How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?


Notes from the Backpack

Episode 102 │ How is Your Kid Really Doing in School?

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

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Show Notes

Bibb Hubbard

Did you know that even though only a third of students are proficient in math and reading, 90% of parents believe their child is at or above grade level in these areas? We sit down with Bibb Hubbard—a mother and founder of Learning Heroes—to explore what families and kids think about student academic achievement, how schools and districts can improve the way they share information with families, and what families can do to gauge if their child is on track and advocate for a more accurate picture of their progress. Liz Goshorn gives a mother’s perspective on how you can better understand your child’s academic progress in school and identify their academic strengths and areas for growth.


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Keep the Conversation Going


What questions do you ask your child’s teacher to get the real story on how they’re performing in school? Share your thoughts on social media using the hashtag #BackpackNotes.




Transcript (Disponible en Español)


Intro: [00:00:02] Welcome to Notes from the Backpack. A PTA podcast. This series features real conversations with real experts, real parents and real educators so families can get the real behind the scenes story on what's happening in education. Get the inside scoop on how to help your child become successful in and out of school. As parents, we know that your child can sometimes forget to share the notes from their backpack. They tell you everything that's happening at their school. That's why we've launched this podcast just for you. Welcome to Notes from the Backpack. A PTA podcast.

LaWanda: [00:00:37] Hi, everyone. I'm Lawanda Tony, Director of Communications at National PTA. And you are listening to Notes from the Backpack, a PTA podcast. Today's episode will help families understand how their child is really doing in school. Many parents rely on report cards to understand their child's academic success. But is that enough? My co-host, Helen Westmoreland, Director of Family Engagement at National PTA, is going to share some interesting insights that might surprise you.

Helen: [00:01:06] Thanks LaWanda. We're going to start out by asking our audience, what do you do to know if your child is on track in school? As parents, we feel like our kids are often doing just fine because they're happy they're on the honor roll. However, research doesn't show this is true. According to new research, by Learning Heroes, 90 percent of parents think that their child is on track in math and in reading, but only 37 percent of kids are actually on grade level. This poses a problem for parents who want their child to be stood up for future success. We wanted to kick off today with a firsthand perspective from a parent. So we turn to a mother of four who's had difficulty getting an accurate picture of her son's academic potential.

Liz: [00:01:50] My name is Liz Goshorn and I have four boys.

Helen: [00:01:54] We spoke with Liz Goshorn to learn more about her experiences working with her child's school and what advice she has for families who also want to get an accurate picture for their child.

Liz: [00:02:06] So it was pretty consistent from, I'd say, elementary through high school, that he was a good student. He participated, but he just didn't show much effort. He would have like C average, probably at best. He was reading 500 page novels over the weekend, like by middle school, but he was failing English. So he actually got himself in two AP courses based on some testing that he had to do. I mean, teachers were saying I wouldn't recommend it. I don't think that that's the greatest idea. He's failing English. And for me, it was like you've had C's all the way through, you know, is this the right step? But I also didn't want to not be supportive of him. So he went ahead and got himself into those AP courses and actually received credit. So at that point, it was like, OK, I think we missed something here.

Liz: [00:03:02] I was put in gifted and talented classes since I was in school. And I guess I just assumed that they would have identified his strengths. I was a very young mother and I always felt a little out of place. I wasn't as good of friends with all of the moms and things like that. So when I got in and the teacher was saying, this is how it is, I accepted that at face value. If I had to do it all over again, I would have just utilized to those parent teacher conferences to have those more difficult conversations. Rather than coming in and them having the agenda, that I'm going to tell you that everything's OK just so that I can check the boxes, that's where I felt that we missed out. It's not the teachers fault, but it is as parents, our responsibility to really understand that that is only one of the children in the classroom. And, you know, we're responsible for really making sure that the teachers see sees as much and our children as we do, I think.

Helen: [00:03:58] So how do we know if our child is really prepared for college and career?

LaWanda: [00:04:03] Thankfully, we have Bibb Hubbard, Founder and President of Learning Heroes, with us today to talk about ways parents can get a better picture of their child's performance in school. Outside of the report card, Learning Heroes is an organization that helps parents gain a complete and holistic picture of their child's success in school so they can be the best advocate for their child. Bibb is also an active board member in the New York City Leadership Academy and the Boys and Girls Club of Alexandria. She is the proud mother of two teenage boys. You can follow Bibb on Twitter @Bibbuhbbard and you can follow Learning Heroes @bealearninghero and by visiting their website www.bealearninghero.org.

