Education reform is a hot topic these days, but as a parent, it’s easy to feel left out when it seems like politicians and school officials are doing all of the talking. Parents have a right and a responsibility to get involved in school reform, and there’s a lot that you can do to improve education for your children. Read on, and we’ll explore 12 ways you can make a difference and contribute to education reform as a concerned parent.
- Be responsible for your child’s education:
It’s easy to say that you care about your child’s education, but you’ve got to show it. Education reform has a lot to do with schools, but ultimately, it starts at home. Better students can demand better education. Start by making sure that your child is an actively involved student, staying on top of homework, assignments, and participating in class. Find out what’s going on at school, and be accountable as an involved parent.
- Start with your school:
Much of the school reform that you may hear about these days is from politicians at the national level, but change can happen in just a single school, too. What better place to start than the school your kids go to? Ask questions, learn about academic standards and performance, and advocate change at the school level. Talk to the principal, staff, and even school district to find out how any concerns that you have may be adressed.
- Join parent groups:
One dissatisfied parent voice isn’t very loud, but many parents together can make a big difference. Across the country, parents are joining together to discuss and contribute to school reform. These groups can make a difference most notably at the local level: In California, non-profit parent group Parent Revolution was responsible for pushing through a law known as the "parent trigger," which gives parents power, through petition, to force failing schools to turn things around. Groups like this give parents authority and power to really make a difference, leveraging policy change and holding greater influence over school board elections.
- Support school reform groups:
Similar to parent groups, school reform groups bring the community together to advocate for school reform. With some groups, you can become involved in legislative change, others offer educational sessions for parents and more. Find out about school reform groups in your area to see if they offer resources that might help you and your children. If there are none? Consider starting one on your own.
- Speak up:
Even if you’re not a part of school reform groups (and especially if you are), make sure that your voice is heard. As a parent, your opinion is important. Speak with school administration, school district officials, and the school board about your concerns. Write to your local paper, and find other ways to get the media involved. Ask the media to do more reporting on local school systems. Chances are, you’re not the only one seeing problems and working for solutions. Be sure that your voice is a part of school reform so that your needs are met.
- Tell other parents that there’s something wrong:
While there are many parents speaking up about school reform, there are still many that are oblivious to problems in schools. A New American Media poll that surveyed 1,400 K-12 parents of students in southeastern states shows that although most of the states surveyed have very poor math scores, parents show no outrage or sense of urgency to bring about improvement and change. Bring the message of school reform to other parents, and ask them to get involved with you to improve education.
- Shop around for better schools:
As a parent, you can support schools that are getting it right. Although it may come with some cost, you’re not stuck with the public schools to which you’re currently zoned. Some families choose to move to areas with schools that offer better education, others prefer to pay for private school. Still other families take advantage of magnet schools, where students can qualify to learn at a campus that is outside of their area. Homeschooling is an option as well. Exercise your limited power of choice to send a message that you’ll only send your kids to schools that offer a quality of education that you’re happy with.
- Provide a stable home life:
Schools need improvement, there’s no denying that. But experts point out that schools aren’t completely to blame for the high rates of high school dropouts and low rates of college completion. In fact, more than 2/3 of those surveyed in a PublicEducation.org study believe that parents and home life are to blame for these problems. Parents must provide a stable home life for students to find success, offering support and openly discussing goals for future educational achievements.
- Get informed:
Be an informed, active participant in school reform. Learn about the important issues not just in your own school district, but the state and nation. Read articles, books, and news, even take part in meetings and conferences. You can even visit school staff development libraries to get access to educational publications like Educational Leadership and Education Week that can provide lots of insight.
- Find out what your kids think:
School reform is all about the children, isn’t it? So find out what exactly they think about problems, changes, and new reforms as they happen. They’re much more likely to give their parents the straight scoop than an stranger or informational survey. Share what your kids’ concerns and frustrations are: a child’s voice can be very powerful in educational reform.
- Take part in protests:
Education protests and rallies are happening in a variety of different states, and you can add your voice to them by joining your own local gathering, or supporting others far away. These can be a part of parent or community school reform groups, or independent. Whatever the source, keep your ear to the group to find out how you can participate and share your needs with the greater public.
Although you can make a difference as a regular citizen, politicians make many of the important decisions in education. Are you happy with the officials who hold the responsibility of your child’s education? Consider whether local, state, and national politicians are doing what you would like to see in education and vote accordingly.