As a Christian parent, I believe all God’s children deserve a quality education. Not just my own three children (now grown!), but also my two grandchildren and every other child across our great nation.
My life as an advocate has been focused on families and education, specifically, the 90% of American children who are educated in public schools. And over those years, I’ve discovered that nothing fuels educational success more than parents and teachers united in support of a student.
Here’s how I like to explain it: We don’t just send our children to church and expect them to be holy, right? There’s work that must be done at home. Neither can we just send our children to school and expect them to be smart. That process begins with prayer. But parents need to do more than just pray and say “Do your homework.” Parents and teachers need each other! I want every parent to feel empowered to get involved in education. We belong in the learning process. After all, God made it clear in Deuteronomy 6:7 that we are our children’s first teachers.
There are a million ways for parents and teachers to partner for student success. But today I invite you to begin with one vital question. Ask your child’s teacher, is my child working at grade level in reading and math?
Think you already know the answer to that question? Probably not.
A new national Gallup survey reveals that almost nine out of 10 parents believe their child is performing at grade level. Yet data indicates that only 20-50% of students actually are working at grade level in reading and math.
Why the gap between reality and perception? It’s likely because parents rely on report card grades alone which don’t provide a complete picture.
Let’s call it “B-flation.” Seventy-nine percent of parents surveyed say their child is receiving mostly Bs or better on report cards. And when parents see a B on a report card, they think their child is doing fine. But that B likely reflects lots of things — test grades, in-class assignments, attendance, participation, team projects, and standardized testing. It feels good to see Bs on a report card, but it doesn’t guarantee that your student is working at grade level.
Let’s go back to the question I want you to ask your teacher: Is my child on grade level in reading and math? The answer to this question is one of the clearest indicators that your child is or isn’t on track academically. The good news is that teachers can answer this question! Not only do students sit for state or national testing each spring, but their math and reading progress is measured by teachers throughout the school year. The information is available; we only need to ask. And teachers are eager to partner with parents to help close a student’s grade-level learning gap.
Jesus told us His greatest commandment was to “Love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength” (Mark 12:30). I take that “with all your mind” part seriously, and I’m sure you do, too.
My top tips for parent-teacher partnerships:
Get to know your child’s teacher: When my children were young, every year I wrote each new teacher a note about my child’s strengths and weaknesses, our behavior expectations, and my contact information. If a teacher knows a parent has high expectations for their child, the teacher will too. Attend Back to School events and parent conferences. Introduce yourself in the first week. Build a relationship from day one.
Ask: Parent-teacher partnerships help parents gain a full picture of their child’s success as well as the tools to support their academic growth. Don’t know how to help with math homework? Ask a teacher! Ask about free school- or community-based tutoring. Ask “Is my child at grade level in math and reading?” Then ask “How can I help?”
Listen: Parents and teachers have different perspectives. Both are valuable. Working together, both perspectives can help your child. Be an advocate for your child, but don’t be too quick to insist your child is well-behaved. As my mother always said, there’s the child you know — and the child you don’t. Our Christian children are a target for the devil. He hates to see them nurtured and growing in God’s loving care. Teachers can be a valuable resource, helping parents recognize when the enemy attempts to sow tares among good seed (Matthew 13).
Learn: Working together, parents and teachers can ensure that every child is successful in school and beyond. And there are many outside resources to empower parents as they support their child’s education. Some of my favorite free resources are:
- www.gobeyondgrades.org: Find resources that help you evaluate your child’s progress and help you support what’s happening in the classroom. Become your child’s learning hero!
- www.PTA.org: The national PTA website offers reading and math parent guidebooks for every grade level. Join your local PTA, then get involved!
- www.KahnAcademy.org: If you are stuck on a problem while helping your student with homework, Kahn Academy offers free resources. Kahn Academy helps you help your child!
Pray: You can not only pray for your child but also pray for their teacher and their school. One of the biggest gifts you can give a teacher is telling them, “I am praying for you.”
 Fast Facts: Public and private school comparison (55) (ed.gov)
Tracie Potts is advisory board chair for Learning Heroes, Executive Director of the Eisenhower Institute at Gettysburg College, and a past fellow and board member of the National Parent Teacher Association (PTA). Tracie and her husband Derek are the parents of three adult children and two grandchildren. They are members of Bethlehem Church of God Holiness in Washington, DC, and longtime members of its National Convention of the Churches of God Holiness.