Steps to Starting and Expanding a Parent Advocacy Group
1. Contact the parents that you feel are the top 5-10 parent-advocates in your school district, and schedule a private meeting for all of you to get together.
2. At the meeting, make a list of the main concerns that your group wants to address. Here are some suggestions:
- High-stakes testing
- Flawed teacher evaluations
- Standardized curriculum
- Scripted lessons
- Excessive and inappropriate homework
- Excessive use of technology
- Student data collection without parental consent
3. Select a name for the group. If you intend to reach out to teachers as well as parents you may want to use the word ‘Advocates’ or ‘Stakeholders’ in the name of the group, rather than just parents. Here are a couple examples that have worked well.
- Williamsville Parents for Meaningful Learning
- Ken-Ton Advocates for Student-Centered Education
- West Seneca Parents for Quality Public Education
- Clifford Hills Stakeholder Advocacy Group
4. Start a ‘closed’ Facebook group using the new name that you have selected. Make sure it is a ‘group’ and not a ‘page’. This way all members can interact. You can only change the name of a Facbook group if it has less than 250 members, so try to iron-out the best name right from the beginning. Assign the 5-10 parents from your initial meeting to be the administrators of the Facebook group. You will also need to start a separate "secret" Facebook group just for the administrators so that there can be private leadership discussions.
5. Write a mission statement for the group and add it to the group description in the Facebook group. Here is an example you can refer to:
This group is open to XYZ district parents, students, teachers, administrators, taxpayers and all residents who wish to advocate for a school learning environment that centers on the student. Under current education reforms there is massive overreliance on test scores, standardized curriculum, scripted lessons, data collection, excessive technology, and flawed teacher evaluations. All of this shifts focus away from a student-centered learning environment. No one knows a student better than the teacher and the parent, yet current education reforms have drastically limited teacher autonomy and have nearly excluded parental input. Children are not political pawns to be used to advance political agendas and private corporate interests. Children have the right to a free, appropriate, equal and fair education. The mission of this group is to advocate for children and empower XYZ residents to make positive change by informing them of the truth about current education reforms including Common Core, standardized testing, scripted modules, data mining, and faulty teacher evaluations. Together we can build a school environment that returns children to the center of education and allows teachers to properly nurture their personal relationship with the student
6. Go through your Facebook ‘friends’ list and add all district parents and teachers that you have in your list.
7. Send a personal Facebook message to each of the members that are now in your group asking them to please go through their Facebook ‘friends’ list and add all district parents and teachers that they have in their list. Repeat this action every two weeks for the first couple months.
8. Create a free group website at www.weebly.com Here are several examples of websites you can refer to:
9. Begin making an email list of every teacher, guidance counselor, administrator, and board member in your district. This is tedious and time consuming, but it is completely necessary.
10. Write a press release. Send it to all media contacts in your area and to every teacher, guidance counselor, administrator and board member in your email list. Post it in your Facebook group and ask that each member share it on their personal Facebook page. Here is an example: http://kentonadvocates.weebly.com/ken-ton-residents-form-new-advocacy-group-focused-on-student-centered-learning.html
11. Write a survey for teachers and another survey for parents in your school district to get input about their concerns and suggestions. An example can be found here: http://kentonadvocates.weebly.com/ken-ton-teacher-survey---anonymous.html You will then use the survey responses to help drive your first public meeting in step 12.
12. Prepare for your first public meeting. Public libraries generally allow you to use their meeting rooms for educational events such as this. Schedule a date and secure a location. Create a flyer for your meeting listing the time, place and description. Select a panel of 3-5 speakers to be the 'experts' at your forum. Use the responses to your surveys, from step 11, to drive the questions that you pose to your panel of experts. This way, your community will understand that your group has asked for concerns from parents and teachers by survey, and then your group has taken initiative to address those concerns through a panel of experts. This is something that most school districts do not do, so your group can really stand out if you do this properly.
13. Advertise for your meeting. Mass flyer distribution is essential. Distribute flyers to parents at release time when you pick-up your child, at concerts, at sporting events, etc. Create a Facebook event for your meeting. Personally ask parents to share the Facebook event on their personal page. Send an email to all district teachers inviting them to your event.
14. At the meeting, be sure to have people sign-in with their email address so that you can create a mailing list. Conduct the presentation and allow time for questions. Have some basic handouts available.
15. Schedule times to distribute opt-out flyers and refusal letters to parents in your district. Again, a good time to do this is at release time when parents pick-up their children, at concerts sporting events, etc.
16. Coordinate members of your group to speak at school board meetings about the issues that your group represents.
17. Remain in communication with Western New Yorkers for Public Education to help your group expand.