Last week, during President Trump’s address to a joint session of Congress, he declared education to be “the civil rights issues of our time,” echoing similar statements by past Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush. I couldn’t agree more.
Hispanics and other minorities comprise a growing proportion of the student population in America, and yet their test scores continue to lag dangerously behind white counterparts. As such, education equality is the frontline of the battle for America’s future. That’s why this week I want to highlight the incredible work of David Park of Learning Heroes, to get his perspective on this critical issue. My hope is that his insights will give parents practical tools they can use to help ensure their child’s success in the classroom.
SR: What do you see as the greatest challenges in education today?
DP: There are certainly challenges in education, but there are also tremendous opportunities – so let’s start there. We know from our national survey, Parents 2016, that K-8 parents and guardians have high aspirations for their children. 83% of African American parents and 90% of Hispanic parents believe that a two- or four-year college degree is very important.
A big challenge, however, is that too many young people are still unprepared for success after high school. In fact, 60% of first-year college students need to take remedial courses to help them catch up to a college level. Research also shows that parents play a critical role in their child’s academic progress – and that’s where Learning Heroes comes in.
SR: How does Learning Heroes help parents to get involved?
DP: At Learning Heroes, our number one goal is to equip parents with information, resources, and simple actions to take to support their children’s success. According to a RAND study, families may have four-to-eight times more impact on student achievement than teachers (and teachers are obviously incredibly important). But many parents need some help identifying what they can do to best support their child in school.
The first step for parents is to understand where your child excels and where he or she needs additional support. As a group, 87% of Hispanic parents believe their child is at or above grade level in math (NAEP scores tell us reality is 26%); and 84% in reading (reality is 21%).
SR: How can parents get a more accurate picture of their child’s academic achievement?
DP: Together, teacher feedback, grades, parent observations, and the upcoming annual state test results can give parents a good picture of whether their child is performing at grade level and whether he or she will be prepared for success next year. Our website, BeALearningHero.org features tools and resources in English and Spanish from trusted organizations all in one place – organizations such as Scholastic, National PTA, GreatSchools and others.
SR: After so many states adopted new standards, how are we now testing students?
DP: The Common Core debate has left a lot of parents confused about testing standards. The bottom line is that each state must measure every child’s progress in reading and math in grades 3-8 and at least once during grades 10-12.
SR: Why is the annual state test so important?
DP: Annual state test results help parents understand how prepared their child will be for the next grade. Combined with grades and classroom work, the state test can help a parent know how well their child is meeting grade level expectations in math and English Language Arts.
SR: What are some tips for parents as they help their children get ready for the annual state test?
DP: Parents can help reduce anxiety and uncertainty by checking out sample test questions or even reviewing a practice test, all of which are available at our website. We’ve also created an online guide, “Ready for the Test,” which is available in English and Spanish. “Ready for the Test” includes lots of other state specific information and tips – from looking at last year’s test results, to talking to the teacher about the test, tackling test nerves and more.
SR: What are some other Learning Heroes resources in English and Spanish? How have you seen these strategies benefit both children and parents?
DP: Most of our resources are available in both English and Spanish. A good example of a helpful English/Spanish resource is our Readiness Roadmap, which was developed in partnership with Univision and National PTA. The Readiness Roadmap is a guide that helps parents understand each stage of their child’s development—from what children are expected to know each grade year and how parents can support social, emotional and academic learning at home, to starting the college planning process and more.
Based on an initial study conducted earlier this year and from what we’ve seen in communities where we’re working, we know that the strategy of meeting parents where they are and providing them with actionable resources is having a very significant and positive impact in terms of parent knowledge, skills and actions on behalf of their child’s academic success. The fact of the matter is, parents are the key and the data supports this. That’s why Learning Heroes exists, to help parents help their children succeed.
Faith and Education Coalition is an initiative of the National Hispanic Christian Leaders Conference (NHCLC), with 2,568 members representing almost 3,000 local churches in 44 states.