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Perspectives of the 2016 Public School Parent: New Study Reveals What Keeps Today's Parents Up at Night

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Heidi May Wilson, Media Relations Manager

Parents nearly unanimous on dreams of college for their child, yet poll reveals concerns about readiness and disconnect between perception of performance and national data

Learning Heroes, National PTA and Univision Communications Inc. release “Readiness Roadmap” to deliver resources parents say would be most helpful

WASHINGTON, D.C., (April 21, 2016)—A national poll released today reveals public school parents’ perspectives on their children’s academic, emotional and physical well-being and identifies a disconnect between views on students’ performance in school and the national data.

The study—“Parents 2016: Hearts and Minds of Public School Parents in an Uncertain Worldwhich polled more than 1,300 parents with children in grades K-8, was conducted by Hart Research and commissioned by Learning Heroes, in collaboration with Univision Communications Inc.; in partnership with National PTA, National Urban League, NCLR and UNCF; and with support from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation. The findings show parents’ high expectations and deep engagement in their children’s development and unearth areas where parents most need support.

“Across race, ethnicity and income, parents want to see their child go to college and are committed to helping them get there,” said Geoff Garin, president of Hart Research. “But along with these shared goals, parents share worries. On top of pressing concerns such as bullying, physical safety and their child’s social-emotional development, many worry that their kids won’t be prepared for college.”

Major Findings:

  • Parents are united in their belief in the importance of college. Seventy-five percent of parents believe it is very important or absolutely essential for their child to attain a college education, including 90% of Hispanic parents, 83% of African American parents and 67% of white parents. Yet two-fifths are not very confident that their children will be prepared to succeed in college, and more than half (53%) of all parents—including 70% of Hispanic parents—worry about their ability to afford it.
  • Parents believe their children are on-track academically, despite national data. The study finds that 90% believe their child performs at or above grade level in reading and the same proportion feel that way about their child’s performance in math, compared to just over a third of students who successfully met that bar according to the 2015 National Assessment of Educational Progress. This disconnect likely reflects an awareness lag, as states transition to higher learning standards and accompanying state assessments.  
  • Parents believe specific resources will be most helpful in preparing their child for success. When asked to rate how helpful various resources would be, parents prioritized an explanation of grade-level expectations for their child and activities to improve math and English skills.  

To provide parents with the tools they need to guide their children in their education journey, and in response to the study findings, Learning Heroes, National PTA and Univision Communications Inc. released a “Readiness Roadmap” available at in both English and Spanish, including:  

  • Grade-by-grade learning goal breakdowns, which parents rated as the most helpful resource to support their child’s success, with 66% stating this would be extremely or very helpful.
  • Tools for assessing and promoting social-emotional wellness (48% of parents worry about this topic), including tips for effectively communicating with teachers (63% of parents communicate with their child’s teachers at least once a month).
  • Resources for preparing for and paying for college, as:
    • 38% of parents worry about their child having the knowledge and skills needed to be ready for college, including 58% of Hispanic, 33% of African American and 31% of white parents; and
    • 53% of parents worry about their ability to pay for college, including 70% of Hispanic, 52% of African American and 47% of white parents.

“Parents are deeply engaged in helping their child be successful, and that looks different for every child. Parents shouldn’t feel like they are on a wild goose chase when searching for the right resources and help for their child’s educational success,” said Bibb Hubbard, founder and president of Learning Heroes. “As K-8 parents learn how to put their child on the path to success in college, the Readiness Roadmap makes that job easier by quickly connecting them to top notch tools and resources.”

“As parents, we want the best for our children and want to support their learning and achievement. During this important transition to higher standards and aligned tests, many of us don't feel adequately informed to navigate our children’s educational journey,” said Nathan R. Monell, CAE, executive director of National PTA. “These new resources from Learning Heroes will ensure that every parent has what they need to make certain their child has every opportunity for success.”

Parents can go to to learn more and sign up to receive regular updates with tools, tips and resources. 

About the Study

Hart Research Associates conducted this national survey among 1,374 parents of public school children in grades K-8. It includes a nationally representative survey of 802 elementary and middle school parents, as well as oversamples among Hispanics (to yield a total of 500 Hispanic parents) and African Americans (to yield a total of 265 African-American parents).  The online survey was conducted January 6 to 22, 2016 and was offered in both English and Spanish.  It was administered by GfK, using their KnowledgePanel©, a probability-based Web panel designed to be representative of the United States. The survey has a margin of error of +3.2 percentage points for all parents. Sample tolerances for subgroups are larger.

About Learning Heroes

Learning Heroes informs and equips parents to help their child succeed in school. We start by listening to parents and meeting them where they are with easy to understand information, tools, and resources. A project of the New Venture Fund, our partners include Common Sense Media, GreatSchools, NCLR, National PTA, National Urban League, Univision Communications Inc. and others.

About National PTA

National PTA® comprises millions of families, students, teachers, administrators, and business and community leaders devoted to the educational success of children and the promotion of family engagement in schools. PTA is a registered 501(c) (3) nonprofit association that prides itself on being a powerful voice for all children, a relevant resource for families and communities, and a strong advocate for public education. Membership in PTA is open to anyone who wants to be involved and make a difference for the education, health, and welfare of children and youth.