What will you say when the parents of your students ask how to protect their child’s education? On February 7, 2017, Betsy DeVos was confirmed as America’s Education Secretary. Her platform has always been about school choice—a controversial free-market education method that allows public funds to be dispersed for private, parochial, and for-profit schools.
The parents of your students will have heard in the media that school choice uses public school funds to benefit mostly upper-middle class and wealthy families, leaving the most vulnerable students and schools in even worse shape. So you can expect to get some anxiety and questions about what can be done. Here are five actions designed to empower your parents to protect their child’s education regardless of the changing environment.
1. Be prepared.
First and foremost, make sure you share and explain everything their child needs in order to be successful in an academic program. Show them their child’s cumulative school file and any IEP or 504 records. Ask them if they know and understand what their child receives for services. Tell them they can ask as many questions as they feel necessary. You might even go so far as to suggest that they look into taking an advocacy course so they can learn how to advocate for their child’s education. There are inexpensive and sometimes even free advocacy courses online at Universal Class and at the Parent Educational Advocacy Training Center.
2. Read every day.
All research points to the fact that when children read every single day, they get better at everything. Tell parents to take advantage of their public libraries and neighborhood Little Free Libraries. When children have stacks of books around the house (even in the bathroom!), they are more likely to pick up a book and read. Show them how to follow bloggers who share theme based books to keep their book supply up to date.
3. Support local arts programs.
Studies have found that young people who consistently participate in comprehensive, sequential, and rigorous arts programs are more likely to be recognized for academic achievement, to be elected to class office within their schools, to participate in a math and science fair, to win an award for school attendance, and to win an award for writing an essay or poem. Share the Americans for the Arts with them so they can learn more about how to get involved.
4. Give kids experiences.
Teachers everywhere will tell you that the kids who have different experiences under their belts––ranging from going to animal refuge parks to becoming a food bank volunteer––come to school better prepared. One great idea for parents is to show their kids how to become local tourists. Children can learn so much from analyzing historical maps of their town to meeting local business owners.
5. Sign up for online courses.
If you know know their child is passionate about something and it isn’t being offered at school, there are hundreds of free or inexpensive courses to be found online. Creating a balance of educational activities and ideas will benefit each child in the long term and empower parents to give their child what he or she needs most. If you can find time in the day to let a child take a course at school, this might be a way to help parents without access to technology at home.
Tell parents that it’s a great idea to surf the internet to learn about different schooling situations. Remind them that they have some power in their child’s schooling situation. What do they agree with? What is right for their family/child? The more they learn about how great schools succeed, the better partner they can become in their child’s education.