How to Let the School Know About Your Concerns

If you have a concern about your child's schoolwork or behavior, or a problem with another student, teacher, or administrator, here are some steps to take.

Questions and Answers

What if my child has a problem, such as with homework or not understanding what's happening in class?

  • Find an interpreter if you need one. What you have to say is more important than the language you say it in! If you have a concern and are not comfortable speaking English, ask the school to find an interpreter for you or bring a friend or relative to interpret for you.
  • Contact the teacher as soon as you suspect that your child has problem with his schoolwork. Schools have a responsibility to keep you informed about your child's performance and behavior and you have a right to be upset if you don't find out until report-card time that your child is having difficulties. On the other hand, you may figure out that a problem exists before the teacher does. By alerting the teacher, you can work together to solve a problem in its early stages.
  • Request a meeting with the teacher to discuss problems. Tell her briefly why you want to meet. You might say, "Tim is having trouble with his social studies homework. I'm worried about why he can't finish the assignments and what we might do to help him." If English is your second language, you may need to make special arrangements, such as including in the meeting someone who is bilingual.
  • Approach the teacher with a cooperative spirit. Believe that the teacher wants to help you and your child, even if you disagree about something. Follow the chain of command. Don't go to the principal without first giving the teacher a chance to work out the problem with you and your child.
  • Don't give up. If you tell them about a problem and nothing changes, try calling or writing again.

What if I don't agree with a school rule or with a teacher's assignments?

  • Set up a meeting to talk about the issue. Don't argue with the teacher in front of your child. Before the meeting, plan what you are going to say — why you think a rule is unfair or what exactly you don't like about an assignment. Get your facts straight and don't rely on anger to win your argument. Try to be positive and remain calm. Listen carefully.
  • If the teacher's explanation doesn't satisfy you, arrange to talk with the principal or even the school superintendent. Do not feel intimidated by titles or personalities. An educator's primary responsibility is to ensure the success of each and every student in his classroom, school or district.

What if these steps don't work?

  • Look for other school leaders who can help you. If you are dissatisfied with what your child's teacher says, then ask to meet with the school's guidance counselor, assistant principal, or principal. If you still don't agree, then the next step is to contact the school district office, superintendent, or school board.
  • Talk with other parents. Let others know about your concern. Your neighbor or friend might already have solved a problem similar to yours. Ask others for advice. At most schools, a group of parents meets regularly to talk about what the school is doing. This group is usually called the PTA or PTO. These groups are sometimes quite powerful in getting changes made at a school.
  • Find an advocate. Sometimes you have to go "outside the system" to get what you need done for your child. Each state has a parent center that may have information to help you. Often there are organizations — including those affiliated with the National Council of La Raza — which serve the Hispanic community.

    In addition, you can work with a professional — usually called an advocate, educational consultant, or lawyer — who specializes in helping parents resolve problems with a school. These professionals are often expensive, however.
  • Take written notes. Try to keep a written record of your meetings. Take notes and write down the date and name of each person you meet with about your concerns, what you talked about, and what you decided.

References

Adapted from Helping Your Child Succeed in School. U.S. Department of Education. First published in June 1993. Revised 2002 and 2005.

Reprints

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Share My Lesson. For teachers, by teachers.

National Education Association. How Educators Can Advocate for English Language Learners.

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