Starting in August, Louisiana parents will gain new rights around their access to education information. This is great for families and should make it easier for parents to be fully informed about and engaged in their children’s education. But it also entails new obligations for schools and school systems. Luckily, the requirements are not too onerous. Here’s what school district leaders and principals need to do to get ready.
1. Finalize next year’s school calendar before the end of the summer
Families need access to your school calendar in order to plan ahead. This is especially important for working parents who need to arrange for childcare when school is out or schedule time off work in order to attend parent-teacher conferences. The new laws specifies that the complete school calendar must be available no less than 30 days before the start of the school year.
2. Compile and share a list of all school-related fees
This includes fees related to activities, instructional materials and estimated field trip costs. List each fee and its purpose, so that families clearly understand what they need to budget for and why. While not required by the new law, it would also be advisable to outline the process for obtaining a waiver from fees due to financial hardship.
3. Update any school uniform requirements
Specify what uniforms, if any, students have to wear, and make that information available publicly. To align with best practices, also note estimated costs, whether certain uniform items are only available from specific vendors, and if discounted or low-cost uniforms are available for lower-income families. This is also a good time to review your uniform policies and providers in general, to make sure the cost of uniforms is not a barrier for some students.
4. Clarify the process for giving families access to student records
Act 547 requires schools to provide a student’s academic records to a parent or authorized representative within 10 business days of the request. This will entail a substantial shift for some districts, where requests occasionally lag for months. When your school receives a request, who is responsible for fulfilling it? What steps do they need to take? Take time to answer these and other such questions so that when requests arrive, everyone knows what to do. Additional key changes in the new law prohibit schools from requiring families to appear in person to submit or verify requests or charging fees for records when they are delivered electronically. A number of schools and districts may need to update their practices to become compliant with these provisions.
5. Set up a mid-year student progress check
The Parents’ Bill of Rights also requires families to be promptly notified if their child is at risk of not being promoted to the next grade. Each school may decide its own way to identify these students and notify parents, but we recommend instituting a standard mid-year progress check through which teachers and/or school leaders review all students’ progress and take appropriate action.
6. Update your school’s website
The law specifies the school website as an appropriate place to publish and share much of the information above, including the school calendar, list of fees, and uniform policies. Take time this summer to update your school’s site and add new pages to accommodate this information, where necessary. Some schools currently have information posted that is one or more years out of date.
While it’s called the “Parents’ Bill of Rights,” the new requirements are really common sense—and will make things easier not just for families but for schools as well. Parents who know what to expect and can find the information they need are happier, more engaged parents. Schools that get organized well before the start of the school year and monitor student progress carefully are better schools. That’s what we all want — and what we need.