Basically, if poverty and inequality are the real causes of poor student performance, than there is an obligation to alleviate poverty and inequality. But that's a very expensive proposition. What if there was a cheaper, more convenient explanation of poor student achievement? Who can we blame instead?
Poor parents are a popular scapegoat: If poor parents were more involved in their children's lives, impoverished students would be doing just fine in school. If only poor parents had the initiative and desire to exercise the same level of responsibility as rich parents.
Dana Goldstein explains how a major study has just fatally wounded the scapegoating of poor parents:
In the largest-ever study of how parental involvement affects academic achievement, Keith Robinson, a sociology professor at the University of Texas at Austin, and Angel L. Harris, a sociology professor at Duke, mostly found that it doesn’t. The researchers combed through nearly three decades’ worth of longitudinal surveys of American parents and tracked 63 different measures of parental participation in kids’ academic lives, from helping them with homework, to talking with them about college plans, to volunteering at their schools. In an attempt to show whether the kids of more-involved parents improved over time, the researchers indexed these measures to children’s academic performance, including test scores in reading and math.
What they found surprised them. Most measurable forms of parental involvement seem to yield few academic dividends for kids, or even to backfire—regardless of a parent’s race, class, or level of education.