To the Editor:
EdWeek’s recent article “Students’ Math and Reading Plummet, Erasing Years of Gains, National Assessment Finds” (Sept. 7, 2022) discussed the pandemic’s toll on student learning. Reading scores fell by the largest margin in more than three decades. A member of the assessment’s governing board concluded, “I don’t see a silver bullet beyond finding a way to increase instructional time.” He pointed to a set of solutions around which there is broad consensus: tutoring, summer school, and extended school days.
This reveals perhaps the biggest and most persistent blind spot in the American education system: parents. Engaging families in their children’s learning is the only scalable, cost-effective, and culturally responsive way to increase instructional time and accelerate learning recovery.
Research from 2004 shows that parents’ involvement in their children’s learning is a powerful predictor of academic success. Families, not schools, are the biggest determinants of student achievement.
Hiring tutors and extending the school day can marginally increase instructional time, but it’s far and away the most expensive and least sustainable way to do it. Unlike teachers and tutors, families are not in short supply—and parents don’t expect compensation to read with their kids. Parents report having spent an average of 2.5 hours a day on learning at home during school closures. This, of course, is unsustainable. However, even parents with only minutes to spare can help their children. A 2016 analysis of nearly 10 million students found that 15 minutes daily seems to be the magic number for substantial positive gains in literacy.
In the United States, there is a deeply held conviction that education is the great equalizer. Indeed, it can be—but only if policymakers, administrators, and teachers look beyond the classroom walls and support families as critical partners in student learning.
Alejandro Gibes de Gac
CEO and Founder
A version of this article appeared in the October 12, 2022 edition of Education Week as Use Families to Help With Learning Recovery