Helen: [00:04:47] And thank you for joining us today. Could you start by sharing what motivated you to start Learning Heroes?

Bibb: [00:04:53] I've been privileged to work in education for over 20 years and have always seen the important role that parents play in their child's educational success. And as a parent, I live it every day and I also know how hard it is. About five years ago, I wanted to address the fact that I believe parents are often overlooked and underserved when it comes to their child's education. At Learning Heroes, we work to inform and equip parents to best help their children's educational success. And we are super honored to partner with organizations like the National PTA, who in fact was our very first partner out of the gate. So this is an exciting time to be here talking with you guys today.

Helen: [00:05:32] And you have a lot of prongs at work, at Learning Heroes. Could you describe sort of the different pieces of all the things that you do as an organization?

Bibb: [00:05:40] We start by listening to parents. It was really important to me as I began this journey that parents are not monolithic. And while I'm a parent, I'm not necessarily the only audience. So over the past four years, we've done an unprecedented amount of research among parents. And I've learned quite a bit and have been incredibly humbled. And one of the key findings that has shaped our work and will continue to shape our work was the fact that 9 out of 10 parents, as you mentioned, and this is regardless of race, income, education level...universally, we as parents believe our child's at or above grade level in both reading and math. And it is 37 percent of our students. And for students of color, it's much worse. And so for us, it became a clarion call to say, hey, we need to make sure that parents have a complete holistic picture of how their children are performing and achieving so that they can be the best advocate on behalf of their child. If you think your child's on track, you're like, whatever I'm doing is great. So I'm going to keep doing it. And parents are doing a lot of work at home. They're very engaged. But imagine if you know that your child is reading to grade levels below, you're going to do things quite differently, maybe same amount of time, same amount of effort, but different ways to help support your child.

Bibb: [00:06:49] So for us, that's mission one, though we create content and tools and resources that don't currently exist based on the research and based on what we hear from parents. And then we get to collaborate and partner with amazing organizations, like the PTA, and others that parents know, trust, and rely upon to get support around their child's education. So Univision is another incredible partner, community based organizations, the faith community, the business community. We try and take what we call a surround sound to help make sure parents have the information, the tools, the resources to best help their children wherever they are. So we try and speak to the parent individually, not sort of in the macro, but in the micro, like how do you get through homework? And so we help connect parents to other people's incredible resources, like the PTA, Khan Academy, common sense media, to try and reduce the hunt. And then also we've had the great benefit to work with both state education agencies and school districts in reworking and rewriting some of the reports that parents receive when they get information about their children's academic and developmental success, so that it's more desirable and understandable. So we try and take a multi-pronged approach. As you said, to make sure we're being respectful, responsive and supportive of parents in their efforts.

Helen: [00:08:00] I think there are a lot of organizations out there that want to create resources for parents. But one of the things that always has struck me about your work at Learning Heroes, is that you do really grounded in the everyday parent experience and what parents are saying and believing. Why was that important to you? What were you trying to sort of accomplish by doing that?

Bibb: [00:08:20] We wanted to make sure that we were meeting parents where they are. And we were just humbled because our assumptions were just wrong in many cases. And when we found out about the 90 percent stat, it made a lot of sense because a lot of people who are working hard to improve our education system wonder why parents are storming the streets or banging down the doors to say, improve our schools, improve our schools.

Bibb: [00:08:42] When they look at the national data, it became pretty clear parents are pretty satisfied with their child's education. Their local schools are doing their job in their minds. And based on the information they receive, their kids are doing well. Most kids are getting A's and B's. So parents are not wrong. So to spend time with parents ethno graphically, qualitatively, quantitatively, really understanding the language they speak, the behaviors they take, their priorities was very important to us to make sure that we were creating information and materials that parents could understand, interpret and actually use.

Helen: [00:09:14] Some of the stats that you gave were overwhelming and kind of scary, especially the one that you talked about. I think it was 37 percent of kids are above average or at grade level.

Bibb: [00:09:26] Yeah. And nationally, the National Assessment of Educational Progress said, 2017 data, 37 percent of our students nationally can perform at or above the term they use as proficiency, but basically performing at or above grade level. And so a far cry from 90 percent. And again, when you look at students of color in particular, those numbers are much worse. And for African-American kids in particular, the longer they're in school, according to data, the fewer of our African-American students are at or above proficiency. So by the time an African-American student again, this is from the national average, it's 7 percent who are at or above proficiency in math at 12th grade.

