‘Parent Power Index’ Rates States on Certain Criteria

By Michele Molnar — September 18, 2012 2 min read
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A new Parent Power Index (PPI), an interactive online tool released Sept. 17 by the Center for Education Reform (CER), aims to show parents how much influence they have over certain aspects of their children’s education in their state, compared to parents in other states.

To create its index, the CER team used a select group of indicators that reflect the organization’s pro-charter position. The criteria include: charter schools, school choice, teacher quality, transparency, and the availability of online learning, among others. On the index, CER’s definition of “parent power” is that “parents have access to quality educational options and are provided with good information to make smart decisions about their children’s education.”

States are ranked from #1 (Indiana) to #51 (Montana), with the District of Columbia (#5) evaluated separately.

In the Parent Power Index, whether a state has a “Parent Trigger Law” is indicated in a highly visible box—either checked for “Yes” or crossed out for “No"—in the upper right corner of every state’s page. The index also lists as an indicator “pro-reform governor,” with a “Yes” or “No” in a similar box just beneath it.

On the left of each state’s page is a listing of Fast Facts, including that state’s graduation rate, average SAT and ACT scores, 4th and 8th grade NAEP math and reading scores, per pupil funding, and public school enrollment.

Another scorecard attached to the Parent Power Index is “Media Reliability,” which rates how media cover K-12 education in that state, and recommendations about the most and least reliable media. This report is generated by The Media Bullpen, which is described as “an entirely separate, editorially independent division of the Center for Education Reform” that monitors education coverage with a team of reporters who use baseball metaphors to make calls on the accuracy of the news media.

Commenting on the launch of the index, CER President Jeanne Allen said in a release, “Parents want and deserve power over their child’s education, and most states do a poor job of providing it. The Parent Power Index represents the first time someone has quantified for parents how much power they do or don’t have over their child’s education. And just as important, PPI educates parents on how to use the power they do have as well as how to get more.”

Not everyone agrees that the criteria used for “parent power” are representative.

“What I know as a mother of eight children in New York City, and an educational advocate for 10 years who has conversations with parents all around the country, is that their definition of ‘parent power’ is not our definition of ‘parent power,’” said Zakiyah Ansari, advocacy director the Alliance for Quality Education of New York."Fifteen years of organizing in New York City, that’s parent power.”

Ansari said CER is “pushing their agenda” by creating this index and then aligning it with the movie “Won’t Back Down” in the organization’s announcement about the index. The Hollywood-produced film, inspired by the “parent-trigger” movement, has gained widespread publicity and screenings at both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions. It is set for release on Sept. 28.

Check out the index for yourself, and let us know what you think.

A version of this news article first appeared in the K-12 Parents and the Public blog.