How to advocate for your child
Shekerjian, O.
Parent Power
Center for Education Reform
Vol. 3, No. 5
August 2001

Everywhere we turn, parents are encouraged to be more responsible for their children's education. Most educators would agree, minimally, this means sending our children to school ready to learn, with a good night's rest, and a belly full of breakfast. Being responsible for our children's education also means advocating for them when a problem occurs at school. This article by Onnie Shekerjian offers help with advocacy. It includes 10 simple tips for parents. Each tip includes a brief description of how to implement it in action.

Everywhere we turn, parents are encouraged to be more responsible for their children's education. Most educators would agree, minimally, this means sending our children to school ready to learn, with a good night's rest, and a belly full of breakfast. Being responsible for our children's education also means advocating for them when a problem occurs at school.

Whether it's a bully on the playground or a poor classroom performance, parents can be more effective when they have a strategy -- rather than letting their emotions get the best of them. Here are ten simple steps for parents to follow when a problem arises at school.

1. Define and examine your concerns
Do your homework. It is critical to collect all the facts and articulate the problem clearly to be believable. Does this problem involve other children? If so, consider involving other parents in this process. There is credibility in numbers.

2. Develop possible solutions
This sets a positive tone indicating you want to work in partnership with the school to resolve the problem; you're not merely complaining, but offering potential solutions.

3. Prepare a written document
To an extent, the education system has forced school personnel into the role of bureaucrats and their language is paper. Having a written document makes the school take your concerns seriously. The document should contain a list of your issues, potential solutions and questions. The tone should reflect your desire to work positively with the school.

4. Meet with the teacher
Make an appointment with the teacher. Consider having your spouse or a friend accompany you for support. Inform the teacher who to expect at the meeting.

5. Approach the meeting with a positive attitude
Leave your emotions outside the meeting room. Negative behavior will only discredit your message; your behavior must stay above reproach. Using your document as the basis for the meeting's agenda, keep an open mind and don't be afraid to ask questions.

6. Define the next step
At the end of the meeting ask:

  • What is the next step?
  • Who will be responsible for that step?
  • When (a date) will the next step occur?

This step is crucial; it keeps the meeting from being merely a gripe session and increases the likelihood of a positive outcome. Leave a copy of your written document with the teacher.

7. Document events
Keep a record of all meetings and phone calls including dates and people involved along with your initial document and any letters. Politely informing the school you are documenting the events lets the school know you are serious.

8. Follow the chain of command
If you and the teacher are unable to resolve the problem, go to the next link in the chain of command. Usually the chain of command looks like this: teacher, principal, superintendent, school board member. Use steps 1 - 7 with each person on the chain.

9. Consider all your educational options
If your children's school is unwilling to work with you to resolve the problem, look at the educational choices parents have in your state. Parents now have more free choices than ever before including: public charter schools, limited private school vouchers or other district schools. Contact your state's education department to learn more about your options.

10. Never forget, you are responsible for the education of your children
You are the only constant from kindergarten through college in your children's education. There is no guarantee any educational system will ensure your children's educational needs are met; ultimately, it's your responsibility. Don't abdicate that responsibility to your children's schools; delegate and oversee it. Your children's futures depend on it.


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Comments

Contributed by: Parent on 6/8/2004
I found this article very useful as a quick reference.

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