By Tracie Potts | Word In Black

Photograph by Monstera/Pexels
Photograph by Monstera/Pexels

(WIB) – New York’s Times Square is famous for its neon ads promoting anything from Broadway shows to consumer electronics and fancy cars. But this past month, there was a different kind of message among the sea of lights — an important appeal to parents:

90% of NYC parents think their kids do math at grade level.
(26% of kids actually do.)
Find Summer Programs at

New York was one of six markets nationwide — along with Boston, Chicago, Houston, Washington, DC, and Sacramento County — where billboards, digital ads, and bus shelters highlighted an alarming disconnect between parent perceptions of their child’s grade level achievement and the unfortunate reality.

The ads were part of a public awareness campaign called #GoBeyondGrades, led by Learning Heroes in partnership with Univision, National Summer Learning Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation, and Clear Channel Outdoor, as well as local support from Urban League affiliates. The campaign is designed to help families sign their children up for summer learning programs.

According to new research from Learning Heroes, 90% of all parents and a staggering 96% of Black parents believe their child is at or above grade level in reading and math. Meanwhile, the Nation’s Report Card shows just 29% of eighth graders are proficient in reading, and 26% are proficient in math.

Why this perception gap? Parents understandably rely on report cards to gauge whether their child is on track, and Learning Heroes’ research finds that 80% of parents (including 81% of Black parents) report their child receives mostly B’s or better. But only 30% of teachers rate report cards as one of the most important ways to gauge student achievement. Teachers say ongoing communication and their observations are the best ways to know how a child is achieving. 

Shareeda Jones is the mother of a 9-year-old in Washington D.C. public schools. She thought her daughter was doing well academically, but when she moved to a new school, she realized her good report cards had not been telling the full story. The new school’s assessments showed that her daughter was actually three grade levels behind in reading. Shareeda is now working closely with her daughter’s teacher to understand where she needs additional support, and she is also exploring summer learning programs in her community.

Shareeda is not alone. Most parents rely on report card grades to determine whether their child’s grade level. And while grades are important, parents need more information to understand their child’s achievement. The new website,, helps families like Shareeda’s search and sign up for district, community-based, and online summer learning opportunities. Parents and educators can also find free tools and resources through the A, B, C’s:

  • Ask Your Teacher if your child is at grade level in reading and math;
  • Be in the Know about your child’s learning and what’s expected in each grade;
  • Connect to programs for summer learning like tutoring, camps, activities, jobs, and more.

With the help of federal recovery dollars, school districts across the country are going all out to provide high-quality options for students that mix learning time with summer fun and exploration. 

Parents are problem solvers. But we can’t solve a problem we don’t know we have. Until parents have a full picture of their child’s progress based on more than just report cards, children might continue to miss out on the support they need to be ready for the next grade.   

As parents, educators, and community leaders, it’s time to Go Beyond Grades so that every child has what they need to succeed!

Tracie Potts is a passionate advocate for equity and family engagement, training parents how to speak up for their child and support learning. She currently serves as Executive Director of the Gettysburg Institute at Gettysburg College.