Parents 2018 Going Beyond Good Grades

Parents 2018 Going Beyond Good Grades

Parents 2018 Going Beyond Good Grades – Building on our last two years of research, in 2018, we decided to delve deeply into  “the disconnect” – parents’ widespread belief that their children perform at or above grade level versus national data suggesting only about one-third of students actually do so.

Through in-depth, national research, we aimed to shed light on the underlying reasons for this disconnect and what could be done to ensure parents have access to more accurate, understandable, and actionable information so they can better help their children succeed now and in the future.

The research includes national surveys of both parents and teachers of public school students in grades 3-8, focus groups with parents of children in grades 3-8 in six states, and individual interviews with parents, their children, teachers, principals, and guidance counselors.

Our research about “the disconnect” uncovered three key insights:

Parenting Styles Drive How Parents Engage in Their Child’s   Education: Most parents believe they are involved in their child’s education as much as they should be, yet depending upon their parenting style, they have different thresholds for involvement, leaving teachers to navigate a range of approaches from parents.

Report Cards Sit at the Center of the Disconnect: Parents rely heavily on report card grades as their primary source of information and assume good grades mean their child is performing at grade level. Yet two-thirds of teachers say report cards also reflect effort, progress, and participation in class, not just mastery of grade-level content. Teachers have many more data points about student performance than parents do.

The Disconnect Is Solvable: Providing parents with a few already available pieces of information in one place in a clear, decipherable format leads many parents to reconsider their views about their child’s performance.

Parenting Styles Drive How Parents
Engage in Their Child’s Education

While most parents generally have a rosy, overconfident picture of their child’s performance, they differ in how they engage in their child’s educational journey, how they track progress, and how open they are to new information.

This year, Learning Heroes wanted to understand if parents have certain characteristics or parenting styles that could help educators more effectively tailor outreach and support to meet them where they are. Based on the quantitative research, and tested through subsequent qualitative research, we identified four parent mindsets, based on their attitudes and self-identified behaviors, that can be used to inform outreach and communications:

A-OKs: About 25% of parents describe their children as independent, academic achievers. They are confident of their child’s performance in the classroom and on state tests and look at both to track achievement. They know they don’t need to spend a lot of time overseeing academics. They report being more involved in their child’s education than the average parent surveyed, with a relatively small gap between their “ideal” and “actual” levels of engagement. They are open to more information but feel like they have what they need. A light touch or prompt from teachers is sufficient.

• Problem Solvers: Only about 22% of parents believe their child is struggling academically, socially, and/or emotionally. These parents already spend a lot of time communicating with teachers and trying to address challenges at school: 71% say they attended a parent-teacher conference in the last year, and 64% say they communicated with their child’s teacher outside of a conference, the highest of any group. These parents are already grappling with big issues. Information about the “disconnect” is secondary, since they’re already worried their child is not doing well in school. They welcome more engagement and indicate that there’s more they could be doing.

• Protectors: Another 23% of parents have high hopes for their child, but it’s a false sense of security because they are more likely to rely on report card grades than other parents do. This group reports the highest level of involvement, with 40% saying they attended a PTA/PTO meeting in the last year. Information about the “performance gaps” gets their attention, and they begin to question their assumptions. They are keenly interested in more information and in engaging to close the disconnect for their child.

• Accepters: The remaining 30% of parents are more hands off –they are less college-oriented and believe their child is “fine,” so they expend less energy worrying about academic achievement. This group of parents reports the lowest involvement in school of any segment; only 9% strongly agree their parents were involved in their education. They are skeptical regarding information about the “disconnect.” They will be the hardest group to engage on this topic and on interventions and therefore will require explicit strategies to reach them.

Parents’ rosy view spills into their beliefs about their child’s happiness and stress.

Parents naturally care about their whole child. They see their child’s social, emotional, and cognitive development as part and parcel of academics; a view confirmed by other research. So, it’s not surprising that social and emotional worries keep parents up at night. Parents’ top three worries are their child’s happiness and emotional well-being, peer pressure, and safe and responsible use of the internet.

In contrast, teachers’ top concerns are the challenges students face at home, such as poverty and food insecurity, and whether students are receiving the academic support they need from their parents or guardians.

Just as most parents think their child is at or above grade level academically, survey findings suggest most parents think their child is happy in school and do not describe their child as “stressed.”


In Learning Heroes’ March 2018 report, Developing Life Skills in Children, parents indicated they wanted a strong academic foundation for their child, as well as a number of social, emotional, and cognitive skills and traits, including respect, self-esteem, and social skills.

This year, 64% of parents say their child respects parents, teachers, and other adults–the number one skill parents want for their child. But only 36% say their child learns from mistakes, 33% say their child takes on challenges, and 27% say their child exhibits self-control; all of which brain science suggests are important skills, attitudes, and mindsets for learning.

At the same time, few parents believe their child has social or emotional difficulties (just 11%). Parents of children in grades 3-8 also are not likely to admit that their child is anxious (just 17%) or stressed (9%). Nearly 7 in 10 (68%) say their child was extremely or very happy during the past school year.

Parents’ confidence about how their child is doing both academically and socially may lead them to believe they don’t need to be more involved in their child’s schooling than they already are: 33% say they are already as involved as they want to be; 28% want their child to take responsibility; and 21% say their child is doing well, so they don’t need to be more involved. Another 32% say they have limited time to be more involved.

Why Accepters may be the hardest to reach:

A closer look at these parents suggests some of the reasons it may be harder to engage them around a more accurate picture of their child’s performance. They have the lowest involvement in  school of any parent group and are more likely to rate their child as independent. “She needs to have responsibility for herself,” said one New Hampshire parent. “I can’t force her to do it. I’m not going to do it for her. She needs to deal with the consequences.”

A Sacramento parent said, “Only if I absolutely have to go down to the school will I. I don’t want my kid to be known as the one whose parent was always in the office.” Compared to other parents, these parents did not have a good school experience themselves. They rely on their child’s mood and whether he or she struggles with homework to determine how their child is doing academically. They place less faith than other parents in external measures of performance, whether report card grades or test scores.

Although their confidence in whether they have an accurate picture of their child’s performance drops after reading about the “disconnect,” they are still least likely to believe the disconnect applies to them. They are more likely to be white, from rural or small towns, and to have daughters.



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