“Raise the Bar: Lead the World” is the U.S. Department of Education’s call to action to transform P-12 education and unite around what truly works. Raising the bar means recognizing that our nation already has what it takes to continue leading the world. Through initiatives such as the Parent Empowerment Pop-Ups, which are interactive sessions in which parents and representatives from the Department of Education have the opportunity to meet in-person, we are creating opportunities to harness the human and social capital of parents across the nation by inviting them to play a leading role in creating effective and sustainable support systems to meet student needs. Our efforts anchor in the belief that parents desire what is best for their children and are willing and eager to support the dreams of students.
We understand that we must walk alongside the caregivers, educators, and community organizations that nurture students daily in order to be impactful. For this reason, we have hosted Parent Empowerment Pop-Ups in venues ranging from a recreation center at the heart of an inner-city neighborhood in Mississippi to a community meeting space on Shoshone-Bannock tribal land in Idaho. By meeting parents where they are, we remove barriers for participation and encourage parents not only to take a seat at the table, but also to guide the conversation.
By design, Parent Empowerment Pop-Ups incorporate key discussion topics such as family-school partnerships, learning recovery, and school safety into a town hall style meeting that shifts power from policy creators to parents. The Pop-Ups also feature design thinking activities meant to encourage organic dialogue between parents and Department of Education officials. We found that this combination of a guided and free-form structure encourages parents to share relevant stories, openly speak about underlying complexities, and propose thoughtful recommendations.
In Atlanta, Georgia, parents prioritize creating a safe learning ecosystem that embraces fathers who desire to support their kids’ educational journey. They advocate for more frequent and authentic communication from educational institutions. In Biloxi, Mississippi, parents suggest that life skills be incorporated in curriculum, and express empathy towards educators, whom they believe need to receive more emotional support and be empowered to teach beyond the test. In Dallas, Texas, when tasked with one of the signature activities featured in every Pop-Up which involves redesigning the education landscape in 30 minutes, parents drafted impressive mission statements and proposed innovative ideas. Their recommendations center around providing more exposure opportunities for students to learn about professional careers, equipping staff to better serve all students, especially those with disabilities. In Fort Hall, Idaho, when tasked with the same challenge, parents proposed a curriculum that embedded their native language and traditions to equip their youth with pride in their heritage. They also focused on opportunities to create more equitable educational outcomes by leveraging the nuances of their community as strengths. In Kansas City, Missouri, parents desire the opportunity to be treated as teaching partners; they want to be trained, developed, and empowered to support student learning at home.
The Department of Education is grateful for the trust and partnership that parents, caregivers, and educators have exhibited at each Pop-Up. We are committed to elevate and amplify the themes and ideas that have been captured throughout this initiative as we continue to raise the bar and work together to help students achieve their dreams.