In the world of public education that has now turned into a political arena for unions, school boards, state capitols, and ed reformers, parents often find themselves on the outside of the ring with no clue who to root for, limited understanding of the rules and no dog in the fight. And in their exclusion, they find themselves discouraged and powerless, leaving all of the decisions up to the above-mentioned players.
But in actuality, parents are the greatest stakeholders in education—and must be acknowledged as such. They should have access to the rules book, be able to pick their players and serve as judges of performance.
The New Teacher Project (TNTP) is a nationwide, non-profit organization whose mission is to provide great teachers to students who need them most and end inequalities in education. As an addition to their work, they have written “A Parent’s Bill of Rights” to encourage and serve as a guide for greater parent engagement and school accountability. And most importantly, it is a footprint for parent empowerment.
Parents, let’s break this Bill of Rights down one by one, and incorporate advocacy.
I have the right to be treated as a valued partner in my child’s learning.
The academic journey begins with choosing a great school for your child—and in choosing that school, the administration becomes a part of a greater universe that nurtures the overall success of your child. With that, a huge part of that success relies upon how well the parents and school work together.
Now, if you find yourself in week four of the new school year and you have yet to receive a phone call or letter with the principal and teachers introducing themselves or an invitation to a back to school event, that may be a red flag.
The school should always make an effort to reach out and introduce themselves to the parent in efforts to initiate building this collaborative relationship—especially if they’re truly interested in parent engagement or minimally, want to ensure the parents that they made the right choice.
Parents should also feel welcome at and know what’s going on in the school at all times. The school should be communicating regularly about academic progress, testing dates, and hosting events that encourage and support student social-emotional growth.
I have the right to know how I can support my child in school.
Parents, you are the most valuable asset to your child’s successful education mainly because you are their greatest advocates.
While administrators and teachers lend their expertise, you ultimately know what’s best for your children and should have a hand in sculpting their learning experiences. This involves working with teachers to understand the curriculum so that you can assist your child with homework, having resources available to continue your child’s learning at home, and maybe even making recommendations to incorporate in the classroom that will enhance the learning environment.
Additionally, you should feel welcome at the school—take some time and join your child’s class to observe and always have a handle on what’s going on.
I have the right to have my voice heard.
Parents, your voice is always your first line of defense!
As a tax-paying citizen, schools, districts and elected officials are supposed work in your best interest. And as a parent, your best interest is your child—meaning that you have the right to have your voice heard in regards to their education.
Too many parents feel that their voice won’t make a difference—and they’re wrong. Often times, there are other parents who share the same needs and concerns and are looking for a safe and supportive space to express themselves.
All it takes is for a conversation to get started to discover those mutual interests and ultimately, you’ve gone from one powerful voice to many. Remember, your voice is powerful and no one can deny the demands of a collective voice.
I have the right to a school and district that treats my family as a priority.
And if you get to a point where you feel that your school or school district isn’t treating your family as a priority, you have the power to invoke change.
Some municipalities have Local School Councils (LSC’s), Parents Action Councils (PAC’s), elected or appointed school boards, and other platforms for parents to be involved in the education decision-making process.
If your school or district is underperforming or ignoring the needs of your family, use your voice to promote action—action that can determine who leads your schools, districts and communities.
Rally that collective voice, encourage them to join these platforms and vote in elections that support prioritizing your family and those alike.
These are extremely valuable tenets that are often taken for granted by administrators, school districts and policymakers but are under-utilized by parents. And while parent voice has been largely excluded from the public education conversation, there are organizations working to ensure that their voices aren’t completely muffled.
Thanks to TNTP, parents now have supplemental resources that will equip them in getting in the ring to fight. Parents, never forget, you are your child’s greatest advocate and you have the power to impact the quality of their education.