Education Advocacy 101: For Parents

I have been talking to more and more parents lately about this blog and my mission behind it.

Most teachers I talk to just shake their heads, because they live this stuff day in and day out. I will write about how teachers can take a more active role soon, but I want to get the ball rolling with more parents first. Teachers have it easier since the ball has been rolling back and forth over them for years. *wink*

Here are some simple ways to start getting informed and involved in education reform.

1. Read

Read articles, blogs, and even do some research. It’s not hard to find information about education reform these days, since it is going through a total revolution right now. But always be skeptical of the source. It’s hard to find articles or blogs (including my own) without some sort of agenda. I like to read what both extremes have to say and then look for balanced pieces as well.

For example:

Try Googling all three:

  • What is the Common Core?
  • Stop the Common Core.
  • Common Core is the best.

2. Go to Board Meetings.

School Board Meetings are open to the public (not just the general meeting, but work sessions too) and must be publicized in more than one location. Some districts even videotape them, so that they may be accessed online from home. Though, I suggest going. Most meetings last under an hour and are held on the same weeknight every month.

At the meeting, you can just listen and get a feel for the different board members. It’s good to know where they stand so that you know who to contact that would be most helpful. Also, it helps you to make an informed choice during board elections.  It is important to understand that school board members are volunteers, and that they do not get paid for their service. However, they may have other aspirations such as a political career, that has led them to run for the position.

Every meeting has a printed agenda. During the meeting there are two opportunities for the public to speak. The first is specifically about items on that night’s agenda. The second, at the end of the meeting, can be about anything at all. I have attended countless meetings, and once you speak once it gets easier and easier.

These meetings handle everything from the budget, field trip approvals, curriculum, sports, buildings and grounds, and anything else school related. Sometimes there are special presentations as well.

3. Go to PTA/PTO Meetings

I am always amazed at how few parents attend PTA/PTO meetings. It is a great place to get involved in activities already going on at the school, but also  to suggest new ideas like science fairs, dances, fundraisers, field trips etc. PTA’s and PTO’s raise more money than most people think. Why not go and have a say in where those funds are used?

Also, the school principal attends and usually talks about things going on at school. It’s an opportunity to raise questions and concerns or to give positive feedback.

I wish that the PTA/PTO’s would get more involved in the education side of thinks. I would love to see more parents having a say in the types of curriculum and instruction being offered in the schools.

4. Social Media

I don’t know about your Facebook news feed, but mine was mostly filled with junk, well, and with cute pictures of my friends’ kids. Since starting this blog, I have really gotten into joining Facebook groups. Joining parent groups and education groups offers the chance to hear about what is going on in other districts across the state and the country. Often I come across excellent articles that help to keep me informed.

Some groups that I belong to:

  • Lace to the Top
  • Opt Out of Standardized Tests-New Jersey
  • NJ Parents Against High Stakes Testing
  • NYS Refuse the Tests (Though I do not live in NY anymore, I follow the stories out of NY closely, as their opt out movement is very strong.)

I have never been able to figure out Twitter, but I am sure you can find similar groups of people to follow who share solid articles.

I have been using WordPress for a few years and love to read other education blogs. It’s easy to find them by subject are through the tags writers put on their work (education, common core, testing, etc.).

5. Subscribe to my blog

Ok, a shameless plug, but I work hard to find time to write with my 4 kids demanding constant attention. It is free and since I purchased the domain name, no one will send you junk email. You will just get my posts directly into your inbox. I follow several blogs that way and have never had a problem.

I am a passionate advocate. As long as people keep reading, I will keep writing and trying to share insight into what is going on in the education world.  Please feel free to let me know any topics or questions you would like me to tackle in future posts.

Thanks!

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