U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan Announces a Set of Rights to Help Parents Seek High-Quality Education for Their Children
Washington, D.C. — U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan today released a set of rights that outlines what families should be able to expect for their children's education.
"I want to describe educational rights that I firmly believe must belong to every family in America — and I hope you'll demand that your leaders in elected or appointed offices deliver on them," Duncan said during a speech to the 2015 National Parent Teacher Association Convention and Expo in Charlotte, North Carolina. "They come together as a set of rights that students must have at three pivotal stages of their life, to prepare them for success in college and careers and as engaged, productive citizens."
To help prepare every student for success in life, families have the right to:
- Free, quality preschool;
- High, challenging standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school; and
- An affordable, quality college degree.
The announcement complements work by the Education Department to reach out to parents—from the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, to tools that can help families and students select the best colleges for their needs, to support of Parent Training and Information Centers and Resource Centers.
Parents are critical assets in education. Beginning in 1990, Dr. Tony Bryk and his team conducted a 15-year study across hundreds of elementary schools in Chicago where he discovered five features of a school that determine whether or not learning can thrive: a clear vision for instruction; a staff with the capacity to see that vision through; a student-centered learning environment; skilled leadership; and active and engaged parents. Schools that contained all five features at once were 10 times more likely to improve than schools that didn't. Dr. Bryk also identified a "special sauce" that emerged whenever you mixed all five features together thoroughly: a deep wellspring of trust between parents and educators.
When it comes to making the set of rights announced today a reality for every child, few voices will be as powerful as those of parents. Often parents want to be involved in their child's education, but they aren't sure of the best ways to support their child, or the right questions to ask to ensure their child is getting the education she deserves. The set of rights is meant to help empower parents to demand a world-class education for their children.
Free quality preschool
All children need access to high-quality preschool to prepare them for kindergarten and to close opportunity and achievement gaps. According to the Department's recent report, A Matter of Equity: Preschool in America, of the approximately 4 million 4-year olds in the United States, about 60 percent — or nearly 2.5 million — are not enrolled in publicly funded preschool programs, including state preschool programs, Head Start, and programs serving children with disabilities. Even fewer are enrolled in the highest-quality programs. The Obama Administration has made significant investments in early learning through the Early Learning Challenge and the Preschool Development Grants programs. The grants lay the groundwork for states to be prepared for the proposed Preschool for All program. The Administration has asked Congress for an increase of $500 million for Preschool Development Grants as part of the President's FY16 budget request to expand this program to serve more children.
High standards, engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school
Every child deserves to attend a school that will prepare them for success in college and careers. That means parents have the right to know whether their child is on track to success, with an accurate measuring stick, and assurance that their child is held to the same, high-expectations regardless of where they live in the state. In elementary and secondary school, our nation's students also have a right to high standards and engaging teaching and leadership in a safe, supportive, well-resourced school. And, across the country, we're making important progress. This year, more than 40 states are moving forward with high academic standards and next-generation assessments that can better help teachers and parents understand what students are learning. Graduation rates are at an all-time high. Parents can play a critical role in ensuring that we continue on a path to increase access to an excellent education for every student. Every parent wants to ensure that their child is engaged in learning and supported, and that means teachers and principals need ongoing feedback and support. States have developed unique plans to ensure that their schools improve the quality of instruction, increase equity, and close achievement gaps. Duncan has called on Congress to replace the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as No Child Left Behind, with a strong, bipartisan law that delivers on the promise of equity and real opportunity for every child.
Affordable, quality college degree
As they prepare to graduate from high school, students need access to affordable, quality post-secondary education or training. Creating a clear path to the middle class and ensuring our nation's economic prosperity means opening the doors of higher education to more Americans. Today, three-quarters of the fastest-growing occupations require education and training beyond a high school diploma. A generation ago, America led the world in college attainment of young adults; now, we rank twelfth. The Obama administration is committed to restoring our world leadership in college completion and ensuring that every student has access to an affordable and high-quality postsecondary education.