Opinion
Education Opinion

The Evidence Is in: Parents Want Early Education That Teaches the Whole Child

By Learning Is Social & Emotional Contributor — June 26, 2018 3 min read
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

By Stephanie Miller, Trust for Learning

Two years ago, I started questioning whether anyone had ever formally or comprehensively asked parents what they are looking for in their children’s education. While many had researched a particular parent engagement philosophy or approach, there was little insight into why parents felt the way they did about their children’s learning. Researchers were not evaluating the aspirations or motivations of parents--the consumers of early childhood education--when it comes to seeking out programs and resources. This gap in information was doing a disservice to children, parents, providers, and entire communities.

In an effort to help fill this gap, Trust for Learning commissioned research--including 12 focus groups and a national survey of nearly 1,500 parents--to better understand parents’ needs and motivations when it comes to early education for their children. What we found was that across background, income, and race, parents share some common attitudes, beliefs, and aspirations. Most notably, parents said social-emotional development is their highest priority when considering a program--this development is seen as providing the foundation for enduring success in school and adulthood. Parents are largely united in describing their ideal early learning program for their children: highly developmental education that places an emphasis on the child as an individual and supports them in becoming a capable, lifelong learner and doer.

The main lesson we learned through this extensive research is that parents want their children in learning environments that address the whole child in order to set them on the best path toward achievement in school and life.

However, parents are not necessarily aware that such programs exist or that they can be realistically accessed. The lingering perception of developmental early childhood approaches, like Montessori, Reggio Emilia, or Waldorf, is one of a luxury only wealthier parents can afford. That should not and does not need to be the case. In fact, whole-child, developmental education approaches have been part of the public sector for years, available in school districts in states such as California, North Carolina, Connecticut, Texas, Minnesota, and South Carolina. Moreover, studies such as that of Dr. Angeline Lillard in the Hartford school district or that of the Riley Institute in South Carolina show highly developmental, whole-child programs can close the achievement gap for low-income children while increasing performance for all students on measures of academic achievement, social skills, and executive functioning.

Expanding the reach of highly developmental education by making it accessible to all families and by raising awareness of what already exists is critical to enabling all children to achieve these ideal outcomes. The goal of our country’s education system should be to encourage schools to integrate all aspects of development--social, emotional, and academic--to enrich student well-being. Until recently, though, conversations had largely been missing some critical participants capable of advancing positive change: parents.

Educators, policymakers, and the broader public can be more effective in serving families and children when the motivations of parents are better understood and respected. It’s time to ensure that parents’ voices are at the forefront of conversations about early learning and to empower them to demand whole-child programs in their communities.

Photo courtesy of Tools of the Mind.

Stephanie Miller is the Executive Director of Trust for Learning.

The opinions expressed in Learning Is Social & Emotional are strictly those of the author(s) and do not reflect the opinions or endorsement of Editorial Projects in Education, or any of its publications.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Data Webinar
Education Insights with Actionable Data to Create More Personalized Engagement
The world has changed during this time of pandemic learning, and there is a new challenge faced in education regarding how we effectively utilize the data now available to educators and leaders. In this session
Content provided by Microsoft
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
School & District Management Webinar
Accelerate Learning with Project-Based Learning
Earlier this year, the George Lucas Educational Foundation released four new studies highlighting how project-based learning (PBL) helps accelerate student learning—across age groups, multiple disciplines, and different socio-economic statuses. With this year’s emphasis on unfinished
Content provided by SmartLab Learning
School & District Management Live Online Discussion Principal Overload: How to Manage Anxiety, Stress, and Tough Decisions
According to recent surveys, more than 40 percent of principals are considering leaving their jobs. With the pandemic, running a school building has become even more complicated, and principals' workloads continue to grow. If we

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Education California Makes Ethnic Studies a High School Requirement
California is among the first in the nation to require students to take a course in ethnic studies to get a diploma starting in 2029-30.
4 min read
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2020, file photo, Democratic Assembly members, from left, James Ramos, Chris Holden Jose Medina, and Rudy Salas, Jr., right, huddle during an Assembly session in Sacramento, Calif. Medina's bill to make ethnic studies a high school requirement was signed into law by California Gov. Gavin Newsom on Friday, Oct. 8, 2021. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File)
Education California Requires Free Menstrual Products in Public Schools
The move comes as women’s rights advocates push nationwide for affordable access to pads, tampons, and other items.
1 min read
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Tammy Compton restocks tampons at Compton's Market, in Sacramento, Calif., on June 22, 2016. California public schools and colleges must stock their restrooms with free menstrual products under a new law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, Friday, Oct. 8, 2021.
Rich Pedroncelli/AP
Education Florida to Dock School District Salaries for Requiring Masks
Florida is set to dock salaries and withhold funding from local school districts that defied Gov. Ron DeSantis' ban on mask mandates.
2 min read
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks, Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2021, at the Doral Academy Preparatory School in Doral, Fla.
Wilfredo Lee/AP
Education More Than 120,000 U.S. Kids Had Caregivers Die During Pandemic
The toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans, a new study suggests.
3 min read
FILE - In this Thursday, Sept. 2, 2021 file photo, a funeral director arranges flowers on a casket before a service in Tampa, Fla. According to a study published Thursday, Oct. 7, 2021, by the medical journal Pediatrics, the number of U.S. children orphaned during the COVID-19 pandemic may be larger than previously estimated, and the toll has been far greater among Black and Hispanic Americans. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara, File)