Can a billboard like this make people in Minnesota uncomfortable enough to demand something as essential as literacy for all children? The Ciresi Walburn Foundation sure hopes so. But I pray it also compels every parent that drives by to wonder if their child could be in the 40%.
According to national research conducted by Learning Heroes, 92% of ALL parents, regardless of race, income or geography, believe their child is reading and doing math at or above grade level…even after the pandemic. As crazy as that seems, it is completely logical. Over 86% say their child is receiving A’s and B’s.
For too long, schools have not been clear with parents that good grades do not necessarily mean that a student is on grade level. I am not suggesting we need to begin flunking students or that grades should not reflect effort and completed homework assignments. What I am saying is that every parent deserves to know the truth about their child's academic progress.
Parents can begin by asking their teacher one simple question: “Is my child on grade level in reading and math?” In health care, doctors have systems, protocols and training to share hard information with patients. In education, we do not.
Over the past few weeks, the historic impact the pandemic has had on our student’s learning has become even more clear. We are not only able to compare learning loss from state to state on the Nation’s Report Card, but we can also compare district to district on the Education Recovery Scorecard.
School districts can “do the math.” For example, in Washington State students lost 65% of a year in math instruction, but the district level data allows us to see that students in the affluent Northshore School District lost 39%, while students in the poorer Yakima School District lost 85%.
As Tom Kane, Harvard’s lead researcher on the Education Recovery Scorecard, said, “The pandemic was like a band of tornadoes that swept across the country. Some communities were left relatively untouched, while neighboring schools were devastated. We must use the available information to communicate the extent of the tornadoes’ damage.”
Educators, community leaders and parents now know the actual size of their gaps and have an opportunity to redesign their recovery plans to specifically address their needs. Districts also know which interventions get proven results – tutoring, doubling up on math and additional instructional time – many of which have been put in place.
My fear is that parents are not going to sign their students up for these interventions. The message most parents are receiving is that their kids are “fine.” Or even worse, “if everyone is behind then no one is behind; we are all in the same boat.”
We are not all in the same boat, and the inequity of this pandemic is well-documented and tragic. Educators know empirically which students need the additional help. In many cases it may be all of them, but parents will continue to believe – as the Ciresi Walburn Foundation campaign suggests – that these services are for “other people’s children.”