Educational Checklist for Parents & Community Stakeholders, 2017
 ​​A few years ago, the results from a Public Agenda survey disclosed that most U.S. parents do not know the names of their school officials --- such as the name of their local superintendent or the names of their school board members.
Findings from another Public Agenda survey discovered that most U.S. parents do not know what school officials do nor do they understand "the key factors affecting public education quality --- even though:  " 65% of parents do
wish that they were doing more to support their children's education  in comparison to only 34 percent of parents who state that they are satisfied with the way things are.” 
But did any of these surveys address what  U.S. school representatives did or did not do to expose parents and community stakeholders to a "framework for knowledge building" linked to their information dissemination and knowledge utilization needs? Did they ask the parents and community members if the state, district or school representatives circulated an identifiable, easy to use tool, method or technique to improve  their educational awareness-building efforts (overall)? Did the state, district and school representatives have a proven track record in building, on a regular basis, genuine collaborative partnerships with stakeholders to ensure that all parties
were --- and would always be --- members of legitimate, inclusive school communities?
Having access to this type of information is always tied to the most effective training programs for it  sets the stage for programming at the systemic level of analysis, a requirement that must be met if parents and community stakeholders are to work collaboratively with school officials and teachers in supporting student achievement. For instance, when school partnerships are built on something as simple as a commitment to address power imbalances in schools, it shows and proves that certain difficult discussions have taken place that center on the structures and processes that support and promote transparency, accountability, responsiveness, fairness, equality, inclusivity, etc. When parents and community stakeholders are also encouraged to ask the questions that will help them to  better understand and contribute to the decisions and actions that will lead to effective school governance, it proves that school communities have made a "good faith effort" to actually move beyond school-based superficial relationships.

By moving beyond these superficial relationships parents and community stakeholders are addressing the age old belief that talk is cheap, especially when parents and community stakeholders are  talked "at" rather than "with" by school educators ---while the preferences of lobbyists and special interest groups are given their full attention, in word and deed. In fact, far too many educators remain complicit in promoting inequitable practices by remaining silent about social injustice in schools based on their own acquiescence or contributing acts. If they did care about conditions in schools, they would have identified long ago the reason(s) why some children lack school-based resources while other children do not (in the same district) and, in the process, understand the urgency or importance of "critical priorities or explicit priority-setting" focusing on the effective implementation of policies tied to positive student outcomes.  

These crucial steps, at their root,  according to some parent educators require a type of "deep-level knowledge (that they say parents cannot handle or do not need or want ), which is linked with understanding, flexibility, evaluation, and critical judgment (De Jong & FergusonHessler, 1996) rather than superficial or surface-level knowledge, which is linked with rote learning, reproduction, and inflexibility (Glaser, 1991)." But  do these steps also originate from and depend on a type of built-in, inherent sense of morality that makes it possible to recognize and understand fairness and equality (with all humans in mind), a type of morality incentivized by a deep need to ensure that all students are placed in a position to succeed rather than to fail?  Recognizing this distinction (between succeeding and failing) is useful for obvious reasons but especially if educators  understand that "all" children "depend on a foundation of safe, stable, and nurturing relationships and environments in educational settings ." This moral obligation shows up when educators make every effort to create and build e ffective enabling environments that lead to the legitimacy and  buy-in of overall educational decisions. What parents and community stakeholders, must, however, understand is that if educators do not possess these moral qualities or fail to  identify the protective factors associated with school-based settings or fail to recognize school-based structural racism --- this role is assigned to them by default --- or the role simply remains vacant even if they do not know it, etc.

Parents and community stakeholders then have a huge part to play in supporting and promoting excellence and equity in schools. Their demands keep equality in focus. Their demands keep school reform efforts tied to transparency and accountability ---- and on the needs of all students, especially low income students as well  (something educational experts have not done well  since the passage of ESEA, 1965).  Their demands determine what issues and concerns are important when it comes to fairness and equality (i.e., high standards tied to a research-based curriculum for alll students, teacher and leader accountability results for parents, etc.) or what leadership capacities they need to build to ensure that they are targeting  real life school-based issues that school administrators or special interest groups may or may not acknowledge.

For instance, when parents and community stakeholders decide to focus on "the pertinent ways" in which school representatives, currently, support  --- or even impede and ignore equity and fairness  concerns at the state, district and local levels they are also underscoring the genuine moral obligation that school leaders must keep in mind when they address the educational needs of students. Given these facts, parents and community stakeholders must ensure that they remain up-to-date  on programming that works and why it works.  This goal includes questioning school leaders who announce that they have a new plan in place  without explaining how the new plan will address the problems or lessons learned associated with the old plan --- otherwise it just might be the old plan in disguise or  called by another name. 

