A Publication of the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education February 2007
Milestones in Parent Involvement of America’s Schools
The political and historical strides of parent involvement in America’s public
education system were revealed during the March NCPIE. Anne Henderson,
Arnold Fege and Bob Witherspoon provided those assembled with an overview
of the legislative landscape and the history of parent and community engagement
from the Brown v. Board of Education decision, to the implementation of the
Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) to the present No Child Left
Behind Act (reauthorization of ESEA); complete with commentary on the many
ups, downs, wins and losses as it relates to parent engagement funding, resources
and decision-making. Below, please find an outline of the history of parent
involvement in American public education.
1964 Wilbur Cohen, Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, supported the concept of parental
involvement in educational programs in a report on child development.
1965 The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), the first major federal public school initiative, was
signed into law by President Lyndon B. Johnson.
1966 Public Law 89-750 amended Title I to include a provision for community involvement.
1967 U.S. Office of Education Program Guide 29 on comprehensive planning included coordination with
community action groups.
1968 Kerner Report, a 1968 federal government commission report that investigated urban riots in the United
States and indicated that increased community and parental participation in the school system was “essential to
the successful functioning of the inner city school.” The Kerner Report was released after seven months of
investigation by the National Advisory Commission on Civil Disorders and took its name from the commission
chairman, Illinois Governor Otto Kerner. President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed the commission on July 28,
1967, while rioting was still underway in Detroit, Michigan. The long, hot summers since 1965 had brought
riots in the black sections of many major cities, including Los Angeles (1965), Chicago (1966), and Newark
(1967). Johnson charged the commission with analyzing the specific triggers for the riots, the deeper causes of
the worsening racial climate of the time, and potential remedies.
1968--Harold Howe, U.S. Commissioner of Education from 1965-68, Howe was charged with distributing
federal funding to public schools under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965, which provided
financial support to nearly 27,000 school districts. – Statement on “Participation and Partnership” – “We must
listen to the people we are trying to serve and enlist their support not just as spectators but as active participants
in the decision making process.”
U.S. Office of Education “Program Guides” suggested local education agencies establish Parent Advisory
Councils (PACs) for Title I. The 1968 regulations required parental involvement in the planning, operations
and evaluations of projects. The regulations gave the School Districts the option of establishing parent advisory
councils to meet the requirements.
1969-70--The General Educations Provisions Act (GEPA) gave the Commissioner of Education the power to
require parental involvement for any federally financed program which he felt might benefit from parent
Title I regulations emphasized the importance of parental involvement and
strengthened public access to Title I information.
1972--U.S. Office of Education issued regulations requiring each Local
Education Agency (LEA) to establish a district-wide parent advisory council.
1972--Fourteen parents from eight states attended a meeting sponsored by the
National Advisory Council on the Education of Disadvantaged Children. Led
by William “Hicks” Anderson of Wilmington, Delaware; these parents pushed
for a national conference for parents.
1973--50 parents attended the conference in Washington, DC. A resolution
calling for the establishment of the National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents
1974--Public Law 93-380 provided that parent advisory councils are required for each district and each school
served by Title I. Parents must elect the council membership and the majority of the council must be parents.
National Coalition of Title I Parents in cooperation with public interest and civil rights groups sponsored the
first national conference for Title I parents in St. Louis, Missouri.
1976--National Coalition of ESEA Title I Parents opened The National Parent Center in Wilmington,
DE/Washington, DC. The Center became the premier training and information clearinghouse for parents and
Title I educators.
1976--First steering committee was formed and led the Coalition until the first board was elected in Oklahoma
City, OK in 1975.
1978--Educational Amendments of 1978 required the involvement of parents in Title I in a substantial way.
The Amendments required the following major provisions:
Parents involved in the governance, parents were involved in establishment of programs; parents were to be
kept informed and permitted to make recommendations on the instructional goals and the progress of their
children; programs afforded parents the opportunity to assist their children in achieving the instructional
Established school advisory councils;
Established a district advisory council with a majority of members being parents with children served by
Title I but also included parents of students eligible for the program but not participating;
LEA’s to work with the advisory councils in planning, implementation, and evaluation of programs;
Provisions for training of council members, providing council members with the federal law, regulations
and other documents were also mandated.
Among parents and advocates, the 1978 Amendments were the most comprehensive and far-reaching while
among administrators and some members of Congress the parent involvement requirements were too
prescriptive. Over the next 8 years, Title I parent involvement requirements begin to decrease.
From Title I to Chapter 1
1981--Congress and the Administration began to dramatically decrease parent involvement requirements.
Chapter 1 provided language that school districts were to “consult” with parents and teachers but did not
provide guidance as how this should be carried out. Chapter 1 allowed the expenditure of funds for parent
activities, but did not require it. Parent Advisory Councils were an option for local education agencies.
1983--Parent involvement provisions were increased with Technical Amendments to Chapter 1. The
Amendments required districts to invite all parents of eligible Chapter 1 students to annual public meetings to
explain the program and services. If parents requested parent activities, the local education agencies were
allowed, but not required to use Chapter 1 funds to support the activities.
