Education

You are Your Child’s Best Advocate

You are Your Child’s Best Advocate 2560 1700 Lisa Bryant

One of the most important responsibilities of a parent is to advocate for your child—being their cheerleader on the sidelines, a defender against their opponents, and a voice when their words seem muted. Every day, you strive to provide your child with the best so that their journey in life is a little less bumpy, with fewer twists and turns. As a parent, you have a profound impact on their success. A study on parent involvement concluded that a single overriding factor—parent involvement—determined a baby’s future opportunities for success or failure in life (Tough, 2016). Similarly, studies conducted on student achievement suggest that a student with parents who are involved in their education is more likely to do better in school, have better social and behavioral skills, stay in school, and graduate (Henderson and Mapp, 2002).

Your child’s years in school are when they need you to be an advocate the most. Each school year, they will meet a new teacher, navigate the teacher’s expectations, adapt to a new classroom culture, get to know new classmates, and participate in after-school activities. School will demand your child be skilled at getting along and working with others, negotiating, working hard, and coping with failure and success. With your help, your child’s school career—from pre-k to graduation—will be some of the best years!

Advocating for your child is not always easy, but it shouldn’t be avoided. The key to being an effective advocate is to maintain a strong relationship with your child, understand how to approach the teacher or school administration, and recognize when to intervene on your child’s behalf. Way to Grow suggests you follow these four key guidelines to empower you as a parent to effectively advocate for your child:
 

1. Establish positive, consistent lines of communications at home

As a parent, you are your child’s first and foremost teacher. Formative years at home teach your child how to interact with others and develop motor, language, and cognitive skills. These skills are best nurtured by positive, quality interactions and consistent communication with adults. Whether it is helping your child name their feelings, listening to a recap of their day, or talking out a problem, your everyday interactions should be built on a solid foundation of trust. When a home environment is based on strong communications and supportive relationships, your child will feel safe coming to you when they have a problem at school. You can’t be with them every moment of the day, but you can be the person they go to after the school bell rings.
 

2. You are the expert when it comes to your child

No one knows your child better than you. When school starts, it is your job as a parent to make teachers, coaches, and school administrators aware of your child’s special talents and skills, as well as any needs or special considerations they may have. At home, children can receive one-on-one support, but in school they are one of many. While teachers and staff work hard to ensure every student succeeds in the classroom, nothing can replace the insight of a parent. By working with school staff, you can ensure your child is able to utilize their strengths in school, as well as get vital support when needed. Children are more likely to gain confidence and thrive in school when they employ their talents and have their needs supported by the adults in their life—parents and teachers alike.
 

3. Develop and maintain communication channels within your child’s school

Establish a good rapport with your child’s teacher, school principal, and any other administrator who may be able to provide you with insight or advice. If you only rely on parent nights or parent-teacher conferences to start the conversation, you may be missing out on ways to help your child excel. Schedule meetings often to meet with teachers and the principal, and remain in constant communication with them regarding your child. The beginning of the school year is a great time to ask about the best way to communicate, whether by phone, email, or in-person.

Beyond academics, try getting involved with the regular goings-on of the school and take time to learn the school culture. Consider volunteering in the classroom or at events to increase your involvement. In doing so, you will also meet other parents, enhance your relationship with school staff, and become even more connected to your child’s educational experiences.

Check with your school to see how you can be involved. Remember, you don’t have to do it all—commit to something that fits in your schedule and is best suited to your own skill set. Some activities may include:

  • Attend Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO) meetings
  • Become an in-classroom parent volunteer or chaperone a field trip
  • Volunteer to be a tutor or mentor
  • Help with a major in-school project
  • Attend your child’s after-school activities
  • Volunteer for evening events
  • Assist with a fundraiser or organize a drive

 

4. Create a network of other parent advocates

There’s power in numbers. To strengthen your ability to be an advocate for your child, find and connect with other parents who are also advocates. Identify a time to meet as a group and meet often to discuss and learn from one another. Together you can talk about strategies that may or may not have worked an identify teachers and administrators willing to support parent advocates. By building a network, not only will you gain new perspectives and allies, you may also find a greater support system for yourself as a parent. Your child doesn’t need to be the only one to make friends at school!

Advocating for your child takes time and looks different for every parent. As you develop new tools and resources, nurture relationships with teachers and school administrators, and increase your visibility within the school setting, remind yourself that you don’t have to do it all. Like your child, you are your best self when you are playing to your strengths. That said, remember to stay involved! Always keep in mind, you are the first and foremost advocate for your child—you are the key to their success throughout school, as well as in life.

 
Additional Resources:
Looking to make a greater impact on your child’s education? Check out and download a couple of our other resources for parents below and then connect with Way to Grow to receive updates on our programming!

 
References
Henderson, A.T. and Mapp, K.L. (2002). A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory.

Tough, Paul. “To Help Kids Thrive, Coach Their Parents,” New York Times, May 22, 2016, p. SR1.