LaWanda: [00:10:05] I mean, that's really staggering. Why do you think parents are overly confident about their children's performance in school?

Bibb: [00:10:11] This has been our mission over the past four years to dig into it. And we now know why. Parents are responding to the information that they're receiving, so parents are not wrong. They're looking at report card grades as the primary indicator. And report card grades are really important measures, s o not to diminish that, but they are not achievement indicators. So a report card grade is about effort and about engagement. So really important information. Is your child turning in their homework? Are they raising their hand in class? All right, there. Good peer, a good friend. Like are they working really hard? So all of that is actually really important in terms of the broad life skills that kids need in order to thrive. But it doesn't mean they're reading at grade level. So you could be coming home with an A in fourth grade and reading because you're doing all that good work. Yeah, you're reading at a second grade level. And the unfortunate problem is that nobody's told parents that it's not a system mandate. It's not a criteria to say, hey, it's not the job expectation for a teacher or even a principal to give parents this information, which we find kind of appalling. I think parents deserve an accurate picture and so do kids. And the students know, but they're pretty good at masking their behavior. So they don't want to disappoint their parents. They don't want to get in trouble, lose their allowance, lose their X box. So we hear from students because we've also spent a lot of time with students that they sugarcoated until that report card comes home. So they have the report card grades and then they have their child's mood. Those are the two kind of driving ways that they sort of look to see if their kids doing well. And so, again, you've got this kid who's pretty expert at masking what's going on.

Bibb: [00:11:49] And you've got report card grades, which are based on the data we've heard are pretty strong grades that are mostly coming home for kids, but it doesn't add up to the full, complete picture. So we're encouraging parents to look beyond those two things. In addition to looking at other diagnostics that are most kids are taking other kinds of assessments during the day. Why not share those with parents? Teachers have access to all this data about how our kids are growing, developing, performing, making progress, not making progress, but that information is not required to go home. So we're trying to encourage vendors and local school districts and others to make that more of a requirement. So those are just some of the ways and then the end of state tests. It's a moment in time. It's not the sum of your kid, but it's important indicator to look out as well. So there are measures available. It's just really hard to get access to them. And then the ongoing feedback with teachers is really critical. One of the things we hear from teachers, the number one way to know a student is achieving is ongoing communications with the teacher. But we see over time since 2016, fewer and fewer parents are going to parent teacher conferences. So the one opportunity baked into the system is not highly valued by parents or teachers. And again, if you're a parent, you're like kids getting A's. I'd rather see in plays basketball game. And if I'm a Spanish speaking parents, I'm losing income or I'm missing a basketball game or I'm waiting there for three hours because there's only one interpreter.

LaWanda: [00:13:09] So what I'm hearing is you guys, OK. Don't rely on the report card for everything. If my child's getting A's and B's, that doesn't mean they're just fine. I need to dig a little deeper. And in the digging, how do I do that? How do I reach out to the teacher who has provided the A's and B's to me and the report card to say I need more information?

Bibb: [00:13:29] Yeah, I think that's a really good point. So you can ask more prescriptive questions. So, is my child reading on grade level? I see that they're doing well. And by this report card grade. So give me some examples of what that looks like to you.

Bibb: [00:13:42] But are they reading at the level they should be reading at? And if they're not, what's our plan to team up and work together to address whatever deficiencies or gaps there might be? Conversely, if that child is a rock star and they need to be pushed further, faster, parents want to have that information, too, so that they can make sure their child is adequately challenged. For a parent, we hear in focus groups, and this is stuck with me, you know, no news is good news. And so if the teacher's not reaching out, then the parent just assumes, of course, hey, everything's fine, but that's not what that means. And so encouraging parents to reach out to teachers, go to those parent teacher conferences, find other ways to connect teachers, lack the time often and just the capacity to engage in these kinds of conversations as we hear from teachers. So having parents sort of reach out and ask those questions we think is really important.

