Education Department Professor Barbara Beatty Examines History of Programs for “Disadvantaged” Children in the 1960s

In a special issue of Teachers College Record she is editing, Barbara Beatty is exploring how race, class, gender, language, and psychology played roles in how “disadvantaged” children were characterized in the 1960s, when Head Start and other federal programs for children from low-income backgrounds began. Professor Beatty is looking especially at three preschool “intervention” programs that were models for Head Start: the Institute for Developmental Studies, in Harlem; the Perry Preschool Project in Ypsilanti, Michigan; and the Bereiter-Engelmann direct instruction preschool at the University of Illinois in Urbana-Champaign. All three served primarily African American children. All three relied heavily on developmental psychology research on low-income African American mothers’ parenting. All three focused on black children’s language acquisition. Some of this research and some of these programs were criticized for stereotyping supposed cultural “deficits,” and for being insensitive to cultural differences.

Professor Beatty documents the long history of research showing that social class and poverty, not race, are the main factors associated with achievement gaps between children from low-income and higher-income backgrounds. She argues that re-examining preschool intervention programs from the 1960s may help us understand the importance of teachers and schools reaching out to families today. She hopes that re-thinking the history of preschool intervention may help teachers understand specific impacts of poverty on children and families and maintain high expectations for all children’s learning. Click this link to see a video of Professor Beatty discuss the topic. 

Assistant Professor Soo Hong Explores Parent and Community Engagement in Urban Schools

In her new book, A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools, Wellesley education professor Soo Hong discusses how low-income parents of color become advocates, leaders, and role models in their children’s schools. Her ethnography offers a close study of the Logan Square Neighborhood Association (LSNA), a grassroots organization on the Northwest Side of Chicago, whose work on parent engagement has drawn national attention. The book is based on in-depth portraits of parents’ experiences and addresses the complex and sometimes conflicting relationships between school, family, and community.

Professor Hong studies the ways community organizing can play a role in school reform efforts—by building parent engagement and leadership, challenging traditional power relations, and educational issues to issues of civic and community life.

Read Chicago Tribune columnist Mary Schmich’s column on A Cord of Three Strands.