Survey: The State of Parent-Teacher Relationships is Strong

By Tim Walker

According to a new survey, the majority of parents and teachers categorize their relationship as “great” or “open,” although the two groups differ on some specific issues.

Communication is key and parents and teachers have different ideas and expectations about how to keep these avenues open. Parenting Magazine and the National Education Association recently collaborated on a joint survey to explore this issue.

According to the results, nearly half the parents surveyed gave their overall relationship with their child’s teachers an ‘A.’

Also, nearly two-out of three parents believe their child’s teachers offer a supportive response to their concerns when expressed and that teachers are willing to help resolve concerns. Likewise, 80 percent of teachers consider parents to be supportive.

Still, the survey also revealed a disconnect between the two groups on some key points. For example, nearly 88 percent consider teachers to a partner in helping their child succeed in school. Only 54 percent of teacher, however, believe parents do their part at home to assist them in accomplishing this goal. In addition, almost half of parents feel that their opinion is always taken seriously by their child’s teachers, only 17 percent of teachers fell their opinion is taken seriously just as often by their students’ parents.

And while only 7 percent of teachers believe parents aren’t given the opportunity to offer input and guidance in school events and activities, more than one-quarter of parents surveyed feel they are shut out of the process. While a significant number—71 percent—of teachers feel they hold enough conferences with students’ parents (the majority hold them twice per school year), only 48 percent of parents say the same.

The results of the NEA-Parenting survey were announced last week in a panel discussion at Parenting’s Mom Congress on Education and Learning conference, which celebrates and connects parents who have made a difference in the fight for better schools. Leading the discussion between Parenting’s editor-in-chief Ana Connery and NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen was NBC News’ education correspondent, Rehema Ellis.  The panelists spoke to the audience about fostering a family-school partnership and offered solutions for bridging the gaps in communication as revealed by the survey.

“Parental involvement is a critical component to student success,” Eskeslen said. “When parents and teachers work as a team, children soar to new heights.”

Parent-teacher communication and parental engagement in general however can be a work-in-progress – especially for newer educators. Jennie Levy, a teacher in Colorado, advises her colleagues not to look for a  “one-size-fits-all” approach.

“But the work you do upfront to reach out to parents can go far in establishing trust. It’s hard work, but there’s definitely a pay-off,” Levy says.

Gracye McCoy, an elementary teacher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, urges new teachers to take the initiative.

“Get to the parents first,” she advises. “I communicate with them early, establish who I am—that I am an involved teacher and take my job seriously. I also let them know that I welcome and value their input.”

See Also:

Parents Agree – Less High Stakes Testing

  • mg2012

    As a veteran teacher with experience in Alabama, Illinois, and Georgia I can say that the results of this study seem pretty high. While I am in complete agrrement about the connections between parents and teachers being so crucial, I’d have to say 80% of my collegues do not value parent input or envolvement. In fact they spend more time excluding parents than engaging them in meaningful conversation. Of course on 48% of the parents feel that 2 conferences is enough information. I’d be willing to bet that 95@ of those 48 have regular and open communication with their teachers. As a primary teacher, I feel its the 1st priority to make the parents comfortable and trusting of me and my procedures. I use mass texts, personal phone calls (good times and challenging times) and occasionally parent nights to keep my parents informed and engaged. Without parent buy-in, the student can’t hope to reach as high a level of success as they are capable of. Parent trust equals parent support. Parent support equals consistant expectations. Consistant expectations equals (more) willingness to follow procedures which leads to greater sucess for the child. I also ask myself “Why do SO MANY of our veteran teacher’s alienate the parents? They are just making their job more difficult.” I teach my college students (pre-service and student teachers getting practicum experience in my room) that the MOST Challenging and CRItICAL thing to learn about teaching is the parent involvement piece, curriculum always changes, and buzz words for teaching practices always change, but the role of a parent figure is always present.

  • I’m retired now. I can look back over thirty years, and eight grade levels, and special education and regular education classrooms, and say that your survey report here in the magazine fails to delineate between elementary and secondary levels, urban and rural districts, and adequacy of funding levels.

    As an elementary special education teacher with a class of six, I did send daily journal entries to parents, and they sometimes chose to respond in writing and sometimes would rather respond in person at the classroom door (we didn’t have email then.)

    As a middle school regular education teacher, parent involvement varied widely between my sixth grade years and my eight grade years.

    As a member of a two-person seventh grade team and a member later of a five person eighth grade team, with populations of 50 students in seventh and 100 students in eighth, (two subject areas in seventh, one subject area in eighth) my daily contact,my sense of ‘ownership’ of those students, and correspondingly my reaching out for parental involvement, varied as well.

    As an elementary teacher, I AND THE STUDENTS welcomed parents coming into the classroom for extra help or for special occasions. As a secondary teacher, MY STUDENTS would often be appalled if their parents stopped by for an impromptu conference (and with 100 students, so would I.)

    I’m dismayed that your report paints, in very broad strokes, a homogeneous picture of assumptions. We (parents and teachers) do not all fit in neat little closed-lid boxes, any more than our students do.

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