Helen: [00:14:30] I want to go back back a little bit to what you're talking about with why it's important to pay attention to some of these other indicators of how your child is doing. And I think as a parent and as an organization that hears from parents, sometimes friends are really skeptical of test scores. Like you mentioned, testing is happening in the classroom. Sometimes it's happened even more than we might know because we don't get the results. How do you sort of square that? Like is part of the problem just that tests are happening, but the information isn't getting shared home? Or what would you say to that parent who's skeptical of my kid just isn't a good test taker or this is just an exercise in filling out bubbles? Like why is that important to dig in to to know the full picture?

Bibb: [00:15:08] A lot of the diagnostics that are happening, they call them formative assessments. So they're happening in an ongoing way and there aren't stakes attached to it. And they're more sophisticated than fill-in-the-bubble. They really do provoke critical thinking and they measure some important skills for kids and whether or not they're reading on grade level in some of those other kinds of just basic indicators. And so I think taking tests out of the black box and showing parents what those questions are so they can see them that they are not just a couple questions. I'm not an advocate for over testing and teaching to the test. And quite frankly, if the teacher is teaching the curriculum, ideally, then those tests are aligned to the curriculum and you don't actually have to teach to them because it's just basic knowledge. And so whether or not you show up with a stomach ache or whatever, like if you know it, you know it, if you don't, you know it's not the sum of your kid. But I do think it's an important measure as part of this broader picture. And we've seen by showing parents some of the practice questions. It takes the mystery out. And they're like, oh, you just want my kids to know that. Well, that makes sense. So I think we just do a bad job on the system side of showing parents what we're even asking of our kids. And then just knowing in an ongoing way. Are they making progress? So that's really valuable, right? Are they moving in the right direction and working hard to move in that direction? So it isn't a zero sum game and shouldn't be super high stakes, but parents should have access to how their children are performing.

Helen: [00:16:34] So I'm thinking of how that information came home when I was a kid, right, in an envelope and there was like maybe five pages of information on scores and percentiles and all this stuff. If you had to pick two or three things of the millions of things that a parent can look at between the test scores and the report cards and the online grade portals, and it's a lot for a parent to manage, what would you say to focus most on?

Bibb: [00:16:58] And we're working hard with some states to redesign some of the reports that go home so that they are actually desirable. But then I would also say the end of state tests just kind of the cumulative sum of how your child did. And some of those reports do provide some additional information about particular questions they miss. So that you can really focus your kids time and energy on a very specific skill. So it's not that they bombed everything, but they didn't know fractions. So let's work on fractions. I mean, you can make it really practicable. Again, it doesn't have to be the sum of your child, but I think it's an important indicator. And then another one that we hear from parents is really important and I think is just starting to make itself more known. Our school performance report card. So how is your school performing? And parents are very adept at saying, OK, if my school is really rocking it and my kid's rocking it and that's good.

Bibb: [00:17:49] But if my school's kind of bombing and my kids rocking it, maybe my kid is not doing as well as I thought. And so, what can I do as a parent to help support that school? And what we've seen, which I find really encouraging, inspiring and awesome, is that most parents, when they find if we put a scenario in front of them that says your school is getting an F, like the worst possible grade, which doesn't really happen. 61 percent said, I'm going to figure out how to help my school improve. They're all in. I think that's a really good thing. And so giving parents the information about how their school is performing so that they as a parent can help support the school community in addition to their child, I think is another really important thing to look at.

Helen: [00:18:32] And where would they go to find that out? How their school is doing?

Bibb: [00:18:34] Actually they can go to bealearninghero.org, I'll do a little plug. We actually have a tool where you can click on your state and you can find your report card. It's super easy. Current parents do that, but you can go to your state's website and your schools should be making it available. So you could ask your principal as well.

LaWanda: [00:18:49] Along those lines or we're talking about Learning Heroes. There are some tools that you guys have to help parents find out what their child is really doing at school. One of the things, I think it's called a super five hour readiness chat. Can you talk to us a little bit about that?

Bibb: [00:19:03] So we have three seasonal campaigns that we developed, again, in response to the research to help parents sort of navigate the school year. And so we kick off the school year with our back to school super five power moves for parents. So five tips and resources that you can take to sort of set your child up for success. And that's all again on our website. And one of the main tools that we promote as part of the Super Five is the readiness check. And it's an online interactive tool. K-8. So it's to give parents a gut check in the child about have they mastered the foundational skills for their grade? So after you finish up second grade, you can pop your second grader in front of the ratings check and they answer three questions and reading and five questions and math. Depending upon the answers that they select, they're connected to skill specific resources. So if they need a little more practice or they just like to do it, they have access to sort of practice those particular skills that are important for that grade. So again, it's K-8. Really it takes about 10 minutes. And it's been a wonderful tool. And just the observation of parents watching their kids either struggle with it or blow through it is a big a-ha. Her parents like, oh, so that was really easy or that wasn't so easy. So we need to do a little more practice in this area. So we found it to be a really helpful tool.

