How much access do the parents of North Carolina have to what is happening in their children’s classroom? Section 7.10.(a) of the House 2023 Budget Proposal (HB-259) breaks down new standards of curriculum transparency required of all public schools, including having all course materials and lesson plans “prominently displayed online.” But what exactly is educational transparency and why do we need more?  

It involves understanding what information is being taught daily to our children. By having a clear view of the curriculum, parents can engage with their child’s academics. Transparency is about granting access to course materials, lesson plans, and academic outcome records, all displayed online, empowering parents to make informed decisions about their child’s education. In addition, transparency extends to having access to financial data, shedding light on how taxpayer money is spent in schools and school districts. Transparency equips parents with the knowledge they need to assess whether schools are effectively meeting their children’s needs. 

What do North Carolina parents think about transparency? One of the top complaints we heard in our office is that parents do not know what is happening in their child’s classroom. In a survey conducted earlier this year, Locke found that over 70% of parents feel that their child’s education has become more politicized in the last five years. This concern is not unique to just liberal or just conservative parents. Parents do not want politics forced on their kids by teachers. They also know there are some life lessons appropriate for the classroom and others better suited for the dinner table. 

Despite the obvious benefits of educational transparency, there are those who stand against it. Opponents argue that the state knows better than parents when it comes to their children’s wellbeing. They fear that transparency could lead to undue burdens on teachers and schools, making it “cloudy” and too difficult to access necessary information. Those who say that requiring teachers to publish material online is an undue burden may have had a point some 30 years ago, but today, all lesson plans are created digitally, and most textbooks come with digital access. Is it that much of an extra burden to put your lesson plans in a drop box for the district to publish on their website?

Opponents of transparency also emphasize that each child is unique, and education should not be reduced to a mere transaction. They emphasize that “kids are not widgets,” implying that an educational marketplace, driven by transparency, could diminish the individuality of students. However, this view overlooks the core principle of transparency, which is to empower parents with information so they can make choices that best suit their child’s unique needs.

In the understanding of schools as markets, the schools themselves are the products, not the children. We can compare choosing a school to buying a family car, the more information available on the car and trust with the dealership, the more likely you are to buy said car. And school transparency works the same way; the more information available to the parents, the better-informed decision they can make about which school is the best fit for their children. Children are not the products, the education is.  

Providing parents with more information about potential school options allows them to make the best-informed decisions for their family. By being open about the curriculum, financial practices, and academic outcomes, schools can build trust and highlight their commitment to providing the best education possible. Without academic transparency, a lack of trust can build between parents and educators, when both groups should be aligned with the common goal of providing the youth of our state with quality education. Schools that genuinely prioritize their students’ growth and progress will naturally stand out and attract more parents who seek the best for their children. Promoting enhanced transparency can help schools become more attractive options for parents. 

Embracing transparency is one path to improving educational excellence in our schools. By providing detailed access to curriculum, financial data, and academic records, parents can actively participate in their children’s education and make informed decisions. Transparency, in the end, will work better for all by putting teachers, administrators, and parents all on the same page.