The past few years haven’t been easy for parents or teachers so as we start the new school year, it’s a chance to start fresh and focus on our shared goal–making sure our children thrive socially, emotionally and academically. In fact, our recent national research shows that parents, teachers, and principals are aligned on what matters most about school-home communications—building trust and making sure families have a clear picture of how their child is progressing. As the mother of a rising third grader and Kindergartener, these priorities really resonate for me.
Unfortunately, our research also consistently shows that 92% of parents believe that their child is at or above grade level in math and reading when in reality national assessment data show that it’s closer to one-third of students, and for many of our Latino children that number is even lower. This disconnect is understandable when you consider that the vast majority of parents rely on report card grades and say their children are getting Bs or better. By no fault of their own, parents believe grades equal grade level mastery while teachers say grades mean effort as much mastery and that parents rely too much on grades alone.
Simply put, parents need, deserve and want a more accurate picture of their child’s progress so that they can find support for specific grade level skills and team up with teachers to strengthen classroom learning. Informed by what we hear from parents, we’ve put together 5 ideas and resources to jumpstart the home-school connection:.
1. Know your voice is needed.
Parents want the truth and a clear picture of how their child is progressing. Share what you’ve noticed about your child’s learning and don’t be afraid to ask questions (even if you have to ask a few times). Let your child’s teacher know the best way to reach you and set a plan to be in regular touch throughout the year, not just at conferences. This easy to use Dear Teacher Letter helps you introduce yourself to the teacher and jumpstart the relationship. In addition to sharing my older daughter’s interests, I’ll focus heavily on where she’s made progress and where she needs more support with grade-level math.
2. Get a gut check on progress.
The beginning of the year is a combination of review and new material. It’s important to know if your child has learned key math and reading skills needed for success in their new grade. Take a few minutes to have your child try the Readiness Check (it’s like a game, not a test!) and pay attention to see how they work through the questions. At the end, you’ll see how they have progressed and get connected to videos and activities to support these skills at home. I used the tool with my daughter at the end of second grade and will have her take it again right before school starts in September.
3. Team up on a simple plan.
Students take beginning of year ‘benchmark’ tests to help teachers know where they need more support. Ask how your child's grade level skills will be measured, how it will inform classroom instruction and what you can do at home. Create a plan with the teacher that focuses on key skills and maximizes learning time at home and school. You can use this Parent-Teacher Planning Tool to help you jot down what you’ve noticed at home, your questions for the teacher, and a co-created, simple plan to best support your child. For me, this conversation and tool will be especially important for my rising Kindergartener who like many of her peers experienced a lot of disruption during Pre-K. While I’ve been told not to worry by past teachers and doctors, I’m going to ask for her speech to be evaluated at the start of the year in case she needs additional support.
4. Lean into how your child is feeling.
The life skills you promote at home, such as problem-solving, hard work, and confidence, will help your child overcome hard moments. Ask your child how they feel about themselves, their friendships, their school work, and the world around them. Don’t be afraid to look for help in your community. There are also helpful ideas online like these videos and activities to support the life skills you care about. With my older daughter, we’ll continue to work on her math confidence by focusing on the messy but beautiful process of learning (not just the right or wrong answer!). Our friends at Zearn often inspire me with helpful language to keep her motivated. For example, “When math makes us feel…like it’s too hard, we can instead say…what do I already know.”
5. Remember, you are a learning hero!
You have role-modeled incredible strengths for your child over the past couple of years. Ask other parents for ideas on learning at home and share what’s worked for you. Connect as a family by reading about topics that interest your child. Find math in everyday life. Take care of yourself and celebrate your family’s successes. Check out The Busy Family’s Guide to School by EdNavigator for some practical tips and guidance.
While the summer went by too quickly, I’m looking forward to starting the school year strong and doing my part to share what I know with teachers so that together we can make sure my girls are happy and progressing this year. I’m feeling ready to team up and hope you are too.