The Challenge

In 2018, we released a short paper, Lost in the Crowd, that profiled a group of Louisiana students who had at least one thing in common: They were all doing well in school, but faced an array of worrisome barriers that threatened their continued success.

DeAnthony (not his real name) was one of those students. He was earning good grades and had nearly perfect attendance. On Louisiana’s state standardized tests, the Louisiana Educational Assessment Program (LEAP), DeAnthony scored in the highest category (“Advanced”) for both English language arts and math.

And yet DeAnthony’s achievements appeared to be going unrecognized at…

“No one was telling us the school was failing.”

Tyra Wilson was concerned about the teacher and school leader turnover at her daughter’s school in New Orleans. Ty’Viana had three teachers in her first grade year at Medard Nelson Elementary, and it seemed like there was a new principal practically every year.*

“I thought it was odd,” Wilson says. “Like why are they going through so many principals? But no one was telling us the school was failing. Ty’Viana was happy. She was doing well there.”

Wilson tried not to worry. Ty’Viana was in the choir and the captain of the cheerleading squad. …

In each of these cases, we see common challenges: Bewildering codes, acronyms and language. Disjointed and contradictory data. An absence of explanation or synthesis. Inflated grades and papered-over problems.

Collectively, these issues reflect a profound and alarming inattention to the needs of families, who want clear, coherent information about student performance in order to engage fully in their children’s education and keep them on track for success. Instead, the process leaves families muddled — uncertain what to believe, how to help, which path to take.

These challenges are frustrating because many of them seem so basic and solvable. Schools and…

Looking only at Gregory’s grades, his parents walked away feeling like he was on track in school.

Gregory seemed to have a fairly good sixth grade year at his local public school, where he receives special education supports for Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD). When his parents, Jeffrey and Kira, logged into an online portal to check his final grades in May 2018, they saw the view shown below. He earned a B in Math, for instance. He also earned B’s in Social Studies and Science. …

Tameka’s parents have been acclimated to thinking of her as a top-performing student. Is she?

Tameka finished seventh grade with all A’s and B’s. Math was a bit of a challenge, initially. Tameka earned a C in the first quarter of the school year before buckling down, which led to two A’s and a B in the final three quarters. She finished with a B in math for the year.

Looking at her report card, Tameka’s parents, Arthur and Gerri, were proud of her progress and eager for her to move forward to eighth grade. They wanted to discuss how…

At a key moment in her son’s life, Alfredo’s mother was in the dark. How many other families received report cards they could not read?

Alfredo was a second grader attending a traditional public school near New Orleans. At the end of the third quarter, his mother, Carmen, received a very worrisome report card. Alfredo had received an F for both math and reading. Just beneath his grade, Alfredo’s reading teacher added four comments, each of which corresponded to a code the teacher had entered when completing the report card:

  • “Reading skills are below average”
  • “Student is…

Like other parents, Raquel initially assumed “AB” meant something akin to “halfway between A and B.”

We met Michael because his mother, Raquel, was a housekeeper at one of the New Orleans hotels that provides EdNavigator to its employees. In the past, Raquel had significant difficulties with the school enrollment system, which resulted in Michael and his siblings being scattered across several different schools. One of our first objectives was to consolidate the siblings as much as possible. Through this process, Michael moved to a new school early in his third grade year.

Michael’s new school, a charter school performing…

Why do nearly all parents think their children are doing just fine in school? Maybe it’s because the information they receive about student progress is totally incoherent.

There’s no shortage of evidence that America’s public schools aren’t working as well as they should for all families. Beyond the shamefully persistent gaps in educational opportunity and achievement that divide students of different races and more- and less-privileged backgrounds, there’s the fact that, despite plenty of advantages, American kids are not keeping up with their international peers in general.

Yet American parents remain optimistic. They tend to believe that their local schools…

By David Keeling

This article originally appeared on The 74.

This fall, about 50 million American students are going back to school. For their families, it’s a focal point of the year. They spend billions of dollars on backpacks, supplies, lunchboxes and clothes. They pack special first-day lunches. They take pictures at the bus stop and the school door.

It’s no surprise that families invest so much in this moment. Ninety-four percent of parents expect their children to go to college. They dream of a big life for their kids, and they know that the pathway there winds through schools…


EdNavigator is a nonprofit organization that helps families find a path to educational success for every child.

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