This week in the Huffington Post, Marc Rosenbaum points to the important role that parents play in their children’s education.

Research has consistently shown that a nurturing family environment is the key element in furthering a child’s academic performance as well as enhancing their social and emotional well-being.

Commenting on the documentary Waiting for Superman, Rosenbaum finds that the movie portrays a unique subset of parents that is actively engaged in their children’s education, while the vast majority of parents lack the empowerment to get involved. He determines personal intelligence to be an essential characteristic for empowerment, and defines it’s attributes in the following way:

being aware of habitual negative patterns of thought, behavior and communication and then making more positive choices as a way of better serving ourselves and others; being quiet inside and really listening as a way of being connected to our own as well as the feelings of others; living a life based on taking responsibility and being accountable for our experience at each moment rather than being a victim and blaming others.

One of the key attributes I read out of Rosenbaum’s remarks is that parents lack empowerment because they lack personal responsibility. IWF President, Michelle Bernard, recently published a 10 point list of how parents can begin education reform at home by taking personal responsibility to assuring a quality education for their children. (Find it here.)

Taking personal responsibility only works, though, if parents are institutionally empowered to assure the best possible education for their children. There is only so much influence parents can have on failing public schools when administrators cater to union-backed teachers who fight reform efforts that would make them accountable for student performance. Waiting for Superman, shares the story of a low-income mother who is very engaged in her son’s education and who is deeply frustrated by the unresponsiveness of the teacher and the school administration to her relentless requests to discuss her son’s reading performance.

School choice and vouchers are important outlets for frustrated parents and children that would otherwise be stuck in failing public schools. However, the ideological battle over education is holding these outlets back from serving more students and from placing competitive pressures for improvements on public schools. Only when parents are empowered to make choices in their children’s education will they be encouraged to become engaged.