Civic Enterprises Report Reveals Parent Frustration with America’s High Schools

In every community across the country parents share a dream of their students’ academic success. All parents know their involvement in their child’s education is vital; however, a study released yesterday reveals that parents feel their children’s high schools don’t provide them with needed tools and information to be more effective in helping students’ success.

One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High Schools, a study compiled by America’s Promise Alliance partner Civic Enterprises, and based on research conducted by Peter D. Hart Research Associates, captures the views of parents of high school students in America’s urban, suburban, and rural communities from diverse backgrounds and income levels.

Commissioned by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the report’s findings outline concrete steps that can improve parental engagement in schools and strengthen efforts to prepare all young people for success in college and the workplace.

Many parents surveyed believe that schools should do a better job of reaching out to them or engaging them as partners, particularly parents of students in low-performing schools.

In fact, 80 percent of all parents surveyed, and 85 percent of parents of students in low-performing schools, believe parents should be involved as advocates for their children when it comes to choosing courses and teachers.

Each year, more than one million students fail to graduate from high school on time. Research shows that when parents are involved, students perform better and are less likely to drop out.

“Our Cities in Crisis report revealed the stark contrast between the graduation rates of high schools in our nation’s largest cities and their surrounding suburbs,” said Marguerite Kondracke, America’s Promise Alliance President and CEO. “This new report by Civic Enterprises shows that there is also a stark contrast that exists when it comes to providing opportunities for parents of students who attend low-performing high schools to be fully engaged in the academic success of their children compared to those whose children attend high-performing schools.”

The report is a follow-up to the 2006 Gates-funded survey of high school students, The Silent Epidemic: Perspectives of High School Dropouts. In the Silent Epidemic report, dropouts noted lack of parental involvement as one of their key reasons for leaving school.

More than 70 percent of dropouts surveyed said a key to keep them in school was better communication between parents and schools, and increasing parental involvement in their education.

“This report makes clear that parents of students at both high- and low-performing high schools want to play an active role in their children’s education, but there is more work to be done to ensure that parents in all communities have the resources and the support to be as actively engaged as they want to be,” Kondracke said. “Research tells us that their involvement is essential to our young people’s success, and the lack of it is a tragic, but real factor in young people failing to graduate on time.”

Unfortunately, studies also show that as students grow older, parents tend to become less involved with their children’s academic lives due, in part, to unique barriers like difficulty in helping them with homework or lack of resources for parents of high school-aged students.

One Dream, Two Realities suggests that parents can play a significant role in reversing this trend. The report includes parents’ recommendations to strengthen opportunities to support their children’s academic success.

In addition, the report suggests that schools should meet with parents before high school starts to be clear on what constitutes success in school. Other suggestions among several include: providing a prompt notification of academic problems; establishing an ongoing dialogue, not just when problems occur; partnering with community organizations to offer parent involvement classes; and including parent perspectives in America’s Promise Alliance’s 100 dropout summits.

About Civic Enterprises
Civic Enterprises is a public policy firm that helps corporations, nonprofits, foundations, universities and governments develop and spearhead innovative public policies to strengthen our communities and country. For more information, visit