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Parents more important to test scores than teachers, study says

Published: Thursday, March 29 2012 8:33 a.m. MDT

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Parents of teenagers do not often feel like powerful forces in their children's lives. But a new study from the United Kingdom found that parents of teens have a much larger impact on teenage test scores than their teachers.

The research comes out of the Royal Economic Society and will be presented this week, according to Education News. Using data from Danish schools between 2002 and 2010, researchers compared the test scores of students who changed schools at age 16 to their siblings who stayed at the same school for their adolescent years.

The study found that "half of the variation in test scores is attributable to shared family factors, while schools only account for 10 percent (of variation)," reported UK newspaper the Telegraph.

Results of the study — essentially, that a child's home environment is five times more powerful than his or her classroom, regardless of income level — is likely to reignite debate (on both sides of the Atlantic) over which childhood influences will most alter educational outcomes. Recent discussion has focused on the long-lasting impact of teachers on students' futures.

The findings arrived shortly after a prominent figure in the UK education scene sought to shift the debate back toward parental influence. Sir Michael Wilshaw, chief inspector of the Office for Standards in Education, Children's Services and Skills, emphasized the struggle schools face in a speech to the Association of School and College Leaders conference in Birmingham, England.

"Our youngsters are too often exposed to double standards, where bad behavior and violence are publicly condemned but endlessly available as entertainment," said Wilshaw, according to the United Kingdom Press Association. "As a result, schools are too often asked to make up for much wider failings within families and communities," sometimes playing the role of "surrogate parents."

EMAIL: lmarostica@desnews.com

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