Parents: We Need to be Learning Heroes

As parents, we know our children’s eye and hair colors like the back of our hands. Most of us even remember how much they weighed when they were born, their favorite thing to have for dinner and just the right way to snuggle them to make a rough day disappear. But do we know their reading level? What about math?

When we say reading and math level, we don’t just mean what grade our kids are in, or what level they should be reading on. We mean are our children actually on track in reading and math?

New research compiled by Learning Heroes shows that while 90% of parents in Massachusetts say they believe their child’s math and reading skills are on grade level, in reality, less than 50% of students in Massachusetts are on grade level in reading and math.


Clearly, there’s a disconnect. We need to open up the conversation about what we think we know and why it’s so different than the harsh reality.

Now, we know what you’re thinking. This is another conversation that will leave us filled with shame because we don’t know something that feels so fundamental about our children or that we haven’t done our job as parents.

 That couldn’t be farther from the truth—especially here in Massachusetts.

In fact, Massachusetts parents are some of the most engaged parents in the country when it comes to their children’s academics.

However, it is clear from personal stories that we’ve heard during our Massachusetts Parents United focus groups with parents—and something that many of us probably know too well—schools are simply not doing enough to communicate to parents the sense of urgency when their child is below grade level.

It’s clear that parent want information from our schools. However,  we may just not be given the right information or receive it in a TIMELY fashion, which is just as, if not more, important.

In fact, have you EVER received a letter in the mail that clearly states whether your child is reading on grade level or on track in math? (And we don’t mean receiving a report card with As and Bs, we will get to that later.) We mean, have you been explicitly told by your child’s teacher or school administrator whether your child is meeting grade-level state standards?

Quick side note: Let’s be honest. We may not know what the grade-level standards in the State of Massachusetts are based on the the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Curriculum Frameworks (Yes, that’s a mouthful. You can find standards for each grade level here).

It is not necessarily our job to know the specifics of these standards, but it is the school’s job to let us know whether our children are on track in a clear, easy-to-digest kind of way.

Are these grade-level standards talked about at the beginning of the school year? In the middle of the school year? At the end of the school year? Because if our kids start to get off track, wouldn’t we rather know right away rather than at the end of the school year when it’s quite honestly too late to catch them up?

Of course! YES.

And all of this is critical—especially in light of the newly released Parthenon Report that came out this year (which took a look at Boston Public School students and their track to graduation)—because now we know: once students fall off track it is much harder for them to catch up and they are at a higher risk of not graduating high school.

As parents, I think we can all agree that when our children are behind in reading or not keeping up in math, we want to know and we want our teachers and administrators to be supportive and helpful in the process to get our kids back on track. Nevertheless, hat often happens is that our kids come home with test scores or even report cards that have A’s and B’s all over them and we trust that they are doing well or even better than average. We see a B+ and think, “My kid is doing great!” Every parent would think that.

But what if the grades that teachers are giving our students are not aligned with the quality of education that our kids deserve? Grade inflation is a real phenomenon in the education sector. An “A” in the worst school in the state is probably a “C” or “D” or maybe even an “F” in the best school in the state.

Standards among schools vary, but standards on state tests are the same. That’s the point of standardized testing. So, parents, if you want to know whether your child’s A in math is truly an A, it may be worth taking a look at their MCAS scores (that you should have received just last week).

The Learning Heroes study also showed that parents do not take MCAS score results into consideration as much as report card grades, and that may be a fundamental mistake.

All of our kids are smart, capable, curious, and able to achieve success. We, as parents, know that,and our kids should know that, too. But, in times when less than 50% of our students are actually on grade level—and based on the report  released last week that shows only one in three Black and Latino students reading at grade level in 4th grade—we should be addressing this issue and finding the tools to help our kids.

Learning Heroes is one of these tools.Their mission is to inspire and equip parents so they can play an active role in their child’s education. All their content is free and available online. Their website features an abundance of guides and tips to help you through your child’s education journey, including a “Readiness Check” quiz that your child can take for each grade level.

The bottom line for parents: Our children deserve a quality education that will help them succeed and achieve all their goals in life. We want our kids to stay on track, and we need to make sure that our schools are doing their part in fulfilling their potential just as much as we are as parents.

So, let’s get to work. It’s time for all of us to become learning heroes.

What do you think?

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