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Parents also benefit from data on a school’s environment

Information on leadership, instructional rigor, teaching culture and trust is important for families to understand, but often difficult to find.

Parents and students arrive at George Armstrong Elementary School in Rogers Park for the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools on Aug. 30.
Parents and students arrive at George Armstrong Elementary School in Rogers Park for the first day of school for Chicago Public Schools on Aug. 30.
Ashlee Rezin/Sun-Times

Elaine Allensworth of the University of Chicago recently made the case for the power of school climate data to magnify the experiences of students and teachers, and highlight successful learning environments, in ways traditional measures of school quality, such as test scores, cannot.

This information is indeed critical for school leaders as they seek to use climate survey data to identify opportunities for improvement. But the value of this information extends to another crucial beneficiary: parents.

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School climate data illuminates various components of a school’s culture, such as leadership, instructional rigor, teaching culture and trust. This information is important for families to understand but often difficult to find. That’s why GreatSchools.org is adding climate data to our profiles starting with schools in Illinois.

The information helps parents gain a broader understanding of what makes a school great and visualize what happens inside classrooms. This awareness can strengthen communication and relationships between schools and families, instill confidence in parents to engage with school leaders and advocate for their child’s needs, and widen parents’ perspectives on what qualities to look for in a school to find the best fit for their child.

Fostering safe, supportive learning environments that involve families is essential to helping students recover academically and socially from the pandemic. After over 18 months of disrupted learning, 67% of parents feel more connected to their child’s day-to-day education. A recent Learning Heroes survey also found the plurality of parents, especially Black and Hispanic parents, consider safety and security a top priority. As school leaders use school climate data to plan for improvements, parents can also rely upon it to stay informed.

Illinois is leading the way in collecting student and teacher perspectives through the 5Essentials Survey. As we listen to their views, we must also recognize there is no going back to a time when parents are less involved in their child’s education — and they, too, should be recognized as an important recipient of this information and as partners in improvement efforts.

Lorry Henderson, Director of Research and Data Partnerships at GreatSchools.org
South Loop