Engaging Families for Student Success

Expanding Advocacy and Taking Action with Parent Leaders in Chicago and DC

December 11, 2015

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Each fall, Turning the Page hosts a semiannual Parent Leadership Conference to bring parents together across our partner schools to share their common visions for school and community advocacy, build a stronger parent network, and explore community resources. This year was a first in TTP history, as our expansion to Chicago allowed us to hold conferences at both our Chicago and Washington, DC sites simultaneously on November 14th.

The DC conference was held at the Town Hall Education Arts Recreation Campus (THEARC), a community and nonprofit hub in Southeast DC. Parents from schools all over Ward 8 came together to discuss advocacy issues in their schools. The group was joined by Joyanna Smith, the Ombudsman for Public Education, Khadijah Williams from the Office of the Student Advocate, and Dwanna Nicole from The Advancement Project. In small groups, parents constructed “power maps” of their communities that identified the stakeholders, resources, and goals for their initiatives for school and community improvements. Families ended the day with a discussion of the power of testifying in public forums and planned next steps for preparing testimonies for spring hearings.

plc3At TTP’s Chicago site, parent leaders from the North Lawndale community gathered for their first-ever Parent Leadership Conference. Throughout the day parents focused on the theme of “Sharing a Vision” of their community and brainstormed steps to make that vision a reality. They began the day by reflecting on their personal leadership characteristics using the Leadership Compass, followed by a discussion of school performance data and how it can be used to help their schools improve. Parents later conducted a SWOT analysis, which they used to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their school’s access to resources as well as the opportunities and the potential threats within the school and community. Parents wrapped up the day by creating action plans in their school groups, based on their SWOT analysis. This action plan will serve as a first draft for parent-led initiatives over the remainder of the school year.

plc2As parents and family members collaborated to identify new pathways to advocacy in both cities, students embarked
on activities of their own. In Chicago, students and their volunteer chaperones went on a field trip to the Field Museum and Adler Planetarium to explore a variety of science exhibits. In DC, TTP staff and volunteers headed over to partner school Turner Elementary for a soccer clinic led by coaches from Play Footy, a local nonprofit and partner at Turner that provides youth soccer programming. After a quick break for lunch, students jumped into fun craft activities and pumpkin painting, using pumpkins donated by Summit LLC. All students in both DC and Chicago ended their day by picking out a new book.

With action plans and power maps in hand, parent leaders in Chicago and DC left the conference with concrete next steps to launch their school-based initiatives. Turning the Page is excited for the opportunity to support parent leaders in Chicago and DC, and we look forward to sharing the successes of the school year at our May conference.

In Their Words—Quotes from DC Parent Leaders

Being a Parent Leader Means:

  • “I am responsible for learning, organizing to take action and informing other parents of what they don’t know.”
  • “Stepping forward to make changes to better school, life, and learning.”
  • “Leading other parents to lead and be a role model for their children.”