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Education survey a wake-up call

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Dallas Morning News Editorial

We know how important parents are to their children's educational success.

With the new school year coming up, having an accurate picture of how kids are performing is critical to efforts to help them.

That's why parents -- and educators -- should take note of a new national report by D.C.-based Learning Heroes that reveals a sobering disconnect between perception in academic achievement and reality.

In a survey of about 1,400 parents of public school children in kindergarten through eighth grade, Learning Heroes found that 9 in 10 parents believe their children are performing at or above grade level in math and reading. But results from the National Assessment of Educational Progress show that only about a third of them are.

And while most parents have high expectations about their children going to college and doing well, only about 37 percent of graduates are prepared for college.

Even among those parents who think their children struggle academically, most don't feel confident they could support their child's learning.

Bibb Hubbard, Learning Heroes founder, calls the results "a heartbreaking wake-up call."

She's right.

She believes a gulf exists because so much of the information parents receive about their children's progress "is indecipherable -- filled with edu-jargon, confusing terms and often lacking actionable information to support learning."

It's the reason Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath pushed for the revamped STAAR report card that parents started receiving this summer. We've praised it for providing parents information that is clear and understandable with tools to help students succeed.

Not only do you get a variety of data about overall scores on the test, but data about how each student compares, subject-by-subject, to others across the state. It's not enough to just get the scores; parents need to know what they mean.

It was good news from the Learning Heroes survey that a majority of the parents want information and resources to support their children. They'd find it helpful to receive an explanation of what their children are expected to learn over the course of the year and tips and activities to improve reading and math skills.

Hispanic parents, especially Spanish-dominant parents, and African-American parents expressed the greatest interest. That's encouraging for districts such as Dallas ISD, where more than 90 percent of the students are Hispanic and African-American.

Learning Heroes is answering the call. The organization worked with Univision, the National PTA and the National Urban League on back-to-school tips in English and Spanish to help guide everyday learning on its website, bealearninghero.org.

The group offers links to resources on academic expectations, life skills for kids, and parent-teacher communication, among other things.

What empowering tools for parents to keep their kids on track.