Today’s guest post comes from Learning Heroes. We’ve highlighted their research and resources many times in the past. Their latest report, Parents 2022: Hidden in Plain Sight—A Way Forward for Equity-Centered Family Engagement, illustrates the opportunities for PTAs and schools to make significant progress on student success through meaningful family engagement. You can find the slide deck and a webinar video on their research page. The research was done in partnership with National PTA, National Urban League, UnidosUS, and Univision.

Parents say their child’s happiness and well-being, their child’s safety, and politicians’ reach into the classroom top their worries in Learning Heroes’ seventh annual national survey of parents and educators, released today.

The survey provides an important snapshot of parents’ and educators’ desires and concerns two years into the massively disruptive COVID-19 pandemic and amid deep political polarization that has seeped into the debate over classroom teaching.

“Parents and educators have a Herculean task ahead to address setbacks in children’s learning and well-being. They recognize the key to recovery efforts is to team up in support of students,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes. “But significant barriers remain as the system is designed to keep parents and teachers apart. We must listen to parents and educators and put the structures and supports in place we know will return dividends in student outcomes, educator retention, and family engagement.”

The survey, Hidden in Plain Sight: A Way Forward for Equity-Centered Family Engagement, found that parents—who have high aspirations for their child’s education—prioritize direct and truthful information about their child’s performance in school, even if things aren’t going well (85% top priority/very important). Yet, parent perception does not always match reality: 84% of parents report their child gets all B’s or above and more than nine in 10 (92%) say their child is at/above grade level despite that many students did not make academic progress during the pandemic and perform below grade level on the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Still, parents agree it will be essential for families and teachers to work closely together (89%) and to trust each other (84%) to help address the pandemic’s impact on learning.

Sixty-eight percent of parents worry some or a lot about having politicians who are not educators making decisions about what happens in the classroom, followed by worry about their child’s happiness and well-being (65%), their child experiencing stress/anxiety (60%), and their child being exposed to violence at school (60%). The survey was fielded before the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas.

These worries top concerns such as someone in the family contracting COVID-19 or paying their bills, the survey found. Educators share similar worries: the survey showed politicians making school curriculum decisions as a top worry for educators (68%), along with their students’ happiness and well-being (68%), students’ receiving academic support they need from their parents (66%), and challenges they face at home such as poverty/food insecurity (65%), and students being on track with academic expectations for their grade (64%).

Other key findings from the research:

Parents Have High Aspirations and Support Equitable Practices in Schools

  • Parent aspirations are high, with 77% of parents saying it’s absolutely essential or very important that their child go to college.
  • When asked whether they agree or disagree with statements about family engagement, “equity, meaning every student receives the support to thrive based on their individual needs,” rose to the top, with 54% strongly agreeing.
  • Nearly 8 in 10 (78%) agree that more support is needed to help staff members identify and address biases they may have when trying to communicate with parents/families.
  • More than a third of parents (36%) say they have talked to a member of the school administration or counselor about an incident where they believe a teacher was biased against their child because of the family’s race, ethnicity or background.

A Little Information Goes a Long Way

  • A staggering 92% of parents, regardless of race, ethnicity or background, believe their child is at or above grade level, while only 59% of teachers think most students will show up for grade level work next school year.
  • However, when presented with multiple pieces of information, parent understanding shifts significantly. When asked to imagine receiving the following: their child received a B on their report card in math, their child’s year-end state test results indicate they are below grade level in math, and their child’s results on other standardized tests indicate their child is below grade level in math, 57% of parents say they would be extremely or very concerned.

Going Beyond the Headlines

  • While parents say they want the opportunity to express their feelings around some of the issues that have dominated the news, relatively few have voiced concerns about school curriculum at a school board meeting (19%), provided feedback on recommended books (17%), or requested their child be excused from an assignment (12%) this school year.