How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” It’s complicated, isn’t it? Perhaps the better question is – “What don’t you do?” After all, you hire the best possible teachers. You make sure your school’s students have every tool they need to succeed. You maintain and enforce behavioral standards. You even make sure the building and facilities meet your teachers’, students’, and parents’ expectations.You do it all. Every one of those activities revolves around one central goal – helping students succeed. If you have to boil your work down to one tenet, that’s it. You put students in position to succeed.
However, if you’re not actively working to keep parents engaged in their child’s education, you may be missing the biggest influence on student success – parent involvement. Research shows that student success is most dependent on something that occurs mostly outside your building – parent involvement.
For more help on how to improve parent involvement, refer to the School Communications Planning Guide.
In numerous studies, researchers have found that student success in the classroom is most heavily influenced by his or her parents’ ability to:
- Encourage learning and education
- Set high – but not unrealistic – educational standards and goals
- Become involved in school and community activities
Researchers have also found that students who do benefit from strong parental involvement have:
- Higher overall achievement, regardless of socioeconomic, ethnic or racial background.
- A higher completion level on homework.
- A higher level of self-esteem in all aspects of life.
- Better social behavior and lower probability that they will get into trouble outside of school.
- Greater comfort navigating different cultural environments between home and school.
- Less likelihood of being placed in special education courses.
- Less probability of dropping out of high school.
How to increase parent involvement
You can’t force a parent to be involved in their child’s education, but you can encourage and facilitate it. Parents are more likely to be involved if you make it easy for them. Twice-a-year parent-teacher conferences aren’t enough anymore. In a world of dual-income households, single-parent households, and unconventional work hours, you should provide multiple opportunities for them to fit engagement and interaction into their schedules.
The good news is that the digital age offers a wide variety of tools to allow parents to connect with your school and teachers. Using today's digital communications channels – and some old-school ones – can increase parental involvement:
1. Online advice videos
Parents and teachers can share ideas via web videos on your school’s website. Teachers can provide guidance on how parents can help with certain assignments and parents can provide feedback on areas where their child may need extra help.
2. A dedicated blog and online calendar
One of the biggest objections to parental involvement is that parents are so busy that they just don’t know when events are happening. A dedicated parent blog, accompanied by social media presence and an event calendar, can keep them in the loop.
3. Social media that connects to parents
The number of parents using social media is increasing at an alarming rate. Examine your school’s social media policy and begin planning to communicate on an ongoing basis using popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus. Social media provides excellent ways to connect parents to your school’s website and begin engaging them.
4. Home visits and parent/teacher conferences
Just because we live in a digital world doesn’t mean that face-to-face interaction is dead. On the contrary, nothing can replace an in-person visit.
5. Family nights
Hosting an Open House event in which a student’s entire family can visit the school and classroom in an informal and laid back setting builds the parent-teacher relationship. It also eliminates the pressure and expectations of a formal sit-down meeting. Allowing students to bring siblings and parents to their classroom ensures a greater sense of confidence within the student and gives parents to see the day-to-day operation of their child’s education.
6. Volunteer opportunities
Special volunteer opportunities give parents the chance to transition from spectator to active participant in the school and their child’s education. It can also give them a greater understanding of what their child does on a daily basis and what challenges he or she may face.
7. School mobile app
All of us are relying on mobile apps to stay on top of news and entertainment, so it only makes sense your school has a mobile app to keep parents involved. Make sure yours is fully integrated with your website and has all the necessary links to calendars, school feeds, and all the resources your parents depend on to stay connected to your school.
One of the best ways to coordinate all these activities is through the school website. Certainly, the dedicated blog, event calendar, and advice videos can take place online. However, the website can also help in other areas. An online volunteer sign-up form can make volunteering easy and convenient. Videos of past family nights may encourage more parents to attend. Zoom meetings and other online video conferencing services can facilitate online meetings when a face-to-face one isn’t possible.
For more info on improving parent involvement, check out this article on the 6 Key School Communication Channels and How to Use Them.
A modern school content management system can make online communication with parents simple. Websites that can be quickly updated to communicate special events, volunteer needs, and other opportunities for involvement play a major role in engaging your families.
Topics: Communication School Districts Private schools
About the author
Marketing director and content strategist for SchoolNow, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at email@example.com.