Your child has a right to attend and succeed in a great public school. Regardless of income, ethnicity, family circumstances, disability or school readiness, all children are entitled to an education that will help them reach their full academic, professional and personal potential.
As a parent or guardian, you are the best advocate for ensuring this happens.
The importance of a hands-on approach
While all parents want their child to do well in school, many don’t realize that personally monitoring and guiding their child’s education has a huge impact on academic success. In fact, playing this role has never been more important.
Today’s high school graduates face a highly competitive global economy, which favors workers with greater education and training than their parents had.
Whether your child wants to be in education, finance, politics, art, science, manufacturing or virtually any profession, technology and the rapid pace of societal change have upped the minimum skills required.
It is your moral and legal right to demand a rigorous, high-quality education that enables your child to thrive in the world. This includes insisting on:
Up-to-date textbooks and technology
The quality of the resources available in your school is a good indicator of how much administrators and the school board are investing in keeping up with modern education and workforce demands.
Examine your child’s school books and ask for new or replacement books if necessary. Tour the school to see what type of technology exists.
Make sure there are computers available for student use in the classroom or library. Ask about audio-visual equipment for incorporating digital media into instruction and school activities.
A safe and nurturing learning environment
Unfortunately, too many districts have allowed school buildings to deteriorate or failed to upgrade them to reflect safety and technological advances, and accommodate increases in student enrollment.
The ideal learning environment includes small classes with a low teacher-to-student ratio.
School buildings should be welcoming and well-maintained, with a modern cafeteria and gymnasium, hygienic restrooms, a well-stocked library with a librarian and a wellness room with a full time nurse.
Parents and communities must hold politicians accountable for providing the funding needed to keep local public schools in excellent condition.
Strong parent teacher communication
As a parent, you know your child better than anyone else. Share your child’s strengths, weaknesses or any special concerns with teachers, so they can adapt lessons to match your child’s interests and learning style.
The more teachers know about your child’s daily life, language and culture, the more meaningful they can make classroom experiences. Attend parent-teacher conferences. Contact your child’s teacher whenever you have questions or concerns.
Engagement in your school community, like when you join your student’s PTA or PTSA, sit in on a class, or volunteer for a field trip has a benefit for your child and others in the school too.
The important thing is to stay connected, so you can advocate for your child.
Transparency around learning objectives and tests
Public schools should clearly set and communicate expectations to both parents and students.
You should know the learning objectives at the beginning of each new class and school year, as well as how and when your child will be evaluated against those objectives (through both routine classroom tests, projects, and/or state standardized assessments).
Under the Every Student Succeeds Act, schools are required to notify parents about their child’s test results, whether the test was administered by the school or a supplemental provider. And raw data is not sufficient.
Don’t be afraid to ask for an interpretation of your child’s scores, information on how the scores will be used and advice on how to help your child do better if needed. Also make sure that tests are not the only criteria being used to judge your child’s performance.
Ask the teacher what percentage of your child’s grade is determined by tests vs. homework, class participation and other factors. (See our brochure “Testing at Your Child’s School” for more.)
Information on school performance
Ask your school for up-to-date information about its academic standing, graduation rates and students’ access to advanced coursework compared to others in your district or state.
They are required by law to provide this data. If your school has fallen behind, hold your politicians accountable for more funding, specialized staff, teacher training and other resources.
Check your state’s board of education website regularly to stay on top of issues that impact access to quality education.
When schools set high expectations, students work harder and aim higher because they learn to believe in themselves and their future.
Make sure the school is communicating its expectations in a format that makes sense to, and inspires, your child.
Access to services and activities, regardless of language or income
Schools should offer communications in your family’s native language, whether in print, online or in person.
All students should have access to school-linked social services, lunch programs and remedial education if needed.
And extracurricular activities should be open to all. If your child is having trouble finding or gaining access to an activity, be their advocate. Contact the school, ask questions and know your rights.