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Teamwork makes the dream work.
Your school’s team consists of your students, school administrators, teachers, and other faculty and support staff. But it’s important to have every teammate in the bullpen. Don’t forget who needs to be included: your students’ families.
It can be challenging at times to get families involved and connected with your school. But with some smart strategies, early outreach, and a welcoming environment, you can do it!
Read on to find out how you and your teachers can increase family and parental engagement in your schools, encourage families in ways to support their children’s education, and build a winning education team.
Why Should you Increase Family Involvement in Schools?
Boosting engagement between families and your school can be one of the best ways to improve student performance.
If you want to build a strong and supportive school, increasing family involvement in your schools is among the most effective ways. A school that focuses on building family connections will create a stable environment that allows students to develop the confidence and motivation they need to succeed.
Teachers who prioritize family engagement often notice these positive effects on students:
- Higher grades and standardized test scores
- Better classroom behavior
- Improved confidence and mental health
- Higher student motivation
- Reduced need for classroom discipline
The most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or socioeconomic status, but the family’s home environment. When families are involved in schools, they can collaborate with educators to create a home that encourages learning, and sets high but reasonable expectations for the child’s achievement.
Connecting individually with parents and caretakers increases not just the level of family involvement but also the quality. Engaged families report trusting teachers more and understand more clearly the role school plays in their child’s life.
Best Ways to Improve Family Engagement with Connection
One of the best ways to build family engagement is to start early and often, and never give up! It’s important to engage students’ families early in their academic career and early in the school year, says Candra Morris, director of family partnerships at Waterford.org.
Writing for Districtadministration.com, Morris notes that successful family engagement begins by centering on families and their needs, just like teachers center children in their classrooms.
The earlier educators start promoting family engagement, the more effective it is. Educators can start their engagement efforts even before the school year begins. That way, the first communication isn’t when there’s a problem.
One way your school can better communicate with families is for teachers to communicate among themselves. Encourage communication and collaboration among the teachers in your school as students advance in grades.
Teachers who’ve worked with families in their classrooms before can help teachers who have those students in their classrooms during the current school year. By using familiar practices and activities from one teacher to another, a school can create consistency, bridge transitions, and increase each family’s comfort level to encourage involvement.
Family and Parent Engagement Strategies You Can Try
Families and teachers form a support system for students throughout the school year. By taking simple steps every day to connect with families, you can positively impact your school atmosphere.
Beyond the traditional outreach methods, here are some other ideas for how to get families involved in school:
Your school’s festivals, celebrations, and open houses are some ways your school can help educators connect with families in an informal environment. Including families in the planning of these events can help them be invested in the classroom.
Connection to School Resources
Put families in touch with school resources to make connections with them that are meaningful and individualized. Keep an eye out for specific ways your school could help students and families. For example, if a student is falling behind in math you can suggest to their family that they attend an after-school math lab.
Have a field trip coming up? Ask your teachers to send out volunteering sheets to bring families! Taking families along to special events or having them volunteer in the classroom for a few hours a week can help them develop a positive perspective on teachers and their child’s class, as well as encourage and improve communication.
Family Trainings or Workshops
Even those who want to be involved in their child’s academics might not know where to start. As an educator, you can facilitate family trainings or workshops, like those offered by Waterford Family Academy.
When families feel like they can make a difference in their child’s education, they’re much more likely to engage at school. If your school has a parent-teacher association, make it easy to join. Connect families with sign-up information and meeting times during the first months of school and keep families updated about any opportunities to get involved.
Expanding Connection Beyond School Events into the Home
The family-school connection doesn’t have to stop at the classroom door. With the help of technology you can connect with families from the comfort of their homes. Use these strategies to facilitate parent-teacher relationships in a setting that works best for them.
Your school has many options for communicating with families, ranging from dedicated apps to student portals and school or classroom websites. Email is also an option accessible to most.
Send out an anonymous family survey at the beginning of the year and after each quarter or semester. These surveys encourage involvement by showing that you value your families’ opinions. You may be surprised at how useful this insightful feedback is for improving your school culture.
This method for connecting with families continues to grow in popularity. Many schools maintain a private Facebook group to communicate with families, keep them up-to-date on events, and build a school community.
Family Engagement Strategies: One Size Doesn’t Fit All
Family involvement can’t be achieved with a one-size-fits-all approach. The good news is that most families want to be involved in their children’s education, and will happily take part if schools can find the right approach for them.
Schools can enact strategies to help families overcome systemic barriers like lack of transportation, long or irregular work hours, lack of access to childcare, so they can become more involved. One example would be implementing community-centric training for personnel. Topics should include relationship building, advocacy, and culturally relevant strategies.
Using these strategies and tactics as a starting point is one way to boost family involvement in your schools to help your students thrive. When playing together as a team with students and their families, family engagement is a home run!
- Hong, S. (2011, March). A Cord of Three Strands: A New Approach to Parent Engagement in Schools. Harvard Education Press.
- Gulosino, C.A., & Xu, Z. (1999). The parents’ perspective on parent‐teacher roles and relationships. Educational. 41 (3). pp. 315-28.
- Sheridan, S.M., Knoche, L.L., Kupzyk, K.A., Edwards, C.P., & Marvin, C.A. (2011, June). A randomized trial examining the effects of parent engagement on early language and literacy. Journal of School Psychology. 49 (2). pp. 361-83.
- Redding, S., Langdon, J., Meyer, J., & Sheley, P. (2004, November). The Effects of Comprehensive Parent Engagement on Student Learning Outcomes. Harvard Family Research Project.
- Sheridan, S.M., Boviard, J.A., Glover, T.A., Garbacz, S.A., Witte, A., & Kwon, K. (2012). A Randomized Trial Examining the Effects of Conjoint Behavioral Consultation and the Mediating Role of the Parent-Teacher Relationship. School Psychology Review. 41 (1). pp. 23-46.
- King, G., Currie, M., & Petersen, P. (2014, February). Child and parent engagement in the mental health intervention process: a motivational framework. Child and Adolescent Mental Health. 19 (1). pp. 2-8.
- Pirchio, S., Tritrini, C., Ylenia, P., & Taeschner, T. (2013). The Role of the Relationship between Parents and Educators for Child Behaviour and Wellbeing. International Journal about Parents in Education. 7 (2). pp. 145-55.
- Webster-Stratton, C., Reid, M.J., & Hammond, M. (2010, June 7). Preventing Conduct Problems, Promoting Social Competence: A Parent and Teacher Training Partnership in Head Start. Journal of Clinical Child & Adolescent Psychology. 30 (3). pp. 283-302.