Parent Voice


In education, parent voice refers to the values, opinions, beliefs, perspectives, and cultural backgrounds of the parents, guardians, and families of students enrolled in a school, which extends to parent groups, cultural organizations, and other entities related to a school through familial connections.

As both a philosophical stance and a school-improvement strategy, the concept of parent voice in education has grown increasingly popular in recent decades. Generally speaking, parent voice can be seen as an alternative to more hierarchical forms of governance or decision making in which school administrators may make unilateral decisions with little or no input from parents. Parent voice is also predicated on the belief or recognition that a school will be more successful—e.g., that teachers will be more effective and professionally fulfilled, that students will learn and achieve more, and that parents will feel more confidence in the school and more involved in their child’s education—if school leaders both consider and act upon the values, opinions, beliefs, and perspectives of the parents, guardians, and families in a school community. While the degree to which parent voice is both solicited and valued can vary considerably from school to school, educators are increasingly embracing parent voice in both leadership and instructional decisions.

For a more detailed discussion of the concept, see voice.

Historically, parent involvement in school leadership was fairly limited, consisting largely of traditional parent-teacher associations that, for example, raised money for school programs or organized school volunteers (among many other possible roles and responsibilities). In recent years, however, parents are increasingly being asked, or they are requesting, to serve on formal school committees and leadership teams, or to provide their opinions and feedback on a wide variety of issues and programs. At the elementary level, parent volunteerism in schools is quite common, although volunteerism rates tend to decline as their children age. Given their personal and emotional investment in the success of a school their child attends, parents, guardians, and family members may be more likely to run for seats on the district school board or seek local elected office. And with the advent of the online organizing and advocacy tools, and a concurrent increase in citizen journalism and activism, parents are also forming their own organizations to advocate for or fight against particular issues, such as bullying, special-needs education, or school funding, for example. In addition, parent involvement in school activities is considered particularly important for students more likely to struggle in school, such as students from lower-income or less-educated households, recently arrived immigrant or refugee students, or students with physical or learning disabilities, for example.

For a related discussion, see shared leadership.

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