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Articles: Parents

As we welcome in 2012, let’s do a quick recap of the new state of the world of education, shall we?

The concept of an open-door policy has deep meaning in the school district serving Mason County, a large pocket of northeastern Kentucky that comprises everything from rural farms to low-income housing projects in Maysville, the county seat. Each of Mason County School District’s 2,900 K12 students can expect an informal visit at home, every summer, from their teacher, or “advocate,” for the upcoming year.

Rebuilding relationships with parents is the central concern, says author Soo Hong, who cautions that achieving understanding between schools and parents “does not happen overnight.” Hong, who wrote A Cord of Three Strands about the Chicago immigrant parent program, suggests opening up school buildings to parents beyond traditional open house and back-to-school nights to allow them opportunities to help in classrooms.

Proliferating across the country at what seems lightning speed is a law that grants parents an unprecedented degree of power to intervene in the fate of underperforming schools. First adopted in California in January 2010 and spurred by the Parent Revolution group out of the Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD), what’s become known as the “parent trigger” law says that when a majority of parents with children in schools designated “failing” under No Child Left Behind demand administrators be replaced or that the school reopen as a charter, the district must comply.

For many, an instinctual reflex is to marry the term “college town” with images from the movie Animal House. While stories of youthful exuberance make for interesting water cooler conversation, they serve to conceal real opportunities for public schools to collaborate with postsecondary institutions.

An estimated 8,000 people made the trip to Capitol Hill on July 29-31 for the Save Our Schools March. The rally, which was reportedly supposed to draw about 1 million supporters, was held to elevate issues such as putting an end to high stakes testing, provide equitable funding for all public schools, increase family and community leadership in forming public education policies, and increase local control of curriculum.

New regulations under the California Parent Empowerment Law are pending approval by the Office of Administrative Law in late July and give parents further rights to change low-performing schools. The Parent Empowerment Law, passed in January 2010 and known as the "parent trigger law," is one of three similar laws in Connecticut and Mississippi. It came about thanks to Parent Revolution, a non-profit group empowering parents to transform their low-performing schools.

Under No Child Left Behind, the federal government requires school districts to use 1 percent of Title I money to fund programs that involve parents in the schools and provides another $39 million annually for 62 Parental Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) that provide training and information for both parents and district personnel to bolster family engagement in schools.

The case of Kyron Horman, a second-grade Oregon student missing from school since June 4, 2010, has generated international attention. The seven-year-old never arrived in his classroom after attending a science fair with his stepmother at his Portland elementary school.

IF the Walnut Creek School District needs extra funding, it turns to the Walnut Creek Education Foundation (

When Adam Fletcher was hired as the student engagement specialist for Washington state's education department 10 years ago, it didn't take him long to realize how difficult his newly created job would prove. "No one was talking about the roles of students other than as learners," says Fletcher, referring to a state teachers' conference early in his career. "They laughed out loud at the proposal of students being partners in school improvement. It really was preposterous to them."

When registration opened at 7 a.m. on Feb. 23 for kindergarten at the Evanston/Skokie School District 65, about 120 parents in the suburban Chicago K8 district were already lined up, as if waiting for tickets to a hot rock concert.

A greater awareness of the impact of sports-related concussions has swept the country, as over 40 states are currently developing legislation that will set standards for when a student athlete can return to the playing field. Although these laws vary by state, the core principles include educating students, coaches, and parents about the dangers of concussions, removing athletes from the field if a concussion is suspected, and requiring medical clearance before they may return.

By the time James G. Merrill became superintendent of Virginia Beach (Va.) City Public Schools (VBCPS) in 2006, there wasn't much to improve statistically. The district ranked first in reading proficiency among the neighboring seven cities and first on the combined SAT; all schools had earned full Standards of Learning (SOL) accreditation from the Virginia Department of Education; and even the relationship between its elected school board, the community and administrators was harmonious.

While investigating a tip that a student had a picture of another, partially nude, female student on his cell phone, Ting-Yei Oei, assistant principal at Freedom High School in Loudoun County, Va., asked the student to e-mail the picture to his own cell phone. This seemingly tech-savvy way to preserve physical evidence had devastating consequences for Oei. The incident led to angry accusations from a parent, an investigation by police, and Oei's being charged with "failure to report child abuse" and felony possession of child pornography.