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.”

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