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Want an education revolution? Empower parents.

Esther J. Cepeda on

The problem is that such programs are often too cost-prohibitive to make a dent in the academic performance of whole populations -- and increased parental involvement in a child's education is only one small aspect of what it takes to get families to be able to make a real difference.

Another important piece of the puzzle is perception.

Nine out of 10 parents "believe their child performs at or above grade level in math and reading," according to a recent survey conducted by the nonprofit organization Learning Heroes, in partnership with the National PTA, the National Urban League, the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS) and others. Unfortunately, data from the National Assessment of Educational Progress shows that only about a third of students actually perform at grade level.

Meanwhile, 77 percent of parents surveyed by Learning Heroes believed "their children are getting a good education, and 66 percent say they are doing above-average academically," even though this, also, is far too sunny an outlook.

Such views hold across races, with all parents thinking their students are doing exponentially better than national data suggest. And this attitude also tracks to other studies in which parents have said they believe that national public education is underperforming but their own local schools are doing a great job.

All of these data points are actually positive indicators of parents' engagement and just go to show that even some of the most vulnerable families have real assets to pass on to their kids -- not the least of which are stable homes, the valuing of education and positive attitudes toward both children's potential and the efficacy of the system entrusted with educating their kids.

If we, as a nation, want to improve our students' academic achievement, why aren't we mining this precious resource? Why do we invest all our efforts into policies that rarely take parents' role in educating their children into account?

If we could just commit to finding a way to harness all of parents' positive energy in a way that could empower them to be their child's first and most important teacher from birth -- and then their most strident advocate when school starts -- we could have an education revolution on our hands.

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Esther Cepeda's email address is estherjcepeda@washpost.com. Follow her on Twitter, @estherjcepeda.

(c) 2017, Washington Post Writers Group

 

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