School information matters to parents, not just to law-makers

As the FE Coalition, it is not enough for us to value the right of parents to lead and guide their children’s education, we must also support policies and platforms that enable parents to do so. 

That is why the FE Coalition believes parents must have reliable and valuable information to help their children succeed. This fact becomes all the more important as COVID-19 has made many parents into de facto educators and teachers. If parents and students continue in this new era of school closures and remote learning, this is all the more reason for us to support meaningful parent access to data through parent portals.

Parent portals are an essential tool for providing parents with timely information, good communications and parent supports to help their children succeed.

This week, Data Quality Campaign (DQC) released a new resource on meaningful parent access to data through parent portals. The resource details steps that state and district leaders can take to turn on parent portals and shares examples of leaders that are at different stages of successfully implementing strategies to get data into the hands of parents.

As students receive instruction from their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic, parents have been largely flying blind in their role as teachers. Parents have always needed to be informed partners in their children’s education, and every district is capable of providing parent access through its student information system. To some extent, COVID recovery depends on providing parents with the information they need to support their students.

According to the DQC, quality parent portal must provide the following:

  • User-friendly interface and language: Parents must be able to easily navigate the portal, and text must be easy to understand. Jargon should be defined, and information should be translated (or translatable) into the common native languages spoken within the district.
  • Timely alerts: Parents should receive notifications through this tool that alert them to important information, like when their child misses an assignment or becomes at risk of not passing a course.
  • Seamless communications: Portals should enable seamless and timely two-way communication between families, teachers, and administrators.
  • Clear context: Student data must be presented alongside school data. Parents should be able to easily see how their child is doing in the context of overall school and district performance.
  • Multiple data sources: Parents should be able to log on to one platform and have access to data from multiple sources.
  • Up-to-date data: Parents must have timely information if they are going to support and advocate for their child.
  • Actionable information: Data must be presented alongside resources and actions parents can take in support of their child.

Whether instruction is virtual, in-person, or a hybrid, parents need access to data to stay involved in their child’s education. States and districts already have the tools they need to create parent portals to do just that, and state and district leaders must meet parents’ data needs and support them in accessing and understanding information that will help them best meet the needs of students.

I encourage you to share this DQC resource with your state and local school leaders. As a parent, and possibly as a “teacher” for the next school year, you have the right to know what the school knows about your child’s education. 

Forward and higher in Christ, 

Rev. Girien R. Salazar
Executive Director, FE Coalition