If you’re looking for a more systematic approach to parent involvement, these seven principles will guide you towards success. These research-driven tenets, based on A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships, will help you assess your current activities and easily adjust the course to increase the impact of your efforts.
1. Linked To Learning
Parents cannot become your partners in supporting student learning if they have no insight into what the academic and developmental goals are. Keeping families informed about current topics and material helps them motivate and encourage students as well as express high expectations.
Some New York City schools have put this principle into practice with Academic Parent Teacher Teams. The program supplements parent-teacher conferences with group activities for parents, teaching them how to engage their children academically.
Parents are comfortable with getting involved when they feel connected to the school.
Stanton Elementary School was in crisis when they had initiated a Parent–Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP). Teachers and other school staff visited families with the intention to build trust and respect between home and school. Unlike previous visits, the program wasn’t about communicating attendance issues or other problems and was designed to overcome negative connotation around the idea of home communication.
Parent Ellen Little recalls: “that home visit was the best visit of my life.” The impact was felt almost instantly.”We had set up a small number of chairs because of our usual low attendance, but then parents kept coming and coming. We had to run and get more chairs, and the next thing we knew, staff had to give up their seats for parents.” – commented teacher Melissa Bryant.
A collaborative parent involvement program provides an opportunity for shared learning by creating collective learning environments. When learning is conducted in a group setting, rather than individually, we enable peer learning and create communications networks among families and the school staff. This is how the social capital of families and staff develops.
Even though teachers and the administration play a significant role in encouraging parental involvement, the relationship shouldn’t be one-sided. Successful family engagement includes parents as “members of the team“, who share responsibilities, but also have a say in the processes. A successful parent involvement program creates space for two-way communication – a regular, meaningful dialogue should be initiated by both the school staff as well as parents and caregivers.
Interactive communication has become easier thanks to technology – tools and apps help teachers manage parents’ contact details and reach everyone according to their communication preferences. Parents can respond on the go, too, thanks to cross-platform apps that keep all classroom matters organized and bridge communication gaps.
Admittedly, this principle might sound a little cryptic at first. A systemic parent involvement program gets the entire school engaged. While every teacher is focused on students and parents in their own classroom, creating links at a school level contributes to building a community where the combined benefits are far greater than the impact on each classroom separately. The school community shouldn’t leave anyone out, involving parents/carers, students, teaching staff and administrators.
Families should be involved in all aspects of school activities: from PD to teaching to community collaboration. As “team members”, families should have a role and be actively involved in a range of school activities. The goal of building family partnerships should be integrated into recruitment and training of competent teachers and school leaders, and included in mechanisms of teacher evaluation and assessment.
The school needs to dedicate resources and infrastructure to enable ongoing engagement. If you haven’t established tools and processes for ongoing parent communication, start by reading our review of 8 parent-teacher communication channels to decide which ones are right for you.
If you’re already taken action to boost parent involvement in your classroom or school, take a moment to review your efforts so far. How many of these principles have you been following consistently and what are the results?
Consult the checklist below to see how many of these principles are already at work in your school. Then, leave a comment and let us know how your school is doing.