Indiana Parents Stand Up For Better Schools


Kelly Amis, Contributing Filmmaker

George H. Fisher Elementary, School 93 in the Indianapolis Public Schools system, is not a place typically associated with hope and inspiration.

Located in an impoverished section of the Far Eastside neighborhood, the school has struggled for years to raise dismal test scores and overcome consecutive F ratings by the State of Indiana.

But last spring, something unexpected happened at School 93.

Parents and teachers in the community, frustrated by the lack of progress, joined together to demand better for their children. They studied options, gathered signatures, and petitioned the school board to adopt Project:RESTORE—a teacher-led turnaround program—to revitalize their school. Thanks to their efforts, the school board approved the proposal, paving the way for a new beginning at School 93, and a brighter future for its students.

The story of School 93’s transformation is unusual in today’s landscape, where school interventions are typically conceived, developed, and administered from the top down.

Stand for Children is working to change that.

Since 1996, Stand for Children has been empowering parents, teachers, and communities to play an active role in shaping and improving public schools. The organization has partnered with parents across the country, including the parents of School 93, to initiate—and sustain—change from the bottom up, starting at the grassroots level. Emerson Collective is excited to support their efforts.

Through their work in communities and in the policy arena, Stand for Children members honor and advance the special role that only parents can play in their children’s education—both at home, where so much learning can take place, and in our schools, where parents’ voices, though too rarely heard, are indispensable.

That view is underscored by decades of research that tie parent involvement to student academic achievement, high school completion, and college readiness. Despite these findings, notes Jonah Edelman, Stand for Children’s co-founder and CEO, parents are routinely excluded from the discussions and debates that shape America’s public schools.

The barriers to engagement can vary by family and community, but they share one important quality: they are surmountable.

“There’s often a sense among the parents we meet that they don’t possess the skills or background to be a legitimate advocate for their child and their child’s education,” Edelman says. “Maybe they were the kid who used to get sent to the principal’s office. Maybe they didn’t finish school themselves. The message we give to those parents is that anyone can learn tobe a great advocate for their child—and in fact, that’s the only way things will ever change.”

Stand for Children helps parents to see—and exercise—their power to improve the schools in their neighborhood. The organization designed an innovative program called Stand University for Parents (Stand UP), which helps parents build the skills and confidence it takes to engage on their children’s behalf.

School 93 is a prime example. Parents attending a Stand UP program learned about Project:RESTORE’s success in nearby schools and sprung into action. They rallied friends and neighbors, stood in parking lots gathering signatures after school, and attended school board meetings—many for the first time in their lives.

The long-term benefits of this movement stretch beyond the immediate results of Project:RESTORE and School 93. By creating lifelong parent advocates, Stand for Children is helping parents find their voices and transform our public schools, one community at a time.

What's Next?

You can locate your local Stand For Children office and sign up for updates on their website.