In an effort to encourage more parental participation in their children's school, Illinois Governor Pat Quinn signed into law the creation of an annual "Bring Your Parents to School Day." The signing ceremony, held during the Bud Billiken Parade and Picnic – which has become one of the largest back-to-school events in the country – sets the event on the first Monday of October.
State Representative Emanuel Chris Welch and Senator Kimberly A. Lightford sponsored the amendment to the Illinois School Code that gives local school boards the option of designating the day as "Bring Your Parent to School Day" and encourages parents or guardians to visit their children's classrooms and meet their instructors. According to the press release announcing the signing, the event could work to get more parents to take an active interest in their children's schools.
"A well-rounded education starts at home, and there is no better way to kick-off the school year right than with empowered parents," Governor Quinn said.
"Every first Monday in October, our schoolhouse doors will open for âBring Your Parents to School Day,' giving everyone a chance to get involved and set clear goals for the year ahead."
When the bill was introduced, Lightford said that increasing parental engagement is typically one of the best ways to improve student outcomes. Just as the "Bring Your Daughter to Work Day" was created in order to encourage more women to enter the workforce, "Bring Your Parent to School Day" serves as another opportunity to get parents involved.
"Bring Your Parents to School Day will help give parents and guardians a better understanding of their students' coursework, daily activities and how to address various education challenges," Welch said. "This new law will also give parents an opportunity to work with teachers, sign up for the PTO and participate in other parent-involvement activities."
The education system would look quite different if parents did more to have their voices heard – and not just in Illinois. Based on recent opinion polls, even though families of students disagree with a lot of recent changes adopted by lawmakers and administrators around the country, few are taking the initial steps that would translate their opinions into action – which is getting informed about where education reform is headed.
The polls also offered some interesting findings on the issue that has been covered extensively in education media outlets – the imminent adoption of Common Core Standards. Despite how much ink has been spilled on them over the last two years, parents remain largely ignorant regarding Common Core. Even though the new standards are set to roll out to more than 40 states next year, more than half of respondents with children in public schools have never heard of them. Even among those who were aware of Common Core, nearly a third claimed that they didn't really understand them.
"Bring Your Parents to School Day" could serve as a valuable first step on that road for many grassroots education reform hopefuls.