How to Increase Parent Involvement
Educators must start by asking, “Why do we need to think about parent involvement?”
(Keep in mind that I am using ”parents” as a general term in this post to refer to anyone who is in charge of your students, whether they are grandparents, other family, foster family, guardians, or the like.)
There has been a great deal of research and media attention given to the question of what makes a student successful. And parent involvement is cited over and over as a critical ingredient to student success and, by extension, the success of schools.
Educators know this, but how can they encourage parents to become more involved?
1. Set clear expectations regarding parent involvement
Children need to know that their teachers, their school administrators, and their parents are on the same team.
An open communication plan with parents builds mutual trust and deactivates assumptions on both sides of the classroom door.
An established communication plan and articulated roles and responsibilities create the foundation for a team approach. This gives helicopter parents a framework to follow and parents who struggle to be involved a place to begin.
2. Contact parents early and often
Make sure to reach out to parents on a regular basis and ensure that they know how to get in touch with you.
Research shows that children do better in school when parents are involved in the school and talk often with teachers. However, educators may need to instigate these conversations and provide an avenue to meet the communication needs of parents.
However, we know that this effort pays off, as close communication between parents and teachers can have a huge impact on student success.
3. Connect the classroom to time at home
When speaking with parents, it is important that educators share what is happening in the classroom as well as what is happening with the individual child.
This gives parents a place to begin their side of the conversation. It gives them concrete topics to ask their child about.
By providing parents with insight into the larger world of the class as a whole, they can, in turn, help their children understand and respect their experiences in the classroom.
Think of how powerful it would be to teach a concept in the classroom that is then carried into the home. Better yet, consider the expression on a child’s face when he or she is asked about and can teach his or her parent about that concept.
4. Work smarter, not harder
Educators should think about creating a classroom website that can be updated rather than recreated. Putting together a class website allows teachers the flexibility to build it once and modernize it as needed.
Class schedules, policies, and instructional snapshots can be easily and automatically shared with parents.
Website templates have become very easy to use; by spending several minutes at the beginning of the school year to create a website, educators can save themselves countless hours during the year.
5. Share progress
Traditional report cards with letter grades have a place in our world (their value is a topic for another day). However, these letters provide limited information to parents.
Sharing smaller successes or struggles can identify a child's interests, breakthroughs in understanding, and growing mastery of skills.
Narrative reports like this are useful for parent conferences, year-end reports, and your own routine recordkeeping.
6. Get parents in the classroom
There are unique dynamics occurring in every school and classroom, and there is value in breaking out of the traditional or comfortable.
The National Parent Teacher Association’s (PTA) National Standards for Family-School Partnerships has some outstanding suggestions for getting families involved.
Even just three hours per school year of each parents’ time can make a significant impact by providing parents with concrete reasons and ways to play a role in their child’s education.
Remember, volunteer opportunities don’t have to be limited to the school day, especially for parents keeping nine-to-five office hours.
Hours outside of class may provide a perfect chance to get help with classroom organization or preparation projects.
7. Understand why parent involvement matters
There is research showing that parents of high-achieving students tend to set higher standards for their children’s educational activities than parents of low-achieving students do. It is essential to empower parents to believe in, challenge, and encourage children throughout their academic careers.
When parents are engaged, students receive not only additional academic reinforcement but also a boost in self-confidence and motivation. The parental involvement ripple effect extends beyond the classroom, nurturing a sense of shared commitment to educational excellence.
Here are three primary ways that parental involvement benefits any student’s education:
Increased Academic Success
A study performed by the Center for Public Education has shown that children whose parents are involved in their education tend to demonstrate higher achievement in school regardless of ethnic or racial background, socioeconomic status, or their parents’ level of education.
These students consistently complete their homework on time and, in turn, achieve higher GPAs and higher scores on high-stakes state assessments. In addition, parent involvement consistently correlates to higher attendance—a key indicator of high school completion.
Improved Attitude and Motivation
When parents and caregivers set high standards and speak highly of education at home, it transfers to how a child perceives school. Students whose families are highly involved in their education express loftier aspirations and increased motivation about school through actions like enrolling in advanced classes and taking steps to prepare for college.
Parents and caregivers who provide positive involvement take advantage of the opportunities and resources available to encourage their child’s interests, helping build self-esteem and strong social skills—both of which are key to success beyond the classroom.
When parents and families foster a positive attitude toward school and learning, it tends to lead to better behavior in the classroom as well.
In fact, students with a strong background of family involvement have fewer disciplinary actions taken against them, including detentions and suspensions. And less time spent dealing with disruptions and behavioral issues in the classroom means deeper learning for everyone.
8. Empower parents to be teachers
A great way for educators to encourage parent involvement is to help parents help their children. Parents are often unsure of how to best help their children to be successful in school. So, educators should give parents some simple starting points and remind them to spend time reading with their children.
Homework can be assigned in a way that encourages parents to be actively involved, like having students conduct interviews or go on “treasure hunts” with their parents. Educators can give “interactive homework” to parents in which they are tasked to:
- Ask what their child did in class that day
- Ask their child to share something new learned that day
- Check to see if their child has homework and what it is
- Ask about upcoming tests or quizzes
9. Let technology be a friend
Face-to-face meetings are a critical way for educators to develop personal rapport with parents.
However, many parents have work or other obligations that don’t allow them to make time to visit their child’s classroom, which can cause a lot of stress and guilt. Tools like FaceTime or Skype can be a great alternative.
Imagine the power of using these kinds of virtual interactions to support such parents, build relationships with them, and connect them to their children’s education.
10. Share your best practices
There are numerous ways to encourage parent involvement. Educators must be creative and then share their best practices with their teams and administrators in order to determine the most effective methods for their unique classrooms and schools.
Some small ways parents can be more involved include:
- Brainstorming a few goals for the school year
- Being mindful of the kinds of things they say about school and education around their child
- Taking advantage of online communication and progress-monitoring tools available through the school.
Their interest and attention will go further than they imagine in fostering a love of learning in their child and supporting their achievement in the classroom.
We at Edmentum are always looking for solutions to build on this critical challenge as well. Have some great strategies to get parents involved? Share them with us in the comments section! Want to learn more about how Edmentum’s solutions can connect parents to their student’s education? Check out this resource on parent involvement.