There is (rightly) so much discussion this week about how we, as Americans, can make the education system better for our children. Parents, let me remind you, we are the front line for our children and their education. The change starts with us.
In that vein, here are some ways you can advocate for a better education for your child:
1. Become informed. Learn about the quality of your children’s schools. Most states and school districts publish school report cards that show parents whether their child’s school is making the grade. There are also independent websites like SchoolDataDirect.org that grade schools.
2. Go to School. Talk to your child’s teacher and principal-they need to know that parents are paying attention and want to be active partners in the learning process.
3. Know your options. Find out whether your child has options to get a better education. Many school systems offer families the chance to transfer their children out of low-performing schools. Seek out options like open enrollment, charter schools, scholarship programs, and tutoring programs.
4. Talk to your friends and neighbors. You aren’t the only parent concerned about your child’s education. There is strength in numbers and parents who join together are in a better position to force positive change.
5. Create a parents’ union. Create regular meetings where other parents can come and share their concerns and devise a plan for pushing for reform. Many cities have community organizers and groups like “D.C. Parents for School Choice” that have succeeded in pushing school leaders and policymakers to give children better options.
6. Make your voice heard. Do your homework about the issues and the debates in your community and find your opportunity to make your voice heard in the discussion. That means going to school board meetings or talking to your elected representatives and sharing your concerns. Ask them their position on education reform issues-where do they stand on teacher accountability and expanding school choice programs, like charter schools and vouchers?
7. Tell your story. Write a letter to the editor, call a radio show, email a reporter or post your views on online message boards or websites. Let others know about the problems in your children’s school.
8. Become an informed voter. Study up on the issues and do your homework before going to the ballot box. While all politicians will say they are “for education,” you need to see past the talking points to find out which candidates support policies that will make a difference for your child.
**9. Remember that education starts at home*. You can and must be your child’s best teacher, so set an example, help with home work, and read to your child so that he or she has a bright future regardless of what happens in the local school.
10. Never give up. Your child’s education is worth fighting for. Parents across the country are proving that by making their voice heard and forcing positive change through real school reform initiatives. Fight with the confidence that you are doing everything you can to give your children and their peers a chance for a better future.