Commentary: To help kids learn, parents need to Go Beyond Grades

Daphne Barlow Stigliano

Here’s a shocking statistic: Studies show nine out of 10 parents believe their children are performing at or above grade level in school. Yet only half of students will start the next school year on grade level. Students who fall behind, especially in the early years, often never catch up, and when our children fail, so do our community’s hopes and dreams.

That’s why Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County and over 80 other foundations, nonprofits, and community organizations have come together to sound the alarm in Tarrant County by launching Go Beyond Grades. The campaign is aimed at empowering parents to have conversations about their children’s academic progress and helping them understand what they can do if their children are not performing on grade level.

Like most parents, I would do anything to help my children succeed. In fact, when my oldest entered third grade she had serious struggles with math and reading. She was falling behind, and it was clear that without intervention she would not meet grade level requirements. I recall a very emotional conversation when I asked her teacher for help, and to this day, I believe Mrs. Whitehead set my daughter on a path for lifelong achievement.

As the leader of the oldest and largest Boys & Girls Clubs in Texas, I’ve learned not all parents have the confidence to have those conversations or the resources to advocate for their kids. In fact, many don’t even realize their children are struggling.

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According to a 2023 study conducted by Learning Heroes in partnership with Gallup, many parents are relying on report cards as their primary source of information, and nearly 80% say their kids are receiving Bs or better. In reality, report cards are just one method that schools and teachers use to understand how a child is doing and whether they might require more academic support.

Go Beyond Grades is about raising awareness, encouraging parents to be curious and helping them understand that they can and should ask questions. It’s also a chance to lift up educators, who I believe choose their careers because they want to partner with parents and do their very best for students.

When corporate partners and individuals invest in Boys & Girls Clubs and other organizations like ours, they are interested in solving the early upstream challenges that families face because it impacts their future workforce. Children who are not proficient in reading by the end of third grade are more likely to struggle throughout their school years, and the lifetime impact from those early years can be devastating. Educated and informed parents are the key to breaking this cycle and achieving our community’s educational and economic goals.

Today, my daughter is an engineer. She’s a contributing member of our community and is succeeding in a high-demand profession. Hitting those important milestones in third grade was critical to her success, and I am excited to see this community embrace an effort aimed at helping all families achieve the same results.

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If you are a business owner or a community leader, I hope you will support Go Beyond Grades by encouraging parents to ask if their child is on grade level and to enroll in a summer program to help their child stay on track. A complete list of programs is available online.

Daphne Barlow Stigliano is CEO and President, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Tarrant County.