New National Poll Shows Significant Shifts in Parent Mindset

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As COVID-19 continues to impact students, teachers, families, colleges, and universities across the country, HCM Strategists is working to provide essential thought leadership on the range of issues in the field of education.

Our expert policy staff has launched a new series to identify emerging education policy ideas and practices aimed at addressing COVID-19. Stay tuned for more in HCM’s new series addressing COVID-19 concerns in education, and use #EdAfterCOVID19 to join the conversation on social media. Read more

As a former teacher who has had the privilege of working with Learning Heroes over the past 5 years, I was shocked to learn in their annual survey, released two weeks ago, that historic levels of parent engagement in student learning had not yielded a more accurate reflection of student achievement. It did show one thing loud and clear—distance learning has changed parents’ expectations of school. They will show up differently this fall, whether school is in person or remote. The good news is that one-third of parents said they felt more connected with their child’s day to day education than ever before. Seventy-three percent said they want to get a better understanding of what their child is expected to learn, and sixty-nine percent want a better understanding of where their child is academically.

Since 2015, Learning Heroes research has found that around ninety percent of parents believed their child was at or above grade level in reading and math. This is in stark contrast to the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which shows that number is actually closer to one third in every grade level.[1] I expected the disconnect to narrow this year since parents were spending more time with their kids on schoolwork, about 2.5 hours per day according to the poll. However, this year’s survey showed that 92% of parents believed their child was working at or above grade level. This was an unexpected result and we need to do a deeper analysis of the data to understand why.

For years, educators and advocates have tried relentlessly to strengthen parent-teacher partnerships and prioritize parent engagement in schools. I can remember my own days in the classroom, hosting parent information nights and making calls home and parent-teacher conferences, all to strengthen my relationship with my kids’ families. Often lacking clear expectations from my principal and knowledge of the most effective strategies to engage parents, I tried my best to do what I thought was best for my kids. Now, parents are hungrier for more communication and information about how their child is performing. This is a perfect opportunity for schools and teachers. An opportunity that I undoubtedly would have welcomed with open arms.

With the appropriate support and training, educators can use this opportunity to lower that ninety percent and give parents a more accurate picture of their child’s achievement. Parents cannot help solve a problem they do not know they have. As we prepare for the possibility of school closures next year, schools have an open door to partner with parents to ensure they are equipped to support their child, which will be key to ensuring they are equipped to support their child’s learning at home.

In a time when so many communities are coming together to support each other, the education community must do the same when it comes to students. As we begin to discuss reopening schools, my hope is for a systemic shift to embrace the post-COVID parent. One that seeks to build new relationships with them in a way that leverages their deeper level of engagement and truly sees them as partners in students’ education. Schools and districts need to better support teachers in building these relationships by setting clear expectations and providing professional learning opportunities to ensure teachers are equipped to have honest conversations. Not only will this give parents a more accurate picture of their child’s learning, but it will also ensure that parents will be stronger partners who are better equipped to support learning at home and set students up for success.






[1] 2017 NAEP, 4th Grade Reading, At/Above Proficient
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