The Role of the K-12 Parent

Increasingly, parents are playing a role in the transformation of schools and school districts. In cities across the country and in many states, parents and parent groups are forming coalitions, lobbying lawmakers, creating new schools, and generally bringing about change in the K-12 education landscape. And yet, many parents remain on the sidelines of their children's education.

The Commentaries and multimedia below offer different perspectives on the changing nature of parent empowerment and the role that family engagement can play in student achievement. This Commentary special section is supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.

Education Week asked readers on Twitter: What is the role of the K-12 parent? Above are the responses analyzed as a word cloud which gives greater prominence to words that appear more frequently.


The Pathway From Fortress School to Partnership School

What does a school that shuts out families look like? What are the defining characteristics of a school that is fully engaged in partnerships with families? This illustration explores those questions.

Anne T. Henderson (content author) co-authored Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships (The New Press, 2007) with Karen L. Mapp, Vivian Johnson, and Don Davies, upon which this graphic Commentary is based. She is the senior consultant for community organizing and engagement at the Annenberg Institute for School Reform in New York City.

Bob Dahm (illustrator) is an assistant professor of design at the school of architecture and design at American University of Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. His illustrations have appeared in many publications, including Education Week.


The Education Week Commentary editors asked a range of authors to weigh in on this issue, including policymakers, parent advocates, researchers, and educators.

Why I Wrote a Parent-Trigger Law

Retired California legislator Gloria Romero explains her reasons for writing the first so-called parent-trigger law in the nation.

Great Teaching Draws in Families

It's imperative for schools and policymakers to work with teachers to include family-involvement strategies and practices, Steven Sheldon says.

Parents Can Inform Meaningful School Change

When it comes to assessing school options for their children, parents must ask the right questions and stay informed, Karran Harper Royal writes.

Missing: A National Education Policy for Low-Income Families

When it comes to transforming public education, poor families wield the least power even as their children attend the lowest-performing schools, writes Arnold F. Fege.

Infographic: What Do Parents Want?

In an online survey of 2,000 parents in 2012 and subsequent "What Parents Want" report, officials from the Washington-based Thomas B. Fordham Institute applied market-research principles to parents' priorities for schools. Explore the findings.


Connecting School and Home: Supporting Parents to Build Student Achievement

Last fall, the school of education at Mercy College opened the Bronx Parent Center, where professors are training parents to play a more active role in their children's schooling. In its first year, the center served close to 600 parents. PS 85 is one of two public elementary schools in the Bronx that is partnering with the Dobbs Ferry, N.Y.-based college to offer parent-engagement support. Workshops teach parents strategies for helping their children build academic, behavioral, and social skills. The program continues to expand, and the college hopes to triple the number of parents they work with this school year.

Video by Melanie Burford.


Empowering Parents to Transform Schools

Nov. 15 at 2 p.m. ET

Arnold F. Fege, Karran Harper Royal, and Alberto Retana will explore how schools and school districts can engage parents and families, particularly those in underserved communities, to increase student motivation and achievement. Register now >

Vol. 33, Issue 11