The power of parent participation

Dr. Joyce Epstein, who heads the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University, created the gold standard for parent involvement programs – a comprehensive set of practices that encourage good parenting, strong home-school communication, volunteer opportunities, support for learning at home, a parent voice in school decision making, and community collaboration.

Last night’s parent forum at DePaul really made that package come to life.

On the panel were (right to left in photo) Monica Espinoza and Joanna Brown from Logan Square Neighborhood Association, Lynn Morton from Community Organizing and Family Issues, yours truly, Wendy Kattan from Raise Your Hand, and Latrice Watkins, LSC chair of Piccolo Elementary, who led the Occupy Piccolo protest earlier this year (Cecile Carrol from Blocks Together arrived after this pic was taken).

Together, we represented that full package of parent involvement activity, and, as I pointed out to the audience of about 100 teachers and students studying to be teachers, you get the whole package with parents. We want to be involved in all those areas and woe to the school principal, school CEO, or US Education Secretary who tries to relegate us to cookie baking, science projects, or cover for a school privatization and union-busting agenda.

I talked about the importance of the parent voice in the context of the critical need at this time for parents and teachers to have a united front. PURE was founded by parents and teachers together during the last Chicago teachers’ strike in 1987, to help parents and teachers speak with one voice about who was failing our children: not the greedy teachers or the lazy parents, but the politicians and bureaucrats whose neglect and poor management was forcing failure on our schools.

Things are much worse today. Now, in addition to lazy, greedy politicians and bureaucrats, we also have to deal with the multi-million dollar attack campaign against teachers and public schools coming from the corporate sector, and from both the right- and left wing. Propaganda against public schools and teachers is turning up everywhere – on fashion designers’ billboards, in major Hollywood movies, etc. So the truth has got to be told more loudly. PURE has a long track record of speaking the truth and sharing it in the media, in workshops, and in clear fact and tip sheets so that the public is better educated about education issues. Students and teachers need to help spread the word – your reach is vast and we all need to be on message together.

I assigned homework, too, starting with asking everyone to sign and share the National Resolution against High-Stakes Testing.

My colleagues all had amazing stories to tell. All in all, it was a very inspiring evening.


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About the PURE Thoughts blogger
Julie Woestehoff is PURE's executive director. Julie's work has earned her a Ford Foundation award and recognition as one of the 100 Most Powerful Women in Chicago.