Where Are the Parents in Education Nation?

With day one of the 2013 Education Nation Summit in the books, and day two offering up a terrific array of speakers, one has to be impressed.  Throughout yesterday’s program, participants heard from many of the nation’s leading education voices — superintendents, national organization heads, entrepreneurs, innovators, and all-around visionaries.

Spotlights were placed on new initiatives designed to spark new thinking.  There was even a constant reminder of an ongoing student competition, seeking to signal the best of the best in young education innovation.
Today promises tales from the celebrity sector of education, as names such as Tony Bennett (the I Left My Heart in San Francisco singer, not the I Left My Post in Florida state supe) and Goldie Hawn slated to address the audience.
In watching the 1 percent of the education community, if you will, though, Eduflack was left with a lingering question.  Where were the parents?  Where were the voices of those caregivers left to decide which school provides the greatest opportunity for their kids?  Where were the mothers worried about school safety or the fathers concerned about their son dropping out without employment opportunities?  Where were the parents in the academical village?
As a lead up to the two-day summit, NBC now offers two town halls to address some of these stakeholder issues.  Education Nation first offered up a summit with students, which is always an eye-opening and interesting development.  It also provided a town hall for teachers, letting educators discuss many of struggles and concerns they are facing each day in the classroom.
One can argue that these two voices also needed to be front and center during the two-summit itself.  No, I’m not talking the celebrity teacher who is trying to make a name for himself with his latest crusade.  Nor am I talking about the student who is on the cusp of curing cancer before being named homecoming queen and student body president.  I’m talking about those very real voices who can speak to the struggles and the victories that we see in classrooms across the nation.
Those are the voices that should be in there at the New York Public Library.  As those in the know are discussing the impacts and intents of Common Core State Standards, we should also be hearing from parents concerned with the amount of testing their children receive and whether any of those assessments measure if their child is ready for the rigors of college or not.
As the leaders in the field are discussing blended learning, its merits, and how it presents itself, we should also be hearing from parents who wonder how they provide it to their child when they don’t have internet access at home or can’t afford the latest tablet that everyone is gushing about.
Yes, Education Nation plays a valuable role in these ongoing discussions that drive our community.  It is important for the movers and shakers to get together and hear these discussions and understand many of the policy and instructional issues facing our schools.
But it is just as important for voices from the rest of the nation to be heard.  It isn’t enough to say that parents and local school boards and other such actors can watch Education Nation on the Internet.  We need engagement, not just information.  We need a give and take of ideas, not just the consumption of data.
Eduflack doesn’t mean to pick on Education Nation. The same could be said about virtually any education conference or summit these days.  At least Education Nation makes the effort at convening students and educators beforehand as part of the kick-off town halls.
In reality, Education Nation is made up of millions of parents and caregivers and volunteers and educators and other stakeholders who are unable to get into the room.  How do we ensure that their voice is heard during the process?  It is a challenge NBC and its partners are up to, and it is a puzzle that the entire education community should be committed to solving.