Best Practices for Engaging Parents in Improving Academic Outcomes: 6 Takeaways to Promote Positive Communication with K12 Parents
Start researching ways to improve outcomes in a school or district, and you will quickly notice that many experts emphasize the importance of parent engagement strategies as part of a plan for improving student outcomes. When schools work together with families to support learning, children tend to do better not just in school, but throughout life.
SchoolStatus Data Scientist Dr. Joy Smithson has researched the relationship between parent and stakeholder engagement and student success. She has outlined tips and best practices in a whitepaper, “Parent Engagement and Student Success Brief Review & Best Practices."
Here are six key takeaways you can apply in your own school or district to promote positive communication with parents:
1. Remember that You and Your Students’ Parents Share a Common Goal
Collaboration is key. Many parents want to hear from teachers and schools. Although you have goals for your district, school, and classroom, work with parents to identify and establish shared goals you’ll mutually work on with their child. An underlying theory of successful school-community partnerships is that schools should not operate separately from families and communities, but instead, they should function as collaborative partnerships.
2. Provide a Contact Person to Communicate with Parents
Partnerships require two-way communication, so ensure that parents have a way to reach you. Research has found that attendance improves when parents are given a school contact person. They speculate that this effect was observed because having a responsive person to contact at the school made families feel that someone cared about them and their child. Providing a contact for parents signals that you want their input and are willing to listen, which helps build trust.
3. Respect & Facilitate Multiple Forms of Parent Engagement
Expand your viewpoints on parent engagement. Remember that parents may engage in academic activities with their child in settings where they feel relaxed and comfortable — and they may not feel relaxed and comfortable at school. Seek ways to facilitate different types of engagement, not just those that are school-based. Activities that help parents connect with their child or where they can see a direct benefit for their child will likely yield more participation than activities that benefit the school more generally.
4. Send Specific & Detailed Invitations for Parent Engagement
Across multiple studies, parents have been more responsive to engagement efforts when they receive direct and specific invitations for participation. Mass messages and general invitations notifying parents of engagement opportunities do not carry the same weight as direct, personalized, and specific invitations. Rather than just letting parents know that something is happening, invite them directly. Invitations help build trust between parents and teachers, and direct invitations help parents feel welcomed, which is a critical variable for parent engagement.
5. Report the Good Stuff When You Communicate with Parents
The good always outweighs the bad in the healthiest of relationships; this notion is true
in parent-teacher, parent-principal, and parent-coach relationships. Most parents
understand that their child is imperfect, but remember to share the good and happy
things that happen during their child’s day. Sharing in the joy of students’ success with
parents creates a positive school climate that parents so desire for their children.
6. Empower Parents to Navigate the School World
Ensure that parents have the tools they need to help their child succeed. Research has
shown that parents are more likely to engage when they feel empowered and equipped
to support their child’s success. Never assume that parents know how to access information about their child or that they know about all available resources for support. In situations where students are approaching or have reached academic risk, ensure that you take time to help parents understand the data on their child’s progress and what steps can be taken to intervene, which will require more frequent and detailed conversations.
When schools and teachers engage students' support systems at home, students tend to do
better in school and throughout their lives. As schools work to help students recover from the
pandemic’s impacts on K12 learning, parent engagement will be a key part of recovery efforts.
Schools can work to promote and build positive parent teacher relationships and promote
positive communication with parents by applying these takeaways.