Ensuring quality, collaboration, and equity in education requires involvement from multiple constituencies. Most efforts are focused on students, teachers, and administrators, but it’s critical that involvement from another group of important stakeholders – parents – not be overlooked or minimized.
Parents Supporting Educational Excellence (Parents SEE) is a 13-session training program focused on parent leadership in education. It was created by the Connecticut Center for School Change and the Connecticut Commission on Children to provide parents, grandparents, and guardians with the skills, tools, and understandings they need to become leaders, change agents, and active participants in education.
Parents SEE facilitates partnerships with district and school personnel to address school improvement and increase student achievement. The program is built around five themes: Equity, Leadership, Partnering, Change, and Educational Policies and Practices. Sessions cover:
- What effective schools look like;
- How and why schools change;
- How a school district functions;
- Roles that a parent can play in improving student achievement;
- Why some children succeed and others don’t;
- What improvements are needed in schools; and
- What it means to be a parent leader in education.
Participants acquire knowledge, engage in dialogue that encourages understanding of diverse viewpoints and experiences, and practice the skills needed to effect constructive change and improve achievement for all children.
Since it officially launched in 2008, the CT Center for School Change (with the support first of the CT Commission on Children and now the CT Commission on Women, Children and Seniors) has administered and coordinated Parents SEE trainings across Connecticut. This includes recruiting, training, and supporting facilitators, assisting local coordinators, and assuring high-quality programing with regular visits to every site. Several community organizations and/or school districts provide the funding to offer Parents SEE to 15 to 20 participants locally each year. Twenty-four communities have offered Parents SEE training, many of them multiple times, and there are now over 950 Parents SEE graduates.
Parents SEE draws not only on the success of increasing civic parent leadership, but also on research dedicated to improving outcomes for children. Large-scale instructional improvement requires parents with the knowledge, skills, and tools to be effective leaders, change agents, and active partners with their schools and districts. Districts benefit from this strategy of mobilizing political will and parent and community support to ensure sustained improvements in teaching and learning.
I feel that prior to the program I was just a parent with an issue who would discuss the problem and sometimes solutions with other parents. Now I feel I actually know what to do to help change problems and that not all problems are easily fixed (getting another grade teacher.) I know how the BOE runs and where to go to find help.