Getting Good Grades vs. Working at Grade Level: Understanding the Difference

Parent-teacher conferences at Arundel Elementary School in Maryland’s Baltimore City Public Schools are undergoing a change. Instead of teachers leading the conferences, students themselves will now take charge. This new approach aims to increase parental involvement and give families a firsthand look at their child’s work. Kaylah Crawford, a first-grade teacher and the head of family engagement at Arundel, explained that each student will lead their own conference, sharing what they have been doing in school. According to Crawford, involving students in conferences is more engaging and allows parents to hear directly from their child about their performance.

A national study conducted by Gallup and the nonprofit Learning Heroes revealed a significant gap between parents’ perception of their child’s educational progress and their actual achievement. Bibb Hubbard, the founder of Learning Heroes, emphasized that parents often lack a complete understanding of their child’s progress. Despite this, the study found that around 88% of parents believe their child is performing at grade level in reading, while 89% believe the same for math. However, standardized tests suggest that far fewer students are actually on track. Federal data released in February showed that, on average, half of public school students were below grade level at the start of the 2022-23 school year.

Learning Heroes founder Bibb Hubbard (Learning Heroes)

To address this issue, it is crucial to provide parents with more information. Hubbard stressed the importance of moving beyond relying solely on report cards, which many parents consider as the ultimate measure of their child’s performance. The study found that 64% of parents considered report cards important in determining grade level, and 79% reported their children receiving mainly B grades or better. However, Hubbard cautioned that good grades do not always indicate grade-level mastery, citing examples of students receiving high grades while performing at a level below their grade.

Arundel Elementary School Principal Kaylah Crawford (Kaylah Crawford)

Kaylah Crawford, the principal of Arundel Elementary School, acknowledged the challenge of ensuring parent awareness and understanding regarding grades. She explained that completing homework does not necessarily indicate a student’s overall comprehension of the content. In response, Arundel Elementary School introduced a program called Family University, allowing parents to interact with school staff and gain insight into classroom activities. The goal of the program, according to Crawford, is to provide parents with the knowledge they need to support their child’s academic success.

According to Hubbard, when parents have more information about their child’s academic progress, they are more likely to take proactive steps and discuss concerns with teachers. The study revealed that 97% of parents who knew their child was below grade level in math were worried about their math skills. On the other hand, only 22% of parents whose children were at or above grade level in math expressed concern. Parents were also asked about their top concerns for their children, with social media and emotional well-being taking priority for those who perceived their child to be at or above grade level. However, math and reading were the top concerns for parents who were aware of their child’s below-grade-level performance.

The study also uncovered differences in parental perceptions based on race. When presented with a scenario where their child received a B in math but had below-grade-level test scores, a major concern for over half of parents, Black parents were more likely to express concern compared to Hispanic and white parents. Black and Hispanic parents were also found to be more aware of their child’s academic performance, highlighting the need for increased support in addressing achievement gaps.

Oakland REACH founder Lakisha Young (Oakland REACH)

According to Lakisha Young, co-founder of Oakland REACH, a parent empowerment group in Oakland, Black parents are increasingly aware of the discrepancies in their child’s achievement but often struggle to find the necessary support. Young emphasized the importance of building relationships with schools and staying engaged in order to address these concerns effectively.

Learning Heroes is actively working to enhance parent engagement across the country through campaigns such as Go Beyond Grades. This initiative partners with local nonprofits to connect parents with teachers and provide resources for understanding achievement scores. Go Beyond Grades has been launched in several cities, including St. Louis, New York City, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Houston, Boston, and Sacramento.

To bridge the gap between parent perception and reality, it is essential for parents to go beyond relying solely on grades and engage with teachers to gain a comprehensive understanding of their child’s performance. By fostering open communication and building strong relationships with schools, parents can actively support their child’s academic journey.

Source: The 74

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