‘Obama Effect’ At School: Black Parents Volunteer, Expect More

Greg Toppo, USA Today, Aug. 6, 2009

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The “Obama Effect,” documented last winter, showed that Obama’s rise during the 2008 presidential election helped improve African Americans’ performance on skills tests, which helped narrow a black-white achievement gap.

In the new findings, African-American parents of children in K-12 schools say they’re much more likely to volunteer in a classroom this fall, in effect narrowing a volunteering gap.

The survey, being released today by GreatSchools, a San Francisco non-profit that promotes parental involvement, finds a jump of 37 percentage points in the portion of African-American parents who say they’ll volunteer in their child’s school–60% vs. 23% a year ago.

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“Clearly, this data is showing that the parent in chief, President Obama, is having an impact on parents’ thinking, especially African-American parents’ thinking,” GreatSchools CEO Bill Jackson says. He notes that in several speeches, Obama has urged parents to turn off the TV, read to their children and attend parent-teacher conferences.

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In January, Vanderbilt University management professor Ray Friedman and a team of researchers found that in a series of online tests, the performance gap between blacks and whites shrank dramatically during two key moments spotlighting Obama in the 2008 campaign.

The findings, dubbed the Obama Effect, offered “compelling evidence of the power that real-world, in-group role models like Obama can have on members of their racial or ethnic community,” Friedman said.

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