New Parent Checklist Empowers Families

As a parent of two children in public schools, I appreciate how often I get updates on how they’re doing in school—sometimes as often as once a week! But it often leaves me wondering how my kids are stacking up against other kids their age in the district, state and country. And even as an employee at the Department of Education, I’m not always sure what questions I should be asking.

20150716-Parent-Check-List

This is why I’m excited about a new parent checklist we’re releasing today in collaboration with America Achieves, National Council of La Raza, National PTA, and the United Negro College Fund. The parent checklist includes questions and resources that parents and caregivers can use to help ensure their children are getting the education they deserve. The checklist suggests key questions, tips for educational success and resources for more information.

The checklist follows the set of rights that the Department recently released outlining what families should be able to expect for their children’s education. The rights follow the educational journey of a student—from access to quality preschool; to engagement in safe, well-resourced elementary and secondary schools that hold all students to high standards; to access to an affordable, quality college degree.

The checklist suggests these “key questions” that parents should pose to their child’s educators, including:

Quality: Is my child getting a great education?

  • How will you keep me informed about how my child is doing on a regular basis? How can we work together if my child falls behind?
  • Is my child on grade level, and on track to be ready for college and a career? How do I know?

Ready for Success: Will my child be prepared to succeed in whatever comes next?

  • How will you measure my child’s progress and ability in subjects including reading, math, science, the arts, social and emotional development, and other activities?
  • How much time will my child spend preparing for and taking state and district tests? How will my child’s teacher and I know how to use the results to help my child make progress?

Safe and Healthy: Is my child safe and cared for at school?

  • What programs are in place to ensure that the school is a safe, nurturing and positive environment? What are the discipline and bullying policies at the school?
  • Are the meals and snacks provided healthy? How much time is there for recess and/or exercise?

Great Teachers: Is my child engaged and learning every day?

  • How do I know my child’s teachers are effective?
  • How much time do teachers get to collaborate with one another?
  • What kind of professional development is available to teachers here?

Equity and Fairness: Does my child, and every child at my child’s school or program, have the opportunity to succeed and be treated fairly?

  • How does the school make sure that all students are treated fairly? (For example, are there any differences in suspension/expulsion rates by race or gender?)
  • Does the school offer all students access to the classes they need to prepare them for success, including English language learners and students with special needs (for example, Algebra I and II, gifted and talented classes, science labs, AP or IB classes, art, music)?

Check out the checklist for yourself.

Cameron Brenchley is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Communications at the U.S. Department of Education

7 Comments

  1. My granddaughter passed to 11 grade, I would like if possible arrangement in order of the amount students, could be less in the classroom, I think have to better to help them, to participated in the class focus group.

    I hope this year , all parents comes to the school to supported our kids , make a different, is necessary commitment to the school and participated on the meeting of program and we can see, how strong we can make from the school our community environment. Thanks.

  2. it is so difficult trying to keep up with what your child is doing at school – and more importantly, how they are doing and how they are developing and being prepared for life. An initiative like this is practical and worthwhile. Practical questions are important for both parents and educators. But it is important to remember that not every aspect of development will be able to be measured and quantified. Sometimes you have to judge through your heart or your gut feeling.

  3. Forgot one, “What activities are teachers doing to prepare my child to get a job in the future?” Are they going on job shadows? Is there community-based instruction available? Are careers discussed? This population is not getting jobs when they graduate from high school.

  4. The Parent Checklist is a Great idea to support parents as our educational partners.

  5. Please make sure to add a few very important questions:
    1. How many days per year is my child going to be tested using either district or state tests? How much of each day is taken?
    2. On days my child is tested, how will the rest of the day be used for learning without over taxing my child? How is that balance established?
    3. What is my child’s teacher(s) credentials for teaching? What is their experience? What other credentials have they pursued after they started teaching?
    4. How will my child’s teacher be supported by the school as far as mentoring and behavior supports so that I can be sure time spent in the classroom learning is maximized?
    5. If my child decides to opt out of mandated state and district testing, what can we expect will be the reaction and will my child be subjected to either punishment, isolation or remedial placement?

    These are important to know and very relevant to my child’s education. Thank you!

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