To the Editor:
I write in regard to the recent article “ESSA May Offer Megaphone for Parent, Community Voice.” Too often, parental involvement is just a facade, giving the false impression of full engagement. Examples of this include parent councils that are used to “speak for” parents, or in some cases, school councils that are reserved for parents. The reality is that such councils cannot represent every parent because, like students, all parents are different. And each will have a different opinion.
One way to increase true parental involvement is to have existing parent-empowerment councils survey parents within a school on a regular basis. These surveys, however, cannot be the typical general surveys that are designed to pacify parents. These must be open and honest surveys focusing on crucial issues important to the functioning of the school as a whole.
There are several issues that are crucial to a quality parent survey: The survey must be short, with five or six questions relative to a specific issue. The survey must be preceded by sufficient information to allow parents to make quality decisions about their answers. And finally, the survey must be designed in the classroom with the full participation of students. In this way, surveys can be given to parents by their children as part of a classroom project to assure every parent has input.
Survey results could then be compiled by students in cooperation with their school’s parent-empowerment council. Then, not only would the information from the surveys be utilized, but administrators, through the parent-empowerment council, could demonstrate how the information is utilized, what decisions were made as a result of the surveys, and why those decisions were made. Of course, this is only one piece of the parent-empowerment puzzle.
When we truly empower parents, then and only then will schools become a guiding light for the community.
Eldon “Cap” Lee
A version of this article appeared in the April 20, 2016 edition of Education Week as Students and Administrators Could Increase Parent Involvement by Working Together