06/16/2010 06:00 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Parents shut out: the Obama administration's approach to education reform

I just published an opinion piece in Education Week, co-authored with Julie Woestehoff of Chicago's Parents United for Responsible Education (PURE) entitled Shutting Out Parents: Obama's Disappointing Blueprint for Reform.

It shows how the US Department of Education has completely excluded parents, and our ideas for reform, from their education agenda, including the need for smaller classes and more parental involvement.

The only instance in which parents are mentioned in Education Secretary Duncan's entire blueprint for the reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is to require that the parents of Native American children be enlisted in the design of programs at the school level.

Though the U.S. Department of Education calls many of their proposals "innovation," we see them as representing large-scale experiments on our children--experiments lacking a foundation in research and implemented without informed parental consent--something that would never be allowed in fields such as medicine.

Here is an excerpt:

Education is a public trust, and the very foundation of our democracy. Congress holds a great responsibility in its hands in the pending reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. We are well aware that powerful corporate and foundation interests are shaping many federal and local education policies with dollars rather than evidence-based solutions. We hope that Congress and the administration will listen more carefully to parents as they deliberate on this crucial piece of legislation, and that the next version of the ESEA formally incorporates our views. As highly knowledgeable primary stakeholders, we must be permitted to have a seat at the decisionmaking table.

If lawmakers truly listened, they would turn away from the risky experiments in the administration's blueprint and replace them with real solutions to the problems facing schools, including putting an end to unfair funding disparities, reducing class sizes, providing a balanced curriculum with multiple methods of assessment, and requiring that schools and districts involve parents in decisionmaking.

These are the changes that parents want, that will work, and that, if incorporated into the ESEA, will provide our neediest public school children with their best chance to learn and succeed.

Many of the points we make in the piece reflect those in a letter we sent last month to the President and Congress, signed by parent leaders across America.

Please send your own message to DC policymakers, by signing our petition to Obama and Congress, Put the Parent Voice Back in Public Education.