Top 5 things we learned from parents at #NOLAParentPerspectives 

Last Thursday, a parent-focused townhall was hosted by Stand for Children, Black Alliance for Educational Options (BAEO), Orleans Parish Education Network (OPEN), and the Urban League of Greater New Orleans. Eight parents participated on panels to share their perspectives on topics related to One App enrollment, governance and accountability. The discussion ended with Lamont Douglas, a parent representing OPEN saying, “A school system that is doing good has parent involvement.” Amplifying parent voice is essential to serving students and improving the current education landscape. The conversation was a critical one and parents are asking for more opportunities to speak out. On twitter, the conversation ranked 1st in trending topics within the state of Louisiana and 4th nationally. While all eyes are on us we need to continue to walk side-by-side with parents for children. Listening to parents and the experiences their children are having in school must inform changes to improve education systems and practices and ultimately increase educational outcomes for children.

Here at the top 5 things we learned from parents:

1. Quality options have improved post-Katrina. The Cowen Institute reported that 62 percent of students attended a low performing school prior to Katrina, compared to only 7 percent today, and parents generally agree that quality options in New Orleans have increased. While the increase in quality options is a good sign, parents pushed back and said it was only a start to meeting the standard for providing quality education to all of New Orleans’ children.

2. Governance is not an issue, parents want more quality seats. While parents agreed that there are more quality schools and seats available to children in the city today than 10 years ago there aren’t enough and they are demanding more. They are adamant about the need to improve the enrollment system to take into account distance that children have to travel because of transportation and the need for siblings to attend the same school. This isn’t controversial it makes most sense for children to go to school in their neighborhood with their siblings.

3. Parents need more information on the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers (PARCC). 85% of the parents in attendance said they had only some or little information about how to prepare their children for the PARCC assessments. PARCC is no longer the future, it is here and parents need the proper information, training and understanding to partner with schools to make this work. The success of PARCC will depend on the state’s ability to partner with schools, parents and students. Parents need these resources to understand what their child will be evaluated on and if gaps exist in their learning, how to partner with teachers to improve targeted instruction that meets the need.

4. A decentralized system offers parents one-to-one interactions with charters schools on school issues. While we learned that parents have more accessibility to charter schools they want charter school board leaders to be more visible. This creates accountability. The local autonomy has been working well because local school issues are being improved much more rapidly but visibility is key to creating an environment of accountability.

5. “A school system that is doing good has parent involvement.” When parents are involved everyone wins: children, schools and the system. The foundation of a great school in New Orleans is connecting with parents to hear from them on how to improve the system and to give them vital information on how they can support their child’s learning. Partnering with parents to create champions for schools and increase educational outcomes starts with the willingness to include parents. That has been one of our toughest lessons over the past 10 years here in New Orleans. The urgency to make technical changes around systems and governance didn’t naturally lend itself to the time and space of parent voice and therefore we had little buy-in and very few parents on board. With the efforts of organizations that hosted this event and the hard lessons and hard work of school leaders, this has changed. Elevating and amplifying parent voice is the roux and this gumbo cannot be made without it.

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