As a new school year gets underway, it’s a good time to take stock of how parents view teachers—and vice versa.
Parents of children in kindergarten through 5th grade, who responded to a survey jointly sponsored by the National Education Association (NEA) and Parenting magazine, have some strong opinions about educators, but still most would give an A (45 percent) or B (31 percent) grade to their relationship with their children’s teachers.
Parts of the survey, conducted earlier this year, were released in a back-to-school issue of the magazine. A questionnaire answered by 1,000 public school teachers and parents of elementary students (500 of each) showed where parents had complaints:
- Teachers lack of understanding of my concerns—27 percent
- My child was being treated unfairly in the classroom—23 percent
- Too much homework—4 percent
- My child did not get the grade he/she deserved—3 percent
Asked to “think about the last few times you had a problem that you needed to discuss with one of your children’s teachers, what is the most common reaction from the teacher,” parents responded:
- Supportive and willing to help—64 percent
- Supportive, but doesn’t provide any real solutions—21 percent
- Defensive and self-protective—10 percent
- Uninterested—4 percent
- Angry and confrontational—<1 percent
If there’s one thing your school could do to improve parent-teacher relationships, what would it be?
- Proactively communicate with parents more frequently—38 percent
- Provide child care during school activities where parents are invited/expected to attend—19 percent
- Provide more opportunities for parents to participate in school activities—12 percent
- Provide teachers with training on how to communicate effectively with parents—11 percent
- Make the school/classroom environment more inviting/less intimidating for parents—8 percent
- Respond to my questions/concerns in a more timely manner—3 percent
From the perspective of parents, 37 percent report having had a problem with their children’s teachers. From the perspective of teachers, the question was: “Have you had difficulty with any of your students’ parents?” The answer was “Yes” from 68 percent of teachers, and “No” from 32 percent.
Asked to identify the most common source of the difficulty, teachers reported:
- Parents’ lack of understanding of the student’s issue—30 percent
- Parents felt that their child was being treated unfairly in the classroom—19 percent
- Parents’ lack of availability to discuss my concerns—19 percent
- Parents felt that their child did not get the grade that s/he deserved—8 percent
- Cultural differences/language barrier—8 percent
Teachers were also asked how parents most frequently reacted when the teachers had a problem they needed to discuss. The teachers said parents were:
- Supportive and willing to help—40 percent
- Supportive, but didn’t provide any real solutions—40 percent
- Defensive and protective of their child—14 percent
- Angry and confrontational—3 percent
- Uninterested—3 percent
Education Week reported on earlier survey results, released at the end of the 2011-2012 school year, in “K-5 Parents and Teachers: Are They on the Same Page?”. Parenting magazine reports on this survey in its September issue.
A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.