Low-income parents are generally seen as apathetic to their child's education by public school teachers and administrators, according to Bernice Lott, PhD, University of Rhode Island.

In her article, "Low income parents and the public schools," in the Journal of Social Issues (JSI) (Vol. 57, No. 2), Lott says public school staff tend to subscribe to negative stereotypes about low-income parents and ignore these parents' efforts to become involved in their child's education.

In an analysis of studies on attitudes toward low-income and middle-income parents, conducted from 1985 to 2000, Lott concludes that teachers and administrators hold many stereotypes about low-income parents. These include beliefs that low-income parents do not care about their child's education, are not competent to help with homework, do not encourage achievement and do not place a high value on education. The stereotypes of middle-class parents are just the opposite, she says.

Her findings further suggest that the exclusionary behavior that low-income parents face today has held true for several generations. Parents reported that the "demeaning treatment" mirrors the treatment they received from teachers when they were students, she says. The cycle of such treatment leads parents to feel powerless to affect their child's fate or the educational system, Lott suggests.

The article's final analysis places communication at the core of changing exclusionary practices toward low-income parents. Lott suggests that teachers be more open to listening to parents' concerns and suggestions, and that communication training be integrated into teacher certification programs.

The article is one part of a special package in JSI on welfare and social issues concerning low-income families entitled, "Voices of Poor Women."