About the Parent Power! Index

The Parent Power! Index seeks to inform and galvanize America’s parents, policymakers, and pundits around the critical importance of engaging parents and community leaders in the education of our youth. It seeks to build understanding in how every state enables parents to have the opportunity to drive changes in how students are educated and how schools operate.

Parent Power is the degree of access parents have to impact educational opportunities. The Parent Power! Index measures the ability in each state of a parent to exercise choices – no matter what their income or child’s level of academic achievement – engage with their local schools and school board, and have a voice in the education systems that surround them. The Parent Power! Index gives parents an interactive tool to discover whether the state affords them due power – and if not, what they can do to get it.

Why We Did It

The Center for Education Reform’s mission is to expand educational opportunities that lead to improved economic outcomes for all Americans — particularly our youth — ensuring that conditions are ripe for innovation, freedom, and flexibility throughout U.S. education.

CER has for more than two decades counted parents as our most important constituency and worked to engage them in local, state and national policy battles however and whenever their interests are at stake. From our first Parent Power! newsletter in 1999 to help parents make sense of schooling, to providing tangible advice and action ideas in the advent of the World Wide Web, CER has helped develop and network over 10,000 grassroots groups all across the country since our inception.

The Parent Power! Index does not score whether a state’s education laws are good or bad, but rather, for example, if its policies allow a maximum number of parents to actually make choices. The following “Elements of Power” provide a framework for evaluating and scoring state policies and practices that either ensure or limit Parent Power!

Elements of Power

Charter Schools

The degree to which states offer or provide for a significant number of charter school opportunities to families is another important piece of Parent Power!


States that have stronger laws ensure greater access to quality charter school options. CER’s National Charter School Laws Ranking & Scorecard was used to determine this element’s score on the Parent Power! Index.



Private School Choice

Programs which provide parents the opportunity to enroll their children in private schools with scholarships, vouchers and the like are evaluated on their potential to reach all children across a state.


Programs where significant numbers of parents throughout the state can obtain scholarships and other forms of state support to send their kids to schools of their choice score higher than those that have limitations based on geography, appropriations, categories of need or appropriations. For this, we have drawn heavily from the evaluations of programs from our colleagues at the American Legislative Exchange Council and EdChoice‘s School Choice in America Dashboard.



Teacher Quality

Teacher Quality is an equally important facet of the Parent Power! Index. States that ensure high-quality individuals can teach without barriers to entry score higher. States where teacher effectiveness is judged on objective data fair better than states with very little focus on attracting, retaining and rewarding teachers.


In assessing the degree to which states provide parents understanding about Teacher Quality in their state, we draw heavily from the National Council on Teacher Quality’s detailed analysis in its annual State Teacher Policy Yearbook.




States are judged based on the transparency and accessibility of data for the average person.


States that provide comprehensive and user-friendly report cards, share information about school options and explain how well their schools perform can gain points in their overall PPI score. Similarly, states where parents are able to vote in school board races during the general election cycle, as opposed to off times of the year when turnout is low, tend to afford parents more power in their decision-making.



Personalized Learning

Personalized learning describes an approach to education that puts the individual at the center of the learning experience. It is relevant to learners’ diverse contexts and experiences and, when executed well, can have lasting impacts on educational outcomes and the attitudes that students form toward lifelong learning. States that empower schools and teachers to personalize learning empower parents. Policies that encourage personalization foster innovative schools that meet diverse needs. To earn points for personalized learning on the Parent Power Index, states have to promote personalized learning with laws and regulations, offer incentives for districts to experiment with different approaches to personalized learning, and put diverse learners and their needs at the center of their plans to execute the Every Student Succeeds (ESSA) Act.


The data and analysis for this element is attributed to Digital Learning Now!’s evaluation of state policies and their alignment to the 10 Elements of High Quality Digital Learning.



Other Factors

Parent Trigger

The increasingly popular Parent Trigger Laws provide parents and educators the opportunity for parents to turn around failing schools.


As this is a significant lever for change, the seven states that afford parents this kind of power earned a boost on the Index.




Whether state executives are pro-reform or not is important in ensuring parents have power.


While governor or candidate positions are not factored into a state’s overall PPI score, it’s clear that states with more reform-minded leaders have policies in place that result in greater parent power. Check out CER’s Education Fifty.