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017

Rallying for Minnesota’s Children – Advocacy for Children Day 2017 960 638 Ivy Marsnik

Advocacy for Children Day celebrates early learning and gives parents, teachers, early care and education professionals, and communities from across the state an opportunity to stand up and be a voice for children. Led by the MinneMinds coalition, which Way to Grow is actively involved in, our staff and several families we serve are gathering at the capitol in support of equitable, child-centered, parent-directed, mixed delivery approaches to state policies affecting families and children. The 2017 policy agenda MinneMinds leads includes:

Ensuring Quality Care Through Parent Aware
  • Fully fund Parent Aware to continue the expansion of high‐quality early learning programs throughout Minnesota.
  • Support existing rated providers and grow from 3,000 programs to 4,400.
  • Ongoing support for rated providers and implementation of improvement strategies, with a priority on stronger recognition and incorporation of cultural competency.
Increasing Access to Quality Early Learning Through Scholarships
  • Increase funding and access of State Early Learning Scholarships for in need children birth‐to five to attend high quality early childhood development programs (Prioritize children with highest needs, including those facing homelessness and in foster care).
  • Complete efforts to fully‐fund scholarships for low‐income 3‐ and 4‐year‐olds to serve 7,000 new, at risk preschoolers.
  • Add funding for high priority groups for 0 to 2‐year‐olds (siblings, homeless, foster care, child protection) to serve 3,400 new, at risk babies and toddlers.
Assisting More Families In Need Through Home Visiting Programs
  • Increase access and funding for targeted home visiting programs to include 7,000 children in high poverty.
  • Provide community‐led solutions to high‐risk families to help stabilize them and give them a strong start.

What You Can Do

Attend the Rally

Join over 500 fellow early learning advocates as we fill the rotunda at the Minnesota State Capitol on Thursday, March 2, 2017. Activities for children begin at 9 am with the rally beginning at 9:30 am. From 11 am – 4 pm legislators will be available for visits.

Register Here

Submit a Letter and Children’s Art

Whether or not you are able to attend the rally, we encourage you to submit a letter to your senators and representatives and tell them why our state’s youngest learners matter to you. Greater Twin Cities United Way  will collect children’s artwork to accompany the letters submitted.

Mail your artwork to:
Lulete Mola
Greater Twin Cities United Way
404 S 8th Street
Minneapolis, MN 55404

Download Letter Template

Meet with Legislators

Meeting with legislators can be easier than you think. Follow these simple steps:
1) Find out who your legislators are
2) Set up a time to meet
3) Identify your main message and a personal story supporting that message
4) Follow these tips for holding a successful meeting

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs)

Availability of the Revised Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs) 1161 736 Ivy Marsnik

In the first five years of life, a child’s brain grows to 85% of its full capacity. Children begin to form a sense of what is possible and attainable in their young lives, exploring the world around them and finding their place within it. We know the first years of life are critical to a child’s success, but because this complex and rapid development in young children is accompanied by a very diverse set of early childhood education and care programs, having a shared set of expectations and key milestones is the foundation of a successful early childhood education system. In Minnesota, this set of shared expectations is called the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress: Minnesota’s Early Learning Standards (ECIPs).

Recently revised, the state has just released its 2017 ECIPs now available on the MDE website. The revised standards now include ages birth to kindergarten entrance and are aligned with the Minnesota Kindergarten Academic Standards. The areas of learning covered by the ECIPs include:

  • Physical and movement development
  • Social and emotional development
  • Language, literacy and communications
  • Mathematics
  • Scientific thinking
  • Social systems
  • Approaches to learning
  • The arts

A basis for curriculum, child assessment, and program evaluation in Minnesota, the ECIPs are not only intended to be used by teachers and early childhood education providers, but by families as well. Since learning starts at home with parents serving as a child’s first teachers, the ECIPs also serve as a helpful tool and resource for parents interested in learning ways they can better support their child’s learning and development.

Equity in Education – What Does it Look Like?

Equity in Education – What Does it Look Like? 1707 2560 Ivy Marsnik

Education – Where the Candidates Stand

Education – Where the Candidates Stand 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

With the primary election in full swing, we’ve heard a lot of talk from the candidates on other pressing issues, but what are their views on education? No matter who you support, or which party you belong to, education affects the prosperity of us all as individuals, as communities, and as a nation.

Here’s where the candidates stand (in five bullet points):

Hillary Clinton
• In favor of universal pre-k
• Believes in established right to education from preschool through college
• Supports scholarships for teachers who go to urban schools in effort to get more teachers into hard-to-serve areas
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Ted Cruz
• Supports cutting government spending on education/abolishing the U.S. Department of Education
• Believes school choice is “the civil rights issue of the 21st century. Every child deserves a fair chance at a quality education.”
• Advocates the right to education via public, private, charter, or home school
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Supports

Martin O’Malley
• In favor of universal pre-k
• Supports focus on the early years and expanding pre-k as well as after-school programs
• Believes under-performing public schools need more resources
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Marco Rubio
• Expressed support for early learning programs while arguing they’d be better run by states, but hasn’t yet taken or supported any concrete policy action
• Promote voluntary pre-k scholarships and scholarships to low-income families and students in chronically failing schools
• Supports school choice
• Would like to create a national online learning program
• Opposes Common Core

Bernie Sanders
• Supports quality, affordable education, from child care to higher education
• Advocates for reducing class size to 18 children in grades 1-3
• Proposes $25 billion to renovate and repair elementary schools
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Against

Donald Trump
• Supports cutting the Department of Education down in size and spending to localize education, but hasn’t indicated yet in what ways or how much
• Believes school choice will improve public schools
• Would like to “bring on the competition and tear down the union walls”
• Opposes Common Core
• View on vouchers: Supports

Minnesota Students’ Scores Mixed on Nation’s Report Card

Minnesota Students’ Scores Mixed on Nation’s Report Card 150 150 Ivy Marsnik

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