Empowering Parents in Full Partnership

As Secretary Duncan has said, “I want all parents to be real partners in education with their children’s teachers…Parents can serve in at least one of three roles: Partners in learning; advocates and advisors who push for better schools; and decision-makers who choose the best educational options for their children.”

Parent Teacher ConferenceED recently held a Northwest parent forum to help empower parents and to allow parents to share strategies and experiences regarding their successful education partnerships. The forum, a first for Seattle, Wash., took place at Cleveland High School in Seattle, with the support of Seattle Public Schools, the Seattle Alliance of Black School Educators and the ED’s Northwest regional office. 

Some of the tips for a successful education partnership include:

    • Become a class parent. You’ll develop a closer relationship with the teacher and will get an inside look into what goes on in the classroom, usually without having to commit a ton of time.
    • Invite the teacher to visit your home for tea or coffee or just to say hello.
    • Find out the best way to communicate with your child’s teacher, and keep in touch by phone and/or email as much as possible.

Almost 200 parents, community and faith-based representatives and school district personnel attended the forum.  The forum included a diverse audience made possible by Seattle School District interpreters for Somali, Spanish and Vietnamese, among other languages.

The forum provided training, resources and encouragement to parents seeking to help their child achieve, as well as ideas for parent’s to effectively communicate with teachers and administrators. Presenters shared past examples of parental engagement that successfully bridged the gap between parents, students, teachers and schools, including some first-hand examples of their own children’s school communities. 

 Above all, the day-long forum reminded parents that their voice and action are ensuring that children have access to a world-class education that prepares them for success in the knowledge economy.  They left resolved to meet the need and opportunity to work in tandem with schools, recognizing that alone, neither of the partners could be entirely effective.

Linda Pauley

Linda is a Public Affairs Specialist in ED’s Seattle Regional Office.


  1. The kind of partnership prescribed here applies especially urgently to parents of kids with disabilities like dyslexia, visual impairment and other learning differences. When there is a reading disability in the family, parents are often overwhelmed by the time they must spend reading to their children, helping them navigate through homework for many more hours than it takes for kids in the mainstream. Fostering more effective partnerships with educators who understand the nature of learning differences and the accommodations that can help these children to succeed is critical. Organizations like Learning Ally (http://LearningAlly.org) work to provide students with assistive technology and accessible digital audiobook materials that ease the burden for parents and foster a more fluid connection to the core curriculum — speeding the shift from learning to read to reading to learn. While there’s no substitute for support starting at home, families of kids with learning differences need accommodation and full partnership from an education system that understands the ins and outs of how different kids learn differently.

  2. Aside from teachers, Parents spend more time with their children throughout the school year than any other individuals. It is essential that learning occurs throughout a child’s life, not just during the 6-8 hours they spend doing school-related activities. Parents can help the learning process simply by getting involved, like these parents in Seattle are. It is rare that there is a high performing student who doesn’t have support from home. It is also less likely that an unmotivated student has lots of support from home. That is not to say that parents make or break their child’s chances of success, but their help and support can only benefit the student. Kudos to all parents who want to be an active participant in their child’s education!

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