WASHINGTON — A new report from Gallup and Learning Heroes, B-flation: How Good Grades Can Sideline Parents, reveals a significant gap between parents’ perceptions of their child’s performance and their child’s actual grade-level readiness. Almost nine in ten U. S. parents believe their child is at or above grade level in reading (88%) and math (89%). Yet other national data on student performance suggests that less than half of children are performing at grade level, with demonstrably lower rates for underserved families. This parental ‘awareness gap’ remains high across all demographics regardless of race, income, geography, or religion – including those who identify as Christian. In fact, 89% of parents of faith believe their child is at or above grade level in reading and 88% say the same for math.
The study surveyed nearly 2,000 parents of K-12 students nationwide, including more than 1,200 Christian parents (based on unweighted numbers), learning about parents’ hopes and worries for their child’s future, and asking what keeps them up at night. The findings were complemented by national data on student performance, highlighting the nuances of parents’ understanding of whether their child is performing at grade level. The report revealed that some parents do not have all the information they need to gauge their child’s grade-level readiness.
The primary cause of the disconnect is parents’ reliance on student report cards. A majority of parents (64%) say report cards are an important measure to know whether their child is at grade level. Nearly eight in 10 parents (79%) say their child is receiving mostly B’s or better. However, report cards can reflect much more than academic achievement – including attendance, participation, and effort. Report card grades are not equal to grade-level readiness.
When it comes to further engaging with the school on their child’s progress, the survey shows that 86% of parents report attending a parent-teacher conference. Yet less than half will follow up with the teacher for one-to-one conversations (40%) or for regular check-ins that are not organized by the school (46%).
“It is time to unlock the potential of parents. We cannot expect parents to help solve a problem they do not know they have,” explains Cindi Williams, co-founder of Learning Heroes, a Baylor graduate, and proud mom of two sons. “With the overwhelming majority of students getting B’s or better, America’s parents have lost their early warning system. I urge every parent to ask their teacher ‘Is my child on grade level in reaching and math?’”
The good news is that when parents know, they act. The new report from Gallup reveals that when U.S. parents are asked what keeps them up at night, academics are at the bottom of the list. Yet when a parent knows their child is not on grade level, their priorities shift. Virtually all parents (97%) say academics become a high priority once they know their child is working below grade level. Once the ‘awareness gap’ is bridged, home and school are poised to unite in supporting the child’s academic progress.
Tracie Potts, advisory board chair for Learning Heroes and a longtime member of the Churches of God Holiness, encourages Christian parents to take action. “It feels good to see B’s on a report card, but it does not guarantee that your student is working at grade level,” Potts explains. “We do not just send our children to church and expect them to be holy – there is work that must be done at home. Neither can we just send children to school and expect them to be smart. Parents belong in the learning process because we are our children’s first teachers (Deuteronomy 6:7). Parents and teachers need each other!”
“Go Beyond Grades” is a national campaign helping parents partner with teachers to learn how their student is performing against grade-level standards. Learning Heroes leads the campaign in partnership with GreatSchools.org, National PTA, National Urban League, UNCF, UnidosUS, Univision, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation. The “Go Beyond Grades” website provides parent tools in English and Spanish: GoBeyondGrades.org.
To view the full Gallup-Learning Heroes study, read B-flation: How Good Grades Can Sideline Parents. The research and the “Go Beyond Grades” campaign are made possible through the support of Griffin Catalyst, the philanthropic and civic engagement initiative of Kenneth C. Griffin, Founder and CEO of Citadel.
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About Learning Heroes
Learning Heroes is a national nonprofit that supports families and educators in teaming up to advance student learning and well-being. For more information, visit bealearninghero.org.
Gallup delivers analytics and advice to help leaders and organizations solve their most pressing problems. Combining more than 80 years of experience with its global reach, Gallup knows more about the attitudes and behaviors of employees, customers, students, and citizens than any other organization in the world.
McClure Muntsinger Public Relations
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Religion News Service or Religion News Foundation.