Advocacy Guide for Parents

Are you ready to help make a change in your community? You can demand more from your schools and politicians. If you are committed to quality education as a civil right, you can begin to help all children realize the dream by taking one or more of the following action steps:

1. Know Your Community: Research

Get the facts: View the state and national education report cards on this website. You can also find information on your local school district and individual schools.

Find education advocates in your state: You can find local education advocacy organizations on the website for the Access Network, a national education reform organization.

Best Practices: Visit the Minority Student Achievement Network, a coalition of school districts dedicated to ensuring high academic standards for children of color.

2. Contact Other Parents

Some of the people who know the most about your school district are local parents. Host a house party at your home, faith institution, or community center to discuss with parents what they like about the local public schools and what concerns or worries them. Your local school or superintendent's office should have the name and contact information for local parent leaders. Or find your local PTA on the PTA's national search engine.

3. Volunteer Your Time

To gain a better understanding of the successes and challenges faced by your local public schools, become a volunteer. To find out about volunteer opportunities in your community, contact your local school or superintendent's office; or visit Idealist.org, a national clearinghouse of information on local non-profits and related volunteer opportunities.

4. Know Your School System: Take A Tour

Coordinate a group of parents, students, faith leaders, and community activists for tours of schools in a cross-section of the community. Make sure you visit schools in affluent, predominantly white neighborhoods, as well as lower-income, high-minority neighborhoods.

  • Make it a goal to tour a few elementary, middle, and high schools.
  • Make sure to take photos to compare and contrast the facilities.
  • Ask teachers their educational background, number of years of teaching, and their recommendations about how to improve the local educational system (keep it confidential to get the most candid responses).
  • Compare and contrast the amount of financial resources the PTA contributes to individual schools.
  • Coordinate a time for people who visited different schools to meet to talk through the differences they saw.
  • Designate one or two people to compile your research data.

5. Know Your Local School Board: Attend a Meeting

To find out what education reform policies are being considered in your local community, attend a school board meeting. Most local boards hold regular meetings that are open to the public.

To find out more information, contact the school board or the local superintendent's office listed in the government pages of your phone book, check the school district's website, or go to the National School Board Association website to find state associations of school boards.

6. Talk to the Media

  • Most local newspapers have a beat reporter who is assigned to education and school reform issues. Call or visit the paper to get the name of the education reporter.
  • Use the programs and recommendations on this website to craft a story about the kinds of education reforms that your local public schools should have. Consider all sources of media to pitch your story idea, including local television, radio, and print media serving diverse communities.
  • Draft an opinion piece or letter to the editor for the local newspaper.
  • If you have toured a cross section of public schools in your area, share your findings with local media.
  • Order copies of the Multimedia CD and share it with your local media.

7. Let Children be Seen and Heard

Through local schools, faith institutions, and other community organizations, invite students from a diverse group of local schools to talk about their experiences, impressions, and ideas on education reform. In some communities, local school boards have a student delegate or student liaison. Encourage students to write letters to the editor addressing what they like and dislike about their schools.

8. Spread the Word

Order copies of the Multimedia CD and make copies for your friends, school leaders, and local politicians to show them the type of programs you want in your community. In addition, you can check this website regularly for education news and new opportunities for involvement in the education reform debate.