Find your next job fast at the Jan. 28 Virtual Career Fair. Register now.
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

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
School & District Management Webinar
Branding Matters. Learn From the Pros Why and How
Learn directly from the pros why K-12 branding and marketing matters, and how to do it effectively.
Content provided by EdWeek Top School Jobs
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
How to Make Learning More Interactive From Anywhere
Join experts from Samsung and Boxlight to learn how to make learning more interactive from anywhere.
Content provided by Samsung
Teaching Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table With Education Week: How Educators Can Respond to a Post-Truth Era
How do educators break through the noise of disinformation to teach lessons grounded in objective truth? Join to find out.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Human Resources Manager
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Communications Officer
Chattanooga, Tennessee
Hamilton County Department of Education
Special Education Teacher
Chicago, Illinois
JCFS Chicago

Read Next

Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: January 13, 2021
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read