LaWanda: [00:20:16] I think I'm doing it tonight.

Bibb: [00:20:18] Yeah, yeah.

Helen: [00:20:20]  Especially if you don't want to take out that five page test report. Yeah.

LaWanda: [00:20:24] I mean, especially going into back to school, having a kind of a level set. My son's going into the first grade, and I know that we talked about earlier first grade kind of being one of the most important grades of your school career. I'm really excited to try it out.

Bibb: [00:20:38] Yeah. We also encourage parents to take that information to teachers. So parents are the expert on their kids and they have a lot to offer her teachers. And what parents see at home is often different than what teachers see at school. So it is important for the parent and the teacher to come together and share their observations. And so the readiness check gives the parents just a really concrete thing to bring to the teacher.

Helen: [00:20:58] That's a great resource. I want to ask you the flip side of that, because you mentioned that some of the work you've been doing is actually with school districts to get them to think very differently about how they communicate with parents. What would you say for maybe the PTA leaders or parent leaders? Are those listening who are feeling this sort of sense of frustration that there's a lot of information we're not getting in a way that we can make sense of? What are the couple of things or pieces of advice you most frequently are giving school districts and how to redesign their reports for parents?

Bibb: [00:21:28] A big one is language. A lot of the language on these reports is created in state departments of education by policy people and psycho patricians, and it's really hard to understand. And so we spend a lot of time with parents and ask them how they talk about their child's educational experience. So we've developed sort of a vernacular for school districts to use and we've helped them redesign their report cards and some of those more standardized reports that go home to make sure parents, when they receive it, they actually understand what it's saying. I mean, one example is the word growth. And so a lot of school districts are now using student growth as a measure of how much academic progress, how much academic gains the student has made from point A to point B. But for a parent, growth means is enrollment increasing? Is class size increasing? Is my kid literally growing?

Helen: [00:22:20] How tall is my kid? Haha.

Bibb: [00:22:21] Right, how tall is my kid? How big are their feet? It's problematic. And then the other one that's, I think a good example of just kind of ridiculous education jargon, there's this term called teaching with an emergency certificate. And we asked a D.C. mom what she thought about that. And she said, well, that percentage should be really high. And we're like, well, why would that behind that wheel? That's the percentage of teachers teaching CPR. And so teaching with an emergency certificate means that a teacher who has not been trained to teach through traditional channels does not mean they know CPR. And so parents are walking away with very different interpretations of the information we're providing them. So we spent a lot of time with states and districts literally rewriting the language, using different colors, different formats, different fonts, pulling data off. I mean, they just try and put everything on there. And then parents understandably are like, I don't understand any of it.

Helen: [00:23:10] Yea it's too much.

Bibb: [00:23:11] That's some of the examples. The language is the big one that we find to be kind of a key barrier and it's unintended. But parents are walking with very different interpretations than are intended.

LaWanda: [00:23:21] A lot of times you go to the school and you want resources and you want help. And parent groups like the PTA are there to provide that kind of support for parents. What can a group like PTA do to help combat what's happening at school? Are helping parents be advocates for their children?

Bibb: [00:23:39] I think they can be an amazing conduit between teachers and parents. Teachers again have the will. They very much want to engage with families and help those families know what to do at home. But I think they're just struggling for time and capacity to be able to have those conversations. It's not a job expectation for them. So for the PTA parent to let parents know, hey, look at that report card grade. But look beyond fine time to talk to your teacher. Find time to talk to your principal, find time to talk to your child. And it's really hard. Like, how was school? It was great. Well, what was the most exciting part of school or what was the most frustrating part of school? Or what did you learn today that you didn't know yesterday? I mean, finding the language to just really check in with your kids and then ask the tough questions about some of the social emotional stuff at school, because we did hear from a lot of students about how hard school is. So helping parents have the language to speak to their kids. And then also PTA meetings are awesome when teachers come and then parents have an opportunity to ask them questions in a really conversational, low stakes kind of casual environment. But it's an important moment. And so just finding those ways to bring parents and teachers together and build the relationship, build the trust, I think would be just an important area that PTA is uniquely qualified to do.