From this stance, parents and  community stakeholders  must always expect school leaders to explain (in-depth) their final action plan or their actionable goals, deliverables and implementation timelines --- even if they attended community meetings where it was discussed. They must  expect the new plan (or any plan) to entail how the plan will be funded and when --- or to "delineate budget execution tasks" overall.  Parents and community stakeholders must know who will be served and where or if "all" or some of the  students will be served and when. They must know who will be trained to implement the plan or if some or "all" of the teachers and administrators will be trained, how they will be trained and/or  if the training goals were explained, shared and achieved (based on a time frame) that are tied to high quality standards --- for with every new plan there must be an evaluation report explaining if the training program was effective.  (Note: If they say they are addressing equity concerns or racial equity issues these goals, too should be " located at the core forming part of the mission statement and programmatic goals of all who are active " in organizing the plan.)

If school leaders ignore all of these steps and merely talk about addressing the achievement gap their plan is nothing more than the same old, same old political talking points that are useful for political "meeting to meet" gatherings, only --- but nothing more. On the other hand,  if they explain their fully funded action plan, along with data on how it will be successfully implemented, tracked, monitored, evaluated and shared (on a regular basis) complete with implementation insights then the information needs of stakeholders will be taken seriously. In this light, all school leaders must know and understand that it is their duty to ensure that all stakeholders understand how change is or is not happening. They must know and understand that as public servants, teacher performance tied to student results will always be important to the public and that stakeholders must understand how  best practices are identified and incorporated in all school governance efforts. They must also remain up-to-date about  implementation goals (including the who, when, where, what, why) focusing on improvement efforts tied to student attendance rates, graduation rates and performance results. Furthermore, they must always ask about and expect the timely dissemination of reporting and compliance data that stakeholders need and must have to make decisions on behalf of children. These efforts, of course, move beyond the familiar practice of simply promoting speeches and talking points that sound great but, in essence, lack the substance or proof that students are actually being served.  (For instance, under President Clinton only two states had action plans in place to address the achievement gap but  this fact was never widely disseminated or shared with U.S. parents.) 
Our checklist then is a starting point for parents and community members who want to be taken seriously by all school representatives. Respecting this democratic goal, however,  begins with an awareness of what parents and community stakeholders want and do not want from school officials.  First of all, they do not want school officials to speak on their behalf. This means that they do not  want manufactured or cosmetic-type school information handed to them after educational decisions have already been made --- at the national, state and local levels. These stakeholders, instead, want to explore and discuss real issues, in a timely manner and at a deeper level where the answers and solutions exist for all public school students, not just some. They want to debate subjects from a systemic level of analysis by supporting “shared spaces where knowledge is created, exchanged and used,”  they want access to opportunity spaces where they can actively contribute to the conversations about effective and proven solutions  for student success.  
From this perspective, opportunities abound for the 65% of American parents who wish to support their children's education. For instance, they can collaborate with other parents and community stakeholders  by embarking on a journey that leads to "doing more" for public school children --- by  "learning more" about the public education system.  And, if they stay the course and remain committed to the public school system, they will also find that they are the participants whose wishes have, indeed, come true based on their very own involvement in creating new opportunities for change to happen --- opportunities that include  becoming a part of a world class "inclusive"
public  education community in the making. . . . (For more information on this subject, please read our current blog that's entitled: The Purpose of Parent Engagement Programs by clicking here .)
Creating a Culture of Inquiry:
Questions for Knowledge Creation, Exchange & Use
(Please check yes or no after reading each question and then discuss your answers with other stakeholders. For a print-ready copy of the questionnaire, please contact us by email at or by phone at 202-534-1754. 
1. ____ Yes ____ No
I developed, along with other stakeholders and in partnership with school representatives, the written parent involvement policy, which was disseminated to everyone in our school community.
2. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the terms of engagement for parent and community stakeholder involvement  at the national, state, district and school levels, including the roles for parents and community stakeholders in public school communities and as members of advisory councils.  
3. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the different types of interactions between educational representatives and parents/community stakeholders, including how these interactions are defined, supported and promoted. For instance, I understand how advisory, consultative and partnership interactions as well as collaborations (operational), policy deliberations and dialogues --- are defined, supported and promoted. I understand the role of  school officials and/or what they do as the conveners and facilitators of parent and community stakeholder meetings, workshops,  conferences, etc.  I also understand how school officials (as conveners and facilitators) avoid conflicts of interest in the framing of public school issues and concerns  and/or in addressing special interest groups  promoting political agendas  that fail to serve the best interests of public school students ----  and/or  fail to support the full range of parent and community stakeholder choices through their capacity building events.   
4. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the importance of taking part in the development of agenda items and/or the specific types of issues discussed at meetings, including how the issues, concerns or problems are defined.  
5. ____ Yes ____ No
Our school encourages discourse, dialogues, debates, and deliberations before decisions are made on all critical educational concerns and issues within our state, district and school.
