In the News: What Keeps Public School Parents Awake at Night?

When it comes to their children’s education, what are parents’ biggest concerns? Shannon Gilchrist of the Columbus Dispatch writes:

Paying for college is No. 1. After that, they worry about their children’s happiness and safety at school.

But academics? Not so much. Parents do care, but as long as their children are perceived to be happy and succeeding — especially if that’s what teachers are telling them – they figure everything is fine in that area.

These findings come from a 2016 survey of more than 1,300 public school parents nationwide by Learning Heroes, a nonprofit that aims to help parents get involved in their children’s learning. Bibb Hubbard, the organization’s president and founder, reviewed the findings during a recent panel at the Education Writers Association’s annual conference.

One stunning statistic: Over 90 percent of respondents believe their child is performing at or above average. 

Earlier this year, Mike Petrilli wrote about those survey results.

By any reasonable definition many of these parents, if they are being frank with the pollsters and themselves, are sorely misinformed. Consider that only about a third of U.S. teenagers leave high school ready for credit-bearing college courses.

Providing a more honest assessment of student performance was one of the goals of the Common Core standards and the tests aligned with them, Mike notes. However, he writes, “those score reports have typically been about as easy and appealing to read as auto repair manuals.”


Conscientious parents are constantly getting feedback about the academic performance of their children, almost all of it from teachers. We see worksheets and papers marked up on a daily or weekly basis; we receive report cards every quarter; and of course there’s the annual (or, if we’re lucky, semiannual) parent-teacher conference. If the message from most of these data points is “your kid is doing fine!” then it’s going to be tough for a single “score report” from a distant state test administered months earlier to convince us otherwise. After all, who knows my kid better: his or her teacher, or a faceless test provider?

He concludes:

Right now, we have higher standards and tougher tests in most states. Shouldn’t we at least try to use them for one of their intended purposes: to close the gap between college aspirations and college readiness? 

— Education Next

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