Helen: [00:24:53] You mentioned some of your research with students. What else did you hear from kids that parents might be surprised to know? Did they know they're not on grade level?

Bibb: [00:25:03] Yes. Students do. They know where they're struggling and they know where they're excelling and they know where their interests are. A lot of the relational part of school is really hard for kids. And many of the parents that we talked to have really complicated tough lives, and these kids don't want to add to that burden. You know, a lot of divorced kids who are like, I'm going back and forth and everyone's trying to protect everyone else. So the kids sort of holds a lot back. We asked one question to parents: What does your kid love to do the most? Where do they excel? And a mom was, Oh, they love to read or they love science. And then you ask the child and they're like, oh I hate to read. I hate science. I just want to make their parents happy. But the kids know and we talked to like third graders. They're pretty spot on about where they are really excelling and they feel really proud and where they just need more help. They just need some additional support. But having those conversations at home, we heard from the students and the children, that was really difficult.

Helen: [00:25:56] I can imagine I mean, just being a parent, you want theoretically your kid to be really challenged in school. But if you see them coming home, struggling with their homework or feeling frustrated, like that's a very different experience. So that resonates with me that you would want to protect your kid in some way from that. And schools would also not necessarily want their fifteen hundred parents all knocking on the door saying, why are our kids three years behind? Like, how do you sort of square all those tensions and recommend ways for like whole school communities to move forward with all that?

Bibb: [00:26:29] Parents don't like to see their kids struggle. We've heard that over and over and over again. And so I think in some cases, parents overly course correct. And they actually do the kids homework for them, not helpful. Or they just ignore it and they don't know how to deal with it or they sort of lean in different parents or different kinds of things. But regardless, it's hard to see what we would love to see as more of a requirement, sort of more baked into the system, ways for teachers to provide parents more accurate, complete picture. So giving more of these indicators to parents at the very beginning stages, because we've seen empirically when parents know how their child is doing. If you look at the parents with the kids who have the who were really on it, they are actively supporting, engaged, collaborating with those schools to help get their kid where they need to go. But imagine if you could make sure it's a requirement for teachers to make sure parents know if their child's reading on grade level. Those parents are all going to do something pretty different. So that we're not sort of looking backwards, but we can be moving forward. So we're interested and we're actually hoping to work with a couple of school districts to pilot some of our resources and tools into these family engagement strategies. So teachers then are starting to provide parents with different kinds of information. And we're going to see if that helps give parents more opportunity to involve themselves differently around their child's education with a greater, more complete accurate picture. So it's tricky because we're going against a system that is designed not to tell parents the whole picture. And we feel like it's time to flip that on its head. And parents actually deserve to know because we think they'll take very different actions and we believe improve student success.

LaWanda: [00:28:10] I want to piggyback awful what Helen asked you and dig a little bit more into the research. You talked about that kids think school is hard and it's hard for them in certain areas. And you want your kids, like you said, to be academically successful, but also just be happy at school, like happy to be there and not have school burnout. Not a drag. When I wake up in the morning, like the last thing on earth I want to do is go to school. Does any of your research kind of shed a light on what we can do to create school environments where kids are both happy and feel good about the academics that they're learning in school?

Bibb: [00:28:44] Yeah. I mean, you're spot on with the research. So we asked parents in 2019, you know, what's the most important thing for your child in school? And it's to be happy. And the other interesting thing that this one mom said that I think really just made so much sense to me. But how can your child be academically successful if they're not happy, like they have to have sort of this self-confidence and this happiness and be in a good place if they're really going to thrive academically and not just, I think, really resonates and with not just me, but many parents quantitatively. So I think it is looking to find more ways to help kids, both socially, emotionally, developmentally in these classroom settings. And there is a ton of exciting work happening across the country where schools and teachers are beginning to integrate the development of important skills like independence, confidence, communication, critical thinking, collaboration. And it's all being sort of baked into the curriculum. And I think that's going to make a big difference.

Bibb: [00:29:42] So, schools are reinforcing what's happening in the home and really intentional, explicit ways so that that school environment is more connected to the real world and is more experiential and more rewarding and meets kids more where they are.