6. ____ Yes ____ No
Capacity development training programs are planned in partnership with parents/community stakeholders and school representatives. All parties  determine the educational needs as well as the content for all parent and community stakeholder programming and written materials, including the development of any survey questions 
and the interpretation or the survey results. 
7. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school refer to parents and community stakeholders as equal partners in relationship with school representatives.  To meet this goal, school officials have explained how parents are formally recognized as equal partners in school governance and decision-making.
8. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school have created opportunity structures to support parents and community stakeholders in learning about and understanding the importance of voice, efficacy, agency, and influence and how to utilize these capabilities as a basis for strengthening our interactions  with public school representatives. 
9. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school have created opportunity structures and democratic spaces tied to transparency and accountability in school governance, discourse and decision-making.
10. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school officials have explained how power imbalances are addressed, including how power is currently defined, identified and used.  
11. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school have explained which groups have hired lobbyists to promote their special interests within public school systems, including how the actions of lobbyists impact critical decisions tied to student achievement.   
12. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state, district and school have explained how excellence and equity are embedded in all public school processes and structures based on current research or best practices in high performing schools.
13. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the enabling environment as well as the conditions that support or impede parent and community stakeholder engagement.
14. ____ Yes ____ No
I know the names of the "Secretary of Education," "State Superintendent," "Local Superintendent" and our "School Board" members. I know what they do and how they support student achievement. I know how to contact them if I have any questions about the public education system.  
15. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the purpose of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act or legislation, including the Every Student Succeeds Act and how it will be implemented in my state, district and school.  
16. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand what the purpose of the Title One legislation and how it is funded. 
17. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the purpose of the ESEA parent involvement provisions, including their requirements and how they are funded.  I also understand the parent involvement compliance and monitoring requirements for states, districts and schools.
18. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have adopted the Common Core State Standards or high quality standards that are not vague, low, or a mile long and an inch thick.  I understand how they are aligned with classroom instruction. 
19. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have explained their instructional culture and how teacher effectiveness is tied to student performance.
20. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have explained how their rigorous research-based, content-specific curriculum is aligned to the Common Core Standards.
21. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the purpose of the Common Core State Assessments and how they are aligned to the Common State Standards  (or uniform, high quality standards) so teachers do not have to teach to the test.
22. ____ Yes ____ No
I understand the importance of textbooks that are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and Common Core Aligned Tests.  
23. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have explained the number of instructional hours students receive during a regular school day.
24.____ Yes ____ No
I understand the process for determining student engagement or the firsthand experience of students within classrooms. This includes understanding how to determine if the subject matter content was taught and if it was based on high quality standards aligned with a high, quality curriculum, and effective teacher instructional practices. School representatives have also explained, in detail, how to determine if student mastery of a lesson has occurred  "in a timely manner" as opposed to the student merely demonstrating some progress toward a learning goal.
25. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have explained how overall school decision-making and discourse will be tracked and monitored to support transparency and accountability in school reform plans.
26. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have included parents and community stakeholders in the development of the school policy on violent incidences within the school and on school property.  
27. ____ Yes ____ No
School officials have explained how school budgets are formulated and allocated. They have explained school funding formulas, including how they are defined and developed but not limited to "non-property sources of revenues—such as income taxes, fees, and revenues from intermediate sources, which are typically higher in low-poverty districts than high-poverty ones and are rarely equalized through the state aid formula." They have also explained that most school board members do not have an educational background in school finance and budget analysis but they have determined how these concerns are --- or will be addressed. 
28.  ____ Yes ____ No
School administrators have explained how teacher performance trends in our district are measured and tracked.
29. ____ Yes ____ No
Our state has a database of superintendent and principal performance evaluations. This database will allow performance trends to be tracked in relationship to administrator quality and effectiveness.

 30. ____ Yes ____ No
Administrators of federally funded programs, including nonprofit representatives who receive grants for parent and community stakeholder programming have explained how these programs are implemented, and how their programming is aligned to transparency and accountability goals and objectives.
31. ____ Yes ____ No
Parent Centers are reachable by bus or subway and are located in areas that are convenient for parents rather than program administrators.  
32. ____ Yes ____ No
Parent Center Leaders always collaborate with parents and community stakeholders in planning events that are at held on the days and at the times  most convenient for parents rather than program administrators.  

Educational Checklist for: 
U.S. Parents & Community Stakeholders, 2017/2018