Education is the foundation upon which a child’s life is built. The learning opportunities and resources young learners have at their disposal pave the way for a successful future. A quality education can lead to better employment opportunities, higher salaries, and a prosperous life. According to the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), professionals who have a bachelor’s degree make approximately $20,000 more than those who’ve completed high school with no college education.
Unfortunately, not all children are on equal footing when it comes to education. Some children have learning disabilities, go to school in underfunded school districts, or experience educational disparities that put them at an early disadvantage to their peers. Education advocacy aims to address these issues and others so that all children get an equal opportunity to learn and be successful.
By understanding the role that advocacy plays in the American education system, teachers and parents can coordinate their efforts so that children get the resources they need. In addition to advocates possessing the motivation to drive organizational change, an advanced degree in educational policy and leadership will help them be more effective in their role.
What’s Education Advocacy?
Education advocacy is the coordinated effort between educators and parents to drive systemic and policy changes that’ll benefit underserved or disadvantaged students. Effective advocates are usually highly proficient in educational procedures, services, interventions, and laws. The extensive knowledge that advocates possess is leveraged to drive educational policy changes, reforms, and initiatives.
Importantly, education advocacy is by no means a one-person endeavor. The partnership between parents and advocates is what raises awareness and influences key decision makers. For example, it may take months of prolonged lobbying efforts by a group of education advocates to secure adequate school funding for their district or to reform an outdated policy pertaining to standardized testing.
Organizations with a vested interest in education are the driving force behind advocacy efforts. Examples of active advocacy groups fighting for educators and students are as follows:
- Alliance for Excellent Education
- Stand for Children
- National College Transition Network
- America Achieves
- American Youth Policy Forum
Although all education advocacy groups fight for the same thing in a broad sense, most organizations have one or two main areas of focus. For example, an organization may concentrate on advocating for children with a specific learning disability or children who come from different cultural backgrounds.
What Does an Educational Advocate Do?
Educational advocates devote their careers to ensuring that all children have the resources and support they deserve to learn and thrive in the classroom. They serve as the voice for those who can’t advocate for themselves, using their specialized knowledge to push for change and raise public awareness of certain issues.
The typical duties of an education advocate include the following:
- Educating parents and guardians about educational laws and policies that are relevant to their child
- Evaluating schools and identifying potential problems that may pose a challenge to a child’s specific educational needs
- Ensuring that schools are providing services and resources they’re legally obligated to provide
- Attending school conferences, individualized education plan (IEP) meetings, and 504 plan meetings
- Serving as a liaison between schools and parents
- Recommending educational modifications and accommodations that’ll benefit a specific demographic of children
- Developing strategies that promote a child’s success at home and in the classroom
- Working with legislators to make changes to laws or policies that pertain to education
- Helping parents secure resources and accommodations for children with mental or behavioral health issues, learning disabilities, or physical disabilities
- Explaining reports and documentation to parents so that they understand them
- Advising parents when it’s time to consult with an attorney to pursue legal action
Clearly, educational advocates do a lot for parents and their children; however, a couple of items they can’t do. First, advocates can’t provide legal advice, despite their intimate knowledge of laws and educational policies. Second, advocates can’t diagnose children with learning disabilities, even though they typically work on their behalf.
What Are the Core Benefits of Education Advocacy?
Education advocacy effectively levels the playing field for disadvantaged students. The work can be challenging, but the results it yields for students, parents, and teachers make advocacy a worthwhile endeavor. The core benefits of education advocacy include the following:
- Promotion of lifelong learning and skill development
- Creation of a generation of informed parents actively involved in their children’s education
- Elimination of educational disparities
- Improvement of quality of education and classroom experience
- Inclusivity and diversity in the classroom
- Policy changes and reforms that improve classroom conditions and remove educational barriers
- Teachers who are empowered to instruct a broad range of students
According to NCES, the adjusted cohort graduation rate among high school students rose from 79 percent in 2010 to 87 percent in 2019. Some of the credit for this success story must be attributed to the education advocacy groups that continue to fight for education equity and policies that help disadvantaged students.
Key legislation includes the following:
- Improving Mental Health and Wellness in Schools Act
- Increasing Access to Mental Health in Schools Act
- Early Childhood Nutrition Improvement Act
- Respond, Innovate, Succeed, and Empower (RISE) Act of 2021
Advocate for a Brighter Future Through Education
When motivated individuals combine their efforts to advocate for the right social causes, it pays long-term dividends that benefit communities and help shape society. To quote the U.N.’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, “Everyone has a right to education.”
Education advocacy is the driving force that ensures that every child has access to the resources and support they deserve. The important altruistic work of advocates has helped countless students excel in the classroom, so they can lead productive, fruitful lives as adults.
Those who wish to get involved are encouraged to explore their educational options, such as the Online Master of Education (MEd) in Education Policy and Leadership program offered at American University. The program produces graduates who are capable of effectively advocating to advance the education system for the better.
Learn more about the program so that you can pursue your passion for student learning and educational equity.