievers' home environment is congruent with the school environment. High achievers have learned at home to complete tasks independently, quietly, and obediently -- behavioral styles important to school success.

In some cases, dissonance between home and school may be caused by cultural differences (Boykin, in press; Gordon and Yowell, in press; Greenbaum, 1985; Moore, 1985; Valdivieso and Nicolau, in press; Vogt, Jordan, and Tharp, 1987). Merely providing multicultural materials will not eliminate dissonance -- learning contexts must also allow for differences in the values, skills, and learning styles children bring to the classroom. Some studies, for example, indicate black children prefer and do better in communal learning settings, while white students prefer and do better in competitive learning settings (for a discussion, see Boykin, in press). Other research suggests a relation between cultural differences in child-rearing environments and intelligence test performance (Moore, 1985). Cultural dissonance may also lead to erroneous interpretations of parent behaviors, creating misunderstandings between home and school (Valdivieso and Nicolau, in press). Research in this area does not suggest that cultural dissonance inevitably leads to problems in the classroom -- many students adjust to the dissonance between home and school. However, research suggests that bridging the gap between home and school may facilitate learning for all students, especially students at high risk.

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