I'm 100% Here for a Parent's Bill of Rights

Oct 19, 2017 12:00:00 AM


In the world of public education that has now turned into a political arena for unions, school boards, state capitols, and education reformers, parents often find themselves outside the ring with no clue whom to root for and a limited understanding of the rules.

And in their exclusion, they find themselves discouraged and powerless, leaving all decisions up to others. But in actuality, parents are the greatest stakeholders in education and must be acknowledged as such. 

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.  In addition to that core 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 and incorporate advocacy together.

1. 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 your child's overall success.  Much of their success relies on how well the parents and school work together.

If you find yourself in week four of the new school year and have yet to receive a phone call or letter from the principal and teachers introducing themselves or an invitation to a back-to-school event, treat that as a red flag in the parent-school relationship.

The school should always try to reach out and introduce themselves as part of an effort to initiate a collaborative relationship, especially if they’re truly interested in parent engagement.

Parents should also feel welcome and know what’s going on in the school at all times. The school should communicate regularly about academic progress and testing dates and host events that encourage and support students' social-emotional growth.

2. 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 because you are their best advocate. 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, join your child’s class to observe, and always have a handle on what’s happening.

3. 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 to work in your best interest. Your best interest is your child, meaning you have the right to have your voice heard regarding their education.

Too many parents feel their voice won’t make a difference, but they’re wrong. Other parents often feel the same, share concerns, and seek a safe and supportive space to express themselves. All it takes is for a conversation to get started to discover those mutual interests; 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.

4. 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), Parents Action Councils (PAC), elected or appointed school boards, and other platforms for parents to participate in education policy decision-making. If your school or district is underperforming or ignoring your family's needs, use your voice to promote action—an action that can determine who leads your schools, districts, and communities.

Rally that collective voice, encourage people to join these platforms, and vote in elections that support prioritizing your family and others like you. These are extremely valuable tenets often taken for granted by administrators, school districts, and policymakers but are under-utilized by parents.

Parent voice has been largely excluded from the public education conversation, but organizations are working to ensure their voices aren’t silenced. Thanks to TNTP, parents now have supplemental resources that will equip them to fight in the ring. Parents, never forget that you are your child’s greatest advocate, and you have the power to impact the quality of their education.

Tanesha Peeples

Tanesha Peeples is driven by one question in her work—“If not me, then who?” As the former Deputy Director of Activist Development for brightbeam, Tanesha merges the worlds of communications and grassroots activism to push for change in the public education system. Her passion for community and relentless mission for justice and liberation drive her in uplifting and amplifying the voices and advocacy of those that are often ignored. Tanesha wholeheartedly believes that education is the foundation for success. Her grand vision is one where everyone—regardless of ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender or ZIP code—can have access to a comfortable quality of life and enjoy the freedoms and liberties promised to all Americans. And that's what she works towards every day.

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