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Taking control of your child's education

Tiernan McKay is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado. Her writing has appeared in magazines such as Alive!, Occupational Health and Safety, Restaurants and Institutions, Tampa Bay and Arizona Woman. Right now, she is either ridi...

California parents take over failing schools

Many parents feel helpless when it comes to correcting the problems in public education but some parents are taking control of their children’s learning environments and are literally taking over failing schools.

Education is definitely a hot topic in parenting circles. Your stance on the issue probably has a lot to do with the quality of your own child's education.

If you’re less than thrilled with your local school, you may be encouraged by a growing movement geared toward empowering parents to act on their concerns.

Parent Trigger Law

In January of 2010, the California legislature passed a ground-breaking law, the Parent Trigger, to address chronically failing schools. Essentially, this law gives parents the ability to demand change if their school is failing their children. The main requirements for action are low Academic Performance Index scores and demonstrated concern (in the form of a petition) from at least half of the school’s parents. While California was the first state to pass a law like this, several other states have followed suit by passing their own versions of the law, validating parents in their efforts to mobilize.

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The parent revolution

Parent Revolution is an organization created to support parents in their efforts to enact powerful change in their local schools. Their mission is: To transform public education based on what is good for children, not adults, by empowering parents to transform their under-performing schools through community organizing. Parent Revolution has been involved in a number of California campaigns including McKinley Elementary in Compton, Desert Trails Elementary in Adelanto and 24th Street Elementary in West Adams.

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Parent unions

Change in education can take many forms. In some cases, when parents band together in search of a common goal, remarkable change can be realized. As an example, parents of students at John Muir High School in Pasadena, California launched a campaign to help improve truancy rates which have been impacting academic performance. Rather than depend on the school administrators or teachers to stay on top of attendance, the parent union encourages other parents to closely monitor their children and encourage improved attendance.

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Take action

While Parent Revolution has assisted in "triggering" efforts throughout California, parents all over the country can certainly take action without the backing of a well-funded organization. If you are concerned about your child’s school, there are several steps you can take to instigate change:

  • Identify the problem(s). Is the district mismanaging funds? Are teachers pushing kids through without truly teaching them? Is administrative drama distracting from educating? Try to pinpoint the problem, from your perspective, so that you can articulate your concerns.
  • Talk to other parents. Reach out to friends and other moms to see if they share your concerns.
  • Organize. Don’t just talk about your concerns, activate! Gather with concerned moms and brainstorm ideas. How can you instigate positive change that is in the best interest of your children? Go to the administration first, but be prepared to go beyond the school office.
  • Participate in school board meetings. Your school board works for you and their meetings are a platform for parents to share their thoughts — or even vent. Don’t expect board members to embrace change immediately, but plant the seed and then be ready to work, work, work. It may seem daunting, but your child’s education is surely worth it.

More about education

Top ways parents can support classroom success
Homeschool: Why are so many parents choosing it?
The politics of parent-teacher organizations

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