Parent Voices Are Needed More than Ever to Inform and Improve Public Education in America

It’s a new school year, but students are still living with the consequences of the pandemic that turned our worlds—especially our schools—upside down more than three years ago.

We’re continuing to hear about increased chronic absenteeism and stalled academic recovery efforts, yet too many parents are unaware of the extent of these problems. Most think the pandemic had a temporary impact, according to a Pew survey. And the nonprofit Learning Heroes finds 90 percent of parents think their students are working at or above grade level, which we know isn’t the case.

Parents, and families, are a child’s first teachers and best advocates. To close these learning gaps, we must close parent knowledge gaps.

I serve on the national board that oversees the Nation’s Report Card, also known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress or NAEP, which measures student achievement across the country. The National Assessment Governing Board has four categories for general public representatives, and two of those slots are specifically dedicated to parent leaders. One of those two parent leader spots is open for new nominations. I encourage committed and engaged parents to seek the appointment. Your voices are needed more than ever.

I know the demands of parenting, the workplace, and everyday life make it hard to lean in for one more thing, but this kind of service is critical.

Governing Board members make important decisions about NAEP, including what subjects and grades it assesses and the content of the actual assessments administered to students. Through NAEP, we provide the country with data about student achievement, how groups of students are doing, and results from surveys that shed light on the student experience. The data are critical to help give a clearer picture of where children are academically, help educators address learning gaps and tailor their instruction to students, empower parents to support and advocate for their child’s learning and help ensure equity for all children.

Test measurement experts, school board members, teachers, and policymakers are among those on the panel, but a parent’s eye is critical too.

When the initial wave of NAEP results came out last year showing the steep score declines related to the pandemic, I was proud to shape how the information was shared with the public, bringing together a leading researcher on our board, Stanford economist Eric Hanushek, to talk to state PTA leadership nationwide about the economic impact of stalled academic recovery efforts across states.

It may sound like a stretch, but this is no different than stepping up at the local level. Sometimes it can take a parent’s perspective to shift views and get things done. When I first got involved in PTA locally, my daughter was in ninth grade at Frederick Douglass High School in Oklahoma City. The school lacked new books that students could read in school and on their own at home. Our principal turned to parents for help, and we wrote letters, made calls to district leaders, and attended school board meetings to make sure our students got the books they needed. It worked, and so I’ve looked for ways to leverage that power as a parent—authentic and purposeful power—for the greater good ever since.

I always try to inform myself about the relevant issues. And, of course, I think about the needs of my own children—or these days my grandchildren—and about the needs of all the students served by our public education system. Each of those aspects of parental advocacy is vital.

That principal who called on me and my parent community to help get new books for our school later encouraged me to run for the school PTA president and then sent me, alongside teachers, to professional development conferences to learn more about their instructional resources and practices. It was a privilege and a true collaboration. I am forever grateful.

Serving on the Governing Board presents a similar opportunity to collaborate as parents, educators and policymakers, and there could not be a more important time for this. As members, we’re called on to bring our expertise and perspective to policymaking and to work with each other to build consensus around important issues. In this role, I’ve received briefings on education statistics, had training on communicating education news effectively, visited schools around the country to see best practices, learned about pandemic recovery efforts, and more. I’m so glad to have a seat at the table. I hope other parents see the value of that too and join me in this role or seek out similar opportunities to give back to our children and our country.

You can learn more about the open positions on the National Assessment Governing Board here. Or, reach out if I can share additional insights about my experience. I’m @annaking87 on X, formerly Twitter.

Becoming a National PTA School of Excellence

Have you ever wondered what PTAs have done to help their schools become nationally-recognized Schools of Excellence? Check out how these PTAs made a tremendous impact on continuous school improvement through the School of Excellence program. Enroll your PTA in the 2017-18 School of Excellence program now thru October 1 at

Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA – FL

Through the School of Excellence program, the Virginia A. Boone Highland Oaks Elementary School PTA created the Kindness Project with the mission to foster kindness and respect in our student body by engaging students, parents and faculty alike. All students worked together during their art classes to create art while focusing on 8 core values: Citizenship, Cooperation, Responsibility, Integrity, Fairness, Kindness, Respect and Honesty. Furthermore, families were encouraged to work one-on-one with their children at home by coming up with examples on how they could be kind at school.

The PTA communicated this program by reaching out to all faculty members via emails and educating the faculty at their Faculty Meetings. Parents and students were sent home “kindness contracts” to fill out and work on together. “Kindness Necklaces” were given out to all students “caught” being kind in the classroom and during lunch. Each week, winners were chosen by teachers and faculty members and children were asked to make a special appearance on the school’s television stations so that they could be recognized for their kind acts. At the close of school year, the classes with the most participation throughout the process were awarded with a cookie party. The Kindness Project was so successful that the pilot event will become a permanent program at the school.

Thomas B. Chinn PTA – MO

As a Title 1 school with 41% free and reduced families, Chinn Elementary PTA chose the goal of increasing access to the arts so that all of their students had access, regardless of their economic situation. The PTA met one of the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, Collaborating with Community, by making connections with a local ballet school to host workshops for the students. The ballet school introduced the history of ballet and demonstrated ballet moves.  The students were then challenged to do moves themselves, gifting many of the students their very first dance class.  At the end of the week, the ballet studio performed the Nutcracker Ballet for the whole school community, including family members, again, bringing the arts to many whom may never see a ballet. One of the students summed up the experience perfectly: “I’ve NEVER seen a ballet before…. and it was BEAUTIFUL!”

Floranada Elementary PTA – FL

The Floranada Elementary PTA worked to increase male role model participation by creating the Floranada Watch D.O.G.S. (Dads of Great Students) program enlisting male family role models to volunteer at least one full school day during the year. The program was promoted by having the Watch D.O.G. and the students he represented wear designated t-shirts during the volunteer day and having their picture taken for a Wall of Fame. The Watch D.O.G. started the day by greeting families in the car line at drop off, then joining in on classroom activities, specials and even field trips, and closing out the day with the children at dismissal. Most importantly, the Watch D.O.G.s were encouraged to pay particular attention to children who demonstrate a need for male role model interaction and act as a mentor to those children. The program was so successful that it increased exponentially by mid-year through student recommendation.

Johns Creek High School PTSA – GA

Johns Creek High School supported student success through a College and Career Fair, with over 60 college representatives to provide hundreds of students information to assist them in their college and career planning.  They welcomed all of our diverse families by displaying a welcome banner created by the PTSA.  JCHS PTSA spoke up and advocated for every child by holding registration drives, attending PTA Advocacy Day at the Capitol and hosting a Voter Information Night and Candidate forum open to the entire community. JCHS PTSA collaborated with their community by bringing in community members to speak with students during the PTSA sponsored Red Ribbon Week (to address issues of drug and alcohol abuse) and for Wellness Week (to promote mindfulness and stress management).

Enroll now to start the process in becoming a School of Excellence! Visit our website at, contact or call (800) 307-4782 for more information.

Amy Weinberg, MA is the Associate Manager of Programs & Partnerships at National PTA and serves as the primary contact for the 2017-18 School of Excellence program.