In the last 25 years, fourth-grade pre-pandemic literacy rates in the U.S. haven’t budged—and academic disparities are widening—despite billions invested in classroom intervention. Post-pandemic, the numbers have declined even further with McKinsey reporting that students were five months behind in math and four in reading. Among the pandemic’s biggest lessons is this: when it comes to educating kids, there’s no going around parents. Teachers must work with them and through them to ensure students learn across the continuum of home and school. Though school systems are only recently awakening to this fact, it has long been true. Time spent outside of school is the breeding ground of inequity, and time spent in school is woefully insufficient as a counterweight. Family engagement is the missing piece, and Springboard is leading the charge.
Springboard Collaborative takes an alternative approach to closing the literacy gap by bridging the gap between home and school. We coach teachers and family members to help kids learn to read by fourth grade. Where others see a challenge, we see an opportunity to leverage the people and assets already within school communities to support student learning. We know that teachers and parents have a common purpose and complementary skill sets:
Teachers are the experts on instruction. They know what their students need to make progress, yet the classroom setting makes it difficult to support every child individually.
Parents are the experts on their children. Whereas teachers change annually, parents accumulate a wealth of knowledge about their children as learners. Moreover, they are uniquely positioned to read with their children in a one-on-one setting. There is no smaller classroom than a family’s living room, and there is no better way to personalize instruction than through a parent. After all, what could be more personal than a parent and child sharing a book at bedtime?
These competencies form the basis for a sustainable partnership in which teachers share instructional strategies with parents in exchange for the commitment that families will practice these strategies at home. This creates enormous leverage: For every hour that a teacher leads a family workshop, students spend an extra 100 minutes that week practicing reading at home independently and with an adult. Replicating this amount of instructional time in the classroom setting would be cost-prohibitive.
Furthermore, when a school or district chooses to partner with us, we make sure to ask schools about what the community’s goals are as a whole. Are they trying to get reading scores up in time for state testing? Are they trying to boost family engagement and participation? Do they need help implementing a supplemental tutoring program? We also ask partners what type of coaching style works best for them. Would they like full management support, or would they prefer something more flexible?
Ultimately, our work with partners is collaborative, consultative, and school-driven. Springboard is particularly mindful not to play the role of an outsider swooping into a school to implement a top-down, outside-in intervention. Our biggest focus is helping schools better leverage the people and assets already at the heart of their school communities. After all, they are the ones who know what’s best for their students.