How to help parents understand the academic needs of students after the pandemic

For educational experts and leaders, the severity of students’ needs is clear. Most students struggled to make academic gains during the pandemic, and districts are expected to have to make historic investments in recovery strategies to catch up.

But the situation does not seem to be so clear for parents.

A majority (92 percent, according to a survey by Learning Heroes, a nonprofit focused on ensuring parents have accurate information about student progress) believe their children are on grade level, despite Widespread national data showing that students across the country, regardless of background, lost ground during virtual classes.

The disconnect could hamper districts’ efforts to catch up.

Here are three tips from experts and district leaders on how to get everyone on the same page about student achievement.

1. Be transparent with your data and share it consistently

The more data you can share, the better, experts say.

National data, such as NAEP scores and high-level ACT or SAT scores, can seem too conceptual to parents. Routinely sharing performance data at the district and classroom level, such as unit test results or major assignments, can help get a more accurate picture of what’s happening closer to home, said Learning’s founder and president. Heroes, Bibb Hubbard.

Having a baseline can be helpful, so sharing comparable data from prior years and district goals for student achievement can help identify hot spots and areas of need.

Part of the job is to change the mindset about district operations. Districts must value families as an integral part of student success and give them access to all important data and information.

“It’s about valuing families, wanting to hear from them, wanting them to be a part of the school community in a way that works for them and helps us help students,” Hubbard said.

2. Explain what it all means

Simply sharing the data is not enough.

It can be difficult for people who don’t work in education to understand the information, so it’s critical that administrators and educators be clear with parents about what grading means (and doesn’t mean) in the classroom.

What does a student need to do or accomplish to receive a “B” in a class? Does that mean they are at grade level, for example, capable of multiplying and dividing fractions? Or does it just mean that they are turning in all their work? In the absence of other information or explanation, parents tend to assume that a passing grade means their child is doing well in class and may not need extra help, Hubbard said.

If parents don’t have accurate information, they could become a barrier, rather than a partner, in getting their child the help they need to catch up. They may not take advantage of additional services, for example.

“If parents have this false feeling of ‘my son is doing well,’ they will send them to basketball camp instead of summer tutoring,” Hubbard said.

3. Meet families where they are

Don’t make families work to get the information you want them to have. It is important to know your community and how they best receive communication. It may not look the same for everyone in the district, so a menu of options can be helpful.

More traditional forms of communication, such as emails and text messages, can be effective, Atlanta Superintendent Lisa Herring said. But hosting public meetings with the superintendent or other high-level administrators can help drive home important points.

Many districts began hosting virtual meetings during the pandemic, making them more accessible to more families who otherwise couldn’t (or wouldn’t) spend an entire night traveling and attending an in-person meeting. Continuing those meetings and hosting them in the languages ​​families in the community speak can help bridge the gap, Herring said.

Columbus Ohio schools have been successful in a “family ambassador program,” in which community members, such as parents, grandparents, and retirees, serve as liaisons between families and the district.

The program predates the pandemic by nearly a decade, but Tonya Milligan, the district’s executive director of teaching and learning, said it can help align parents’ perceptions of their children’s performance by breaking down “teacher talk ” which can sometimes bog down districts. messages

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