The Parent Power! Index
Because no family’s income level, zip code, or child’s level of academic achievement should dictate education opportunity.
For nearly three decades, CER has argued that parents are the most important ally in any effort for education. Whenever parents are engaged, change occurs. Time and time again, we’ve seen that information in the hands of parents is power. We witnessed this in the earliest days of CER’s existence, from actions directly connected to the publication of the School Reform Handbook to the response from readers of our very first Parent Power! newsletter in 1999. And since the maturity of the World Wide Web, we’ve seen parent engagement soar each year. And coming out of the disastrous reality of the education policies created during the Covid pandemic, parent power is growing in strength in every state. But what does it take for all parents to get it?
The Parent Power! Index exists to answer that question. It exists to ensure that any parent, guardian or caring adult understands how education is shaped, and what they can do to ensure it works for all kids.
Great schools come about when parents have power. Parent Power comes about when states give parents enough information and the discretion to exercise control over their children’s schooling.
The Parent Power! Index measures the extent to which each state:
- has policies in place that put students ahead of systems;
- values the diversity of need and condition of every family;
- provides vital accessible information, and
- by doing so affords parents the power to exercise fundamental decisions regarding how their kids are educated.
The Parent Power! Index gives parents an interactive tool to discover to what extent their state affords them this power – and if not, what they can do to get it.
The first Parent Power! Index in 1999 focused primarily on evaluation of educational opportunities available, teacher quality and transparency. In 2018, personalized and digital learning was added to gauge the growing recognition and research that individualized learning is a fundamental determinant in student success. Subsequently CER added Innovation as a key metric, and with COVID-19 fundamentally disrupting how education operates, in 2021 it was important to add an element related to how well states responded in the crisis. While PPI no longer measures state’s COVID-era responses, it was left on PPI for guidance, and perhaps as a cautionary tale, so that parents can make sure their states are prepared for anything the future holds.
In fall 2022, recognizing the growing number of 21st century learning approaches that ensure education is tailored to the needs of individual students, the renamed category of “Innovation” took on even greater significance. It not only includes how states handle or encourage digital and persnalized learning, but also mastery and competency-based approaches. The extent to which states reduce barriers to and promote innovation merits 15% of a state’s overall score.
In recognition of the growing role of legal challenges by opponents to education opportunity measures, PPI also evaluates whether states have constitutional issues that impact a parent’s ability to possess power, primarily focussed on state Blaine Amendments.
PPI also includes a regularly updated, curated list of state and national resources to help parents find more local groups that are ready, able and willing to support them.
Following is more detail about how PPI is organized and what it means. Please read, learn and share, and get going to your state to find out what you can do to ensure that all parents, our children’s first teachers, are driving their education.
Parents everywhere want choices and diverse learning approaches. Teachers in every kind of school want autonomy and welcome accountability. States can ensure that they are providing maximum opportunities for kids, teachers and families by ensuring that money is available to fund students wherever they are, regardless of the kind of school they attend. All data and policies must be highly transparent, understandable and meaningful to our citizens, at every level. Opportunity is just that. PPI measures how well states provide a multiple array of tools, resources and options that provide a parent with the ability to decide how best to educate their children, across any public or private education choice programs a state provides.
Since 1991, when charter schools were first established in Minnesota, the principle has remained the same — increased operational autonomy in exchange for…
In 2020 and prior, the scores for how well states provide for and manage teacher quality elements were developed based on several data points found in the National Council on Teacher Quality State Teacher Policy Database…
Today there exists a world of education technologists and entrepreneurs who are developing new and varied approaches to teaching, managing, leading and learning on a minute-by-minute basis. We also know more now than ever before about how the brain functions, what kinds of learning environments work best for individual students, and how non-cognitive attributes can determine a student’s trajectory in life. This unprecedented knowledge gives us the ability to radically transform education so that it meets the personalized needs of every student. To do so, we as a nation must find and seat the best innovations in America in the educational process and give the people license to explore and learn. States must break down barriers that prevent this to occur. The PPI measures whether a state is encouraging or discouraging innovation through its support, implicit or explicit, of providing the flexibility and motivation educators and schools need to transform a static learning process to one that is highly responsive to the student’s needs and growth.
COVID-19 Response (2021)
States are responsible for the most important laws governing education, and your governor and state legislature make the difference whether students in your state have access to great learning opportunities or not. CER assessed every governor and state legislature, taking into consideration what they said on the campaign trail about education, what legislation they have fought for or against, and whether or not they are actively working to ensure that every student, regardless of family income level, zip code, race, or anything else, has the opportunity to choose and attend the best school for them.
In addition to the state’s elected officials, CER also looked at what barriers the state’s constitution contains, including Blaine Amendments, that could get in the way of programs or laws that would provide students with expanded educational opportunities.
The third component we analyzed here is transparency — how easy is it for parents to find school test scores, graduation rates, and other important data? Some states prioritize transparency and others make it nearly impossible to find useful information about school and student performance.
The most common clause that limits educational opportunity in most states are “Blaine Amendments”…