UMSL doctoral candidate compares grandparents to parents

Vanessa Garry

Vanessa Garry

Vanessa Garry has been an educator for more than 30 years. And in that time she has learned that reading is the foundation of academic achievement and can determine a student’s success. So when Garry, vice president of education for Confluence Academy in St. Louis, began her thesis project for her doctorate in education at the University of Missouri-St. Louis, she decided to look at reading.

But not just reading per se, but the differences in the reading performance of African-American children raised by their biological parents versus those raised by their grandparents.

Her paper, “Grandparents as Primary Caregivers and Their Effects on the Reading Achievement of Their Elementary-Age African-American Grandchildren,” was only a small sampling, but concluded that students raised by their grandparents outperformed those raised by their parents. “This was just a small study,” said Garry, of Chesterfield, Mo. “But it shows that parental involvement does impact a student’s achievement.

Grandparents who served as their grandchild’s primary caregiver participated and became involved more in the student’s academically life, therefore improving the child’s overall performance.”

For her study, she collected data from three area charter schools, evaluating six types of parental involvement, including workshops, communications between school and home, parent conferences, assistance with homework, other meetings and tutoring classes for students.

Overall, grandchildren of grandparents who are primary caregivers out-performed their peers on the communication arts portion of the Missouri Assessment Program test. The conclusions drawn from the research indicate that weekly communication between school and home, teacher and parent meetings, and assistance with homework are three types of parental involvement that positively affected reading achievement.

Garry said she’d like the opportunity to expand the study, using more participants from various other areas and districts.

She is scheduled to receive her doctoral degree in education during the 10 a.m. commencement ceremony Saturday (Dec. 19) in the Mark Twain Athletic & Fitness Center on the North Campus at UMSL.


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