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Parents Who Understand School Data Can Act on It

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When parents are taught to analyze and understand data like the test scores at the schools their children attend, the knowledge can become a catalyst for positive change.

That's what happened when Alniece Liggins, a Tupelo, Miss. resident, studied the data from the elementary school her child attended. She learned how to interpret it in a Parent Leadership Institute training session sponsored by the non-profit organization Parents for Public Schools.

"I was struck by the disparities in reading scores for white and African-American children. I felt an urgency in me to do something," Liggins is quoted as saying on the Parents for Public Schools website.

In fact, Liggins took several actions.

She located a building that was unused and, coincidentally, stocked with books. Then, she convinced the proper authorities to allow her to open it as "The Book Nook." Volunteers helped her prepare the building, and now children have access to more than 1,000 books at least once a week. Beyond helping them with reading, Liggins is teaching them cursive writing, too.

Anne Stafford, a PTA volunteer who was recently honored by the White House as a Champion of Change, organized Parent Data Nights to help parents better understand their children's test scores and the schools' data.

Stafford explained the importance of these "Data Nights" in her blog, "Collaboration, Communication, Accountability, and Equity: The Key to Parental Engagement," on the White House website.

"These events provide parents with student testing information, academic benchmarks, and school accountability measures. This level of transparency and accountability opens the door for the greatest opportunity for cooperative understanding between parents and educators of the student's strengths, needs, and opportunities for growth," she wrote.

"This equitable communication among all teachers and parents establishes an exceptional standard for the high expectations of both partners. By providing all parents the access to the same student and school performance data, we are empowering parents and supplying them with the information and knowledge they need to be effective in their child's education," she continued.

How have you—or parents you know—acted upon data gleaned from the public schools? Do you think parents need more help and support to analyze the test data that is available, and put it to good use?

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