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A Blogger's Parting Thoughts on Parents' Voice and School Improvement

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Dear Education Week readers: Sadly, this is my final blog for K-12 Parents and the Public. After more than two years of writing this blog and other stories for Education WeekI've taken a position with the University of Southern California in Los Angeles as a special project manager for the University Advancement's communications division. This blog will live on, however, with guest bloggers picking up my duties until a new blogger comes on board.

In the time that I have spent sharing parents' stories for Education Week, I have seen some significant changes in the education landscape regarding parents and their relationships with schools. But, of course, some challenges with parent-school relationships continue to persist.

While the nation's K-12 public schools charge forward with implementing new academic standards and testing systems, parents are still sometimes ignored or become convenient scapegoats for low student achievement.

Some educators complain that students would perform better in the classroom if only the parents were more involved in their schooling. Yet some of those same educators criticize parents when they demand more control over their children's education or seek alternatives to their traditional public schools.

However, since I began writing for  K-12 Parents & the Public blog in 2013, I've found that parents are increasingly making their concerns and priorities heard. 

From the opt-out movement led by parents opposed to the overuse of standardized testing, to California's controversial parent-trigger law, which allows parents to force school districts to overhaul chronically low-performing schools, parents are demanding change, and they aren't willing to patiently wait on the sidelines while others take up the charge.

Meanwhile, more school districts are beginning to value parents as a resource and are crafting systemic parent-outreach efforts to empower and teach parents how they can be even more effective in their roles as their children's first teachers.

As a parent, I welcome this investment in cultivating sustainable parent-involvement efforts. For years while covering education issues, I always wondered why parents and teachers had a strained relationship, almost fearful of one another. Now, that I am a parent of two elementary-age children, the teacher-parent relationship has become clearer to me.

Most teachers are not adequately trained to work with parents. Conversely, parents receive mixed messages from educators about parent involvement. Some parents overstep classroom boundaries that are needed to develop more independent learners. Meanwhile, other parents are simply missing in action. Striking the right parent-involvement balance, while taking into account each teacher's unique instructional style and each parent's abilities, can be a tricky proposition. Given the opportunity, parents can be a positive tool to support students' academic success.

I look forward to continuing to follow this blog to learn more about the integral role that parents play as advocates for their children in the ever-changing K-12 education landscape. Fight On!

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