Many teachers and principals want politicians to stay out of the classroom

According to the latest research, parents share teachers' and principals' anxiety about student safety and the 'politicians' reach into the classroom.'

Here’s an alert for administrators: Parents are more worried about people who are not educators making decisions about what students learn than they are about their children’s reading and math skills. At a time when lawmakers in several states are restricting what schools can teach about racism and LGBTQ issues, parents are most troubled by “politicians’ reach into the classroom.”

They are also concerned about children suffering anxiety and being exposed to violence–and many teachers and principals share these anxieties, according to the latest research by the Learning Heroes, a nonprofit equity advocacy organization.

Math and reading achievement ranked at the bottom of a list of more than a dozen concerns presented to parents. At the same time, parents’ perceptions of how well their children are performing don’t always match reality, according to Learning Heroes’ annual survey, “Hidden in Plain Sight: A Way Forward for Equity-Centered Family Engagement.” For instance, 84% of parents think their child gets all B’s or above and more than nine in 10 parents believe their children are achieving at or above grade level even though many students fell behind during the pandemic.

In fact, 92% of parents–regardless of race, ethnicity or background–say their child is at or above grade level but only 59% of teachers think most of their students will show up ready for grade-level work next school year. Still, a large majority of parents want “direct and truthful information” from educators about their children’s grades, even when academic performance is poor.

“Parents and educators have a Herculean task ahead to address setbacks in children’s learning and well-being. They recognize the key to recovery efforts is to team up in support of students,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes. “But significant barriers remain, as the system is designed to keep parents and teachers apart.”

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Here are the statistics on what parents are most worried about:

  • 68%: Having politicians who are not educators decide what students learn
  • 65%: Your child’s happiness and emotional well-being
  • 60%: Their child experiencing stress or anxiety
  • 60%: Their child being exposed to violence at school
  • 57%: Having parents who are not educators making decisions about what students learn
  • 56%: Being able to finance your child’s college education
  • 55%: Their child being bullied
  • 54%: Their child gaining the knowledge and skills needed to be ready for college
  • 52%: Their child being on track with the academic expectations for their grade
  • 49%: Their child retaining what they are learning this year
  • 42%: Their child’s math skills
  • 39%: Their child’s reading skills

Teachers and principals are worried about many of the same things but in a slightly different order of urgency. Teachers’ top five concerns are:

  1. Students’ happiness and emotional well-being
  2. Reading skills
  3. Challenges that students face at home, such as poverty and food insecurity
  4. Politicians making decisions about what students learn
  5. Students receiving the academic support they need from parents or guardians

Principals’ top five concerns are:

  1. Politicians making decisions about what students learn
  2. Students receiving the academic support they need from parents or guardians
  3. Students meeting grade-level expectations
  4. Students’ happiness and emotional well-being
  5. Challenges that students face at home, such as poverty and food insecurity

Communication breakdowns

The barriers that are preventing parents and teachers from working together more closely was another key focus of Learning Heroes’ survey. A large majority of parents say they and educators need to trust each other to help students to succeed in school and bounce back from the disruptions of COVID.

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Only slightly more than one-third of parents reported talking to an administrator or counselor about an incident where they believe a teacher was biased against their child because of the family’s race, ethnicity or background. And despite an interest in expressing their feelings about current hot-button education issues, fewer than one in five parents said they had spoken out at school board meetings, objected to a book or requested their child be excused from an assignment.

In the survey of about 1,400 parents and guardians, they said teachers either didn’t have enough time to communicate with families or were only reaching out when there are problems. Others cited inconsistent communication on both sides. One result of this disconnect may be that more than 80% of parents think they have an understanding of their child’s academic performance but less than 60% of teacher agreed. Parents and teachers also put stock in different measures of achievements: parents are most focused on report cards while teachers rely on their own observations.

Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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