Research and Reports

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Drug abusers have two personality traits in common, according to the results of research conducted by James M. Schuerger, a professor of psychology at Cleveland State University.

Four out of five substance abusers shared two common traits, Mr. Schuerger found--they were guilt-prone and had low self-control.

Fifteen years ago, Mr. Schuerger and a group of colleagues administered psychological tests to 3,000 males between the ages of 14 and 19. Recently, about 200 of the boys' parents were contacted as follow-up to the initial testing.

About 15 percent of the parents reported that their sons had trouble with drugs or alcohol.

The research also indicates that youngsters who scored high in self-control and meticulousness were likely to be good students.

The personality tests, Mr. Schuerger said, predict success in school just as well as the Scholastic Aptitude Test.

Most parents think they could better help their children learn if teachers provided them with frequent, organized activities to do at home, according to a Johns Hopkins University study.

But in most cases, parents whose views were sought for the study reported, teachers had not taken advantage of their desire to be helpful by telling them ways to enhance learning through home activity.

The study, entitled "Effects on Parents of Teacher Practices of Parent Involvement," was conducted by Joyce L. Epstein of the university's Center for Social Organization of Schools. It surveyed teachers, principals, parents, and students in grades 1, 3, and 5 at 600 elementary schools in 16 Maryland school districts.

The study looked at the issue of parental involvement in the schools from the perspective of both parents and teachers, the researcher said. Such involveàment is widely believed to be helpful to children, but there is little specific information on how the various ways of involving parents affect the parents' perceptions of teachers and schools, according to the study.

The data gathered in Maryland, however, indicated that teachers who frequently involve parents in their children's learning at home were rated higher by parents in their overall teaching ability and interpersonal skill than were those teachers who did not involve parents.

Parents, the survey found, have "remarkably positive" attitudes toward schools. About 90 percent of those surveyed said their children's elementary schools were "well run"; about the same number of parents said they felt comfortable in the school.

But few parents took part in in-school programs--volunteering in the school library, for example. Sixteen percent said they had never received a memorandum from a child's teacher, about 21 percent said they had never talked to a teacher before or after school, and 36.4 percent said they had never had a conference with a teacher.

Many parents, however, spent time working with their children at home if asked to do so by the teacher. Eighty-five percent said they spent more than 15 minutes on those occasions when teachers asked them to help their children with homework.

And 80 percent said they could and would spend more time with the children if the teacher showed them specific techniques and exercises to use.

The study's findings have two "clear messages," according to the researcher. The first is that parents support the idea of being involved in their children's learning at home. The second is that they are likely to help the children with or without advice from teachers, and hence would benefit from any guidance that teachers could offer.

The report (No. 346) is available from the Publications Office, Center for Organization of Schools, The Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore, Md. 21218.

Requiring poor readers to repeat the 1st grade isn't as useful as letting them proceed to the 2nd grade, a study by the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction has found.

The study, conducted by researcher David Craig, indicated that the differences between students pro-moted and students held back carries through to reading tests in the 2nd grade, but that by the time students complete 3rd grade the differences in reading achievement are so minimial that they "[lack] educational importance."

Students who took four years to finish 3rd grade scored about 5 points higher on a standardized test than students who took three years to finish 3rd grade, the study said.

The state based its study on Prescriptive Reading Inventory tests given 1st- and 2nd-graders and California Achievement Tests given 3rd-graders. Mr. Craig compared the scores of 1,967 students who were promoted in 1978-79 with those of an equal number who were not promoted.

Statistics from 1978 to 1982 suggest that about 10 percent of all North Carolina 1st-graders are held back annually, according to William J. Brown, director of the department's research division.

Mr. Brown said more information is needed to interpret the study results but noted that, from the point of view of the new research, "it might not be a bad thing to promote a child and carefully plan what happens to the child in the promoted grade."

The research model and data base, Mr. Brown said, provides the state with a resource that can help districts and schools--which have different promotion policies--examine whether their policies are beneficial.

Vol. 03, Issue 14

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