Although Advisory Councils were not required doing this period, in districts
where parents were well organized and had developed strong relationships
with Title I, District Advisory Councils remained as an active organized
body of parents. Title I District Advisory Councils tended to be the only
district level avenue for parent involvement. School Advisory Councils
decreased significantly during this period.
1986—Beyond the Bake Sale: An Educator’s Guide on Working with
Parents by Anne Henderson, Carl Marburger, and Theodora Ooms is
published by the National Committee for Citizens. This book served as a guide about parent involvement for
1988--The Hawkins-Stafford Amendments provided for more specific parent involvement requirements.
The LEA was required to make information, services, and personnel available to parents. Section (1016(c)) of
the law required that LEAs:
Develop written policies to ensure parental involvement in program planning, design, and
Make Chapter 1 LEA education personnel, including pupil services personnel, available to parents;
Convene a district wide or building-level annual meeting of the parents of participating children as
well as providing opportunities for regular meetings;
Provide timely information about the program to parents;
Make parents aware of parental involvement requirements and other relevant provisions of the
Provide information, to the extent practicable, in a language and form that parents can understand;
Assess the effectiveness of parental involvement programs and determine in consultation with parents
what action needs to be taken, if any, to increase parent participation;
To the extent practical, hold parent-teacher conferences with all parents of participating students,
including discussion of ways in which parents can complement the child’s instruction;
Coordinate parental involvement, to the extent possible, with programs funded under the Adult
The law also required parent involvement in school-wide programs and in developing school improvement
During this period several parent involvement approaches were used frequently that have since become
effective practices. The use of parent involvement coordinators/liaisons to reach parents and the establishment
of Parent Resource Centers are two such practices.
1994--The reauthorization of Elementary Secondary Education Act (ESEA) legislation Improving Americas
School Act (IASA), focused on four major themes:
High Standards for All Children;
Focus on Teaching and Learning;
Links among Schools, Parents, and Communities.
The Title I legislation recognized the importance of parents as essential to children doing well in school.
Three components of the law focus on the involvement of parents. The law expanded the role of parents to
policy making and implementation.
o District and school level policies are required to be jointly
developed with parents;
o Building capacity for increased parent involvement through
training and connecting with community-based organizations, i.e.,
Head Start and Even Start;
o The development of school-home compacts; a shared
responsibility of parents and the school to increase student
For the first time a budget set aside (1% minimum) is required to support parent
activities. Parents were required to be involved in the decisions as to how the set
aside is spent. Parent involvement in decisions affecting their child and as a part
of the team in Title I school-wide programs was also required.
1995 – The first group of federally funded Parent Information Resource Centers
(PIRCs) was established to provide parents, schools and organizations working with families with training,
information, and technical assistance to understand better how children develop and what they need to succeed
in school. There is now a PIRC in every state, the District of Columbia and U.S. territories.
2001--No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) – Under the NCLBA the roles and responsibilities of the state,
school district, school and families significantly increases.
The No Child Left Behind Act increases the role of parents to include “parent as consumer”. The principles of
What Works – Scientifically Based Research
The Act increases for parents the option to send their child to another school if their school is identified in need
of improvement. Parents also have the responsibility of selecting a supplemental education service (SES)
provider if their school continues on school improvement.
The current law clearly challenges parents to become deeply involved in their children’s education. The
school’s responsibility to reach out to parents in a variety of ways, provide information in an “understandable
format” and to eliminate communication barriers or major challenges to schools.
The law through the legislative efforts of the National PTA provides a definition of parent involvement which
embraces the National Standards for Parent Involvement and the Epstein six types of parent involvement.
NCLB retained many of the provisions from the 1994 legislation. The requirement to develop district and
school policies and parent compacts continues. The parent involvement monetary set aside remained with the
change being the majority of the funds targeted to individual schools.
Looking to the Future
The challenges facing states, districts, and schools will continue. Parents will continue to demand better
schools and a stronger role in helping to shape decisions that affect their children. The changing landscape in
public education, the changing nature of families and communities and the increased demand on schools and
families could all prove enormous challenges to overcome. States, districts and schools have a short window of
opportunity to foster strong Title I partnerships with families and communities. The willingness to fully
implement the intent of the law will continue to remain a challenge.
Sources: ESEA-Title I Milestones in Parent Involvement, Bob Witherspoon, Senior Research Associate Region III Comprehensive
Center RMC Research Corporation Arlington, Virginia; Beyond the Bake Sale-Anne Henderson, Karen Mapp, Vivian Johnson and
Don Davies; Getting Ruby a Quality Public Education, Arnold F. Fege.
Parent Involvement Resources, Trainings and Tools
Universally Designed Technology in Schools Online Training
With the support of the NEC Foundation, PACER Simon Technology Center has created a free online training
to help teachers, administrators, other professionals, and families learn about and implement universally
designed technology (UDT) in K-12 schools. UDT supports a broad range of abilities and learning styles. It can
give students with disabilities equal access to the curriculum and help schools meet the educational needs of all
students. More information is available online at: www.pacer.org/stc/udt/.