Surprising New Trends in Parents’ Views

Illinois PTA has highlighted Learning Heroes and their parent resources often, but their research work is also important. In the past two years, Learning Heroes noted that many parents are overestimating how well their child is doing in school and dug into some of the reasons behind that disconnect. The results of this year’s parent and teacher survey are in, and there are some surprising trends.

The Disconnect Remains

The survey shows that 90% of parents still believe their child is performing at or above grade level, essentially unchanged from past years. Yet results from the annual National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) continue to show that only about 37% of students are at or above grade level. Similarly, only 39% of teachers report that their students are prepared to work at grade level at the beginning of the school year. The Learning Heroes survey also indicates an increasing number of parents, across all racial groups, believe that their child will be prepared for college and will get a four-year degree.

Report Cards Remain at the Heart of the Disconnect

Parents primarily rely on report card grades to indicate how their child is doing in school, but teacher state that those grades reflect effort more than achievement. Teachers also say that the best way to monitor how your child is doing in school is regular communication with your child’s teacher (i.e., not just in a parent-teacher conference). The survey also indicates that parents are much less likely to engage in or utilize such discussions with their child’s teacher in gauging how their child is doing.

Parent Beliefs are Shifting

The survey indicates that parents’ views about their child’s education is changing fairly rapidly in the past four years. In fact, some of the changes were so significant, that the researchers carefully studied the data to confirm that there was not a problem with the data or sampling. Among the shifts are:

  • Parents increasingly view their child’s school as excellent or very good (75% in 2016 to 84% in 2019).
  • Parents are much less worried about their child’s social, emotional, and academic performance, with significant decreases in concerns about happiness and emotional well-being (64% in 2018 to 60% in 2019), peer pressure (63% to 55%), gaining skills and knowledge to be ready for college (63% to 42%), and whether their child is on track academically (50% to 38%). These large, one-year changes are what led researchers to investigate the data for errors, confirming that these changes are in fact real.
  • Parents increasingly place the responsibility for their child’s in-school success on the child. In 2016, 37% of parents said their child was primarily responsible, 43% said they were as parents, and 16% said the teacher was responsible. In 2019, those percentages shifted to 59% saying the child was primarily responsible, 30% saying they as parents were responsible, and 9% saying the teacher was responsible for their child’s success at school.
  • Parents are reducing their engagement with their child’s school, with drops in the percentage of parents who attended a parent-teacher conference (77% in 2017 to 62% in 2019), communicated with the teacher outside of conferences (72% to 50%), and helped their child with homework (86% to74%).

For more information on the results of this year’s Learning Heroes survey, visit their research page, which includes the report, a presentation deck, and a recorded webinar as well as links to previous years’ reports. Be sure to check out Learning Heroes’ extensive parent resources as well.