Bibb: [00:29:58] So we feel like, you know, if you can do that and couple it with a parent having a supportive learning of measurement at home that mirrors that based on this new body of information that they have. I think that that can be a pretty powerful combination because again, the parent today is like my kids getting A's and B's. Whatever I'm doing, it's worth. So I'm just gonna keep doing it, you know, don't fix what's not broken. Kids aren't broken. The kids are awesome.

Bibb: [00:30:22] But they might need a little bit more support in a few ways so that by the time they get to high school, because we focus on Kate, they're set up for success and then they're set up for success in college, because 75 percent of parents expect their child to get her to or four year degree. And it's 80 percent for African-American families and 85 percent for Hispanic families. So there is a very strong desire for kids to go to college and to be successful. So I think starting in those elementary grades with some of the combination to your point, like let's make the school a happy place and the academics can follow. But let's give parents information so they can do their part at home, too.

Helen: [00:30:57] I think sometimes those are put as opposing choices, like either your kid is happier school or they're challenged. But it's great to hear that there are some places across the country that are really working hard to make sure both are true.

Bibb: [00:31:09] And I think that parents intuitively bring those together. It's the academic world, the education world that pulls them apart constantly. And parents are like, why are you pulling them apart? Like, of course, they're all interwoven. So the good news is parents are there. We just need to be a little bit more responsive to their in their child's needs.

Helen: [00:31:27] I have a question for the parent who lets say, you know, they dig a little deeper. They find out like something might be wrong here. I've certainly heard a lot of parents sort of share the experience that they tried to nudge at their teacher, their principal, and didn't boys get a welcoming reception like, you know, at home? Something's not quite right. Sometimes you do have that like Spidey sense. You do. But if the school isn't responsive right away, too, they need to be more challenged or they need this more rigorous approach. Whatever it may be. What advice do you have for those parents? Like how do they move forward if they feel like they have the information that's accurate, but they can't get the education to meet that picture?

Bibb: [00:32:12] Yeah, I think there are a lot of parents who've been very proactive, very active, reached out to their teacher, reach out to their principal and fell upon deaf ears for whatever reason. So that is a challenge. And we also think if we can have more parents putting that kind of pressure on principals and schools, they will kind of have to be more responsive. So if it's one off parent being the squeaky wheel, that can sort of say we'll just not deal with you. But if you've got a lot of parents all saying, like, hey, what's going on? The system hopefully will be more responsive. And that's a really thorny process. But we feel like until the schools, the districts and the principals feel it right now, it's just nobody's job. And so they just keep pushing it under the carpet and not in timing. Good intentions. Right. Like they want to educate these kids. They want to do the best by them. They want to engage families. But you prioritize what's mandated and true parent engagement, where they are actively receiving and getting this complete holistic picture is just not happening widely enough. There is a lot of really cool work happening around family engagement right now. So this is not to say that it's not happening anywhere. This is not happening broadly enough. I think we just need to have a spread a little bit further.

LaWanda: [00:33:26] I think that we've talked about a lot of different resources and a lot of different ways that parents can really go into the school and help be a part of the school to make sure that their child are both happy and have a healthy learning environment. Bob, thank you so much for providing that insight. I do have one last question, though. If we have parents that are listening and they just need one takeaway just to get started. What should they do?

Bibb: [00:33:51] I would say go to the readiness check. I think that it's a really simple tool designed by experts. It does take about 10 minutes, but it's a great way just to get a gut check. It is not a formal assessment, is not a test, but it's a great way to know if your child is mastering those foundational skills. They need to be successful in that grade. And then you get connected some really awesome resources by the fabulous places like PTA and others.

Bibb: [00:34:16] So if you had to do one thing this summer, I would have your child and take the readiness check. Watch them do it. Have some observations and then talk to your kid about it and then also talk to the teacher. I think that will put you off to a great start. Please visit. Bealearninghero.org. Everyone is learning here.

Helen: [00:34:33] For our listeners. You can follow Bibb on Twitter @bibbhubbard, and you can also follow Learning Heroes @bealearninghero and by visiting their website www.bealearninghero.org. Let's everyone keep the conversation going by using a #backpacknotes on social media to share your thoughts about today's episode. We hope you'll join us next time.

Outro: [00:34:57] Thank you for tuning into notes from the Backpack PTA podcast. Be sure to follow us on social media at national PTA and online at PTA dot org. Forward slash backpack notes.




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Notes from the Backpack: A PTA Podcast is made possible by funding to advance family engagement and whole child learning through the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative.