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Classroom Insights

Making an Effective Family Engagement Plan

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By SchoolStatus 10 min

In 2023, educational leaders are squarely focused on creating, or improving, their family engagement plan at the classroom, school, and even district levels.

High family engagement with the schools of course keeps parents and teachers up-to-date and cuts down on confusion. But just as important, it:

  • Provides added support for classroom teachers
  • Raises our students’ academic achievement
  • Improves student social well-being and reported behavior

Good news. Effective Family-teacher communication and family engagement plans are genuinely attainable by working toward Family partnerships. 

Why?

This article takes the mystery out of the reasons your district may face difficulties with Family-teacher engagement. It provides the foundational concepts to create Family Partnerships for an operative, unifying family engagement plan.

Page Contents

What Are Family Partnerships, And Why Do They Matter?

Family partnerships are when teachers and the school or district unite in a balanced trifecta with the parents to support the student’s success and well-being above all else.

The stats are in. There are direct positive academic effects for students whose parents are engaged in communication with the school.

By now, we know the consequences of low Family engagement can be significant. Studies have shown that when parents are actively involved in their children’s education, students are more likely to earn higher grades. Additionally, they have better attendance and higher graduation rates. 

Additionally, engaged parents help create a positive school culture and provide valuable insights to improve school policies and procedures.

So, how do we get them there?

First, we must help the families overcome their roadblocks so that nothing stands in the way of their engagement.

The Problem: Current Family-Teacher Engagement Roadblocks

Some of the barriers that inhibit effective Family-teacher engagement include:

Socioeconomic factors

Lack of transportation, limited access to technology, and tricky work schedules make it challenging for working-class families to take an active role in their children’s education and/or attend school events or meetings. Additionally, some families lack the knowledge and confidence to engage with their child’s school.

Cultural and linguistic barriers

Families who do not speak English as their first language often have to work with a translator to communicate with school staff or to understand school policies and procedures. This can make it challenging for families to advocate for their children or participate in school activities.

Lack of trust

Some parents may not trust the school system or believe their engagement wouldn’t make a difference.

Communication challenges

Schools are challenged to communicate with parents effectively and to use explanations and terminology that families can understand. Families may receive teacher feedback but aren’t always sure how to support their child’s learning at home.

Busy schedules

Many parents have busy schedules with work and other commitments, making attending school events or meetings during the day difficult.

Lack of involvement opportunities

Some schools may not offer many opportunities for parents in ways they perceive to be significant, which can discourage engagement.

Additional Removing Family Roadblock Resources

How to Reach Families Who Don’t Seem to Care About Education

The Solution: Overview of the Three Levels of Engagement

Most schools face some of the above barriers to Family-teacher engagement. ClassTag has broken down the way to sidestep these roadblocks and allow parents to partner with their schools by building Family partnerships through the Three Levels of Engagement. 

Level One of Engagement: General Support/Buy-In

The Three Levels of Engagement demonstrate the step-by-step process to attain Family Partnerships. The first step, General Support / Buy-in, explains how first, schools must take action to gain Familyal support.

At the base level, the first level of engagement is the General Support/Buy-In stage. Here it is the job of the educator, school, and district to meet and communicate that the basic needs of the child are covered.

These are the essential questions that parents need to be able to answer at any time of the day or night:

  1. Are my children safe?
  2. Are my children happy?
  3. What’s going on with my children? 

Once educators strive to have these answers easily locatable at all times for families, they can achieve general support from parents. 

General Support, or Buy-in, might sound easy to achieve… and that’s because it’s not rocket science.

Instead, it’s all about clarity and consistency. Many schools try to get their parents’ general support but lose it when they don’t update the information they have displayed in a timely manner, or bury the information somewhere that’s difficult to find.

All educators and the school need to do at this step is to consistently confirm their students’ safety and emotional well-being and provide updated information that is easily accessible to parents.

Once parents regularly update answers to these questions, you’ve unlocked the first goal: Buy-in. Families now form positive associations with the school, and even feel content when they think about their child’s experience. 

Pro-tip: Use a Family-teacher engagement platform where families can find everything they need, and communicate with everyone from the school, in one spot. Some of these platforms allow you to set recurring reminders and pre-schedule posting so that you can preload information you know far in advance (ex. school menus).

Pro-tip: Two words, Quick Links.

Often, you truly understand whether parents support the school when the school is going through some type of trial or tribulation. As an example, one of our Classtag Connect users, an elementary school IT coordinator in Wisconsin, told us how the school earned parents’ general support:

“There was recently a large fire in our town that caused all of our campuses to lose power. Our school was the only campus able to contact parents because we had ClassTag. Families were so happy that now we’re considering using ClassTag district-wide.”

Additional General Support / Buy In Resources

More on how ClassTag figures out which parents aren’t receiving or reading messages before it becomes an issue.

Families already know that Family-teacher communication is important. In fact, 60% of parents surveyed by ClassTag state that it is crucial and that they would consider changing their children’s enrollment if communication was not up to snuff.

Level Two of Engagement: Participation

The middle level of the Three Levels Of Engagement is Participation. At this level, educators must take action to get parents involved.

Now that parents generally have positive feelings toward the school, it’s a great time to focus on activating parents and families in your family engagement plan.

At this stage, you want to get families involved in a variety of ways. If you’ve succeeded in the General Support / Buy-in level, parents will now be willing to participate in activities and events created by the teacher, school, or district.

The information that educators and schools make clear in the Participation phase is:

  • How and when will we invite parents to get more involved in their child’s learning?

Remember, even if parents are now willing to participate, educators have to offer parents the opportunity to participate in ways that account for busy schedules, language barriers, and socioeconomic differences.

The result? You’ll see families attend more school-wide events and have an increased trust in the teachers, and the school or district. 

And once you have an established Family-teacher-student feedback loop in place, Family participation in the school community also becomes valuable to your students’ learning. Students generally want their families to see the evidence of how well they are doing at school, and appreciate sharing their school success with their parents. Our yearly teacher and Family surveys confirm what some of the newest academic studies prove: an established Family-teacher-student feedback loop increases academic achievement.

Pro-tip: Make your events participatory for parents and families (even if just walking around in a gallery setting) and you’ll see improved repeat attendance.

Additional Family Participation Resources

How to Measure Family Participation with ClassTag Connect

An effective Family Engagement Plan may help students overcome common school challenges. Students whose parents are engaged in Family-school communications participate 15% more actively in their classes.

Level Three of Engagement: Partnerships

You’ve already laid the foundation and done the groundwork to inform and involve families consistently. You’ve arrived at the zenith of the Three Levels of Engagement, so making the right moves now results in the highest reward: Family Partnerships.

The secret to achieving Family Partnerships?

  • Student academic data
  • Social/behavioral data
  • Two-way Communication

Let’s be honest for a moment. Districts and schools often communicate official information to families using highfalutin solutions. At the same time, teachers tend to do the legwork to figure out how to communicate in a way that works for parents.

In fact, the person most likely to have the closest relationship with the student and their Family is the teacher. So why haven’t we guided teachers to a greater degree on how to communicate with parents and what data to communicate with families?

If you haven’t already, it is important to create opportunities for the classroom teacher to share the above pertinent data pertinent to their classroom with parents on an ongoing basis. It is also important that schools and even districts have the chance to share data and open two-way feedback at a grander scale when appropriate. 

Therefore, it is recommended that you:

  • Select a unified way for teachers, the school, and the district to measure and report on student data
  • Instruct teachers on the school-wide preferred two-way communication method for two-way feedback

Pro-tip: Use the data to paint a picture for parents. And share data not only to point out areas for improvement but to celebrate what students are doing right.

Believe it or not, you’ve now got an effective Family Engagement Plan outline. Now, you can build it out in the way best suited for your school or district.

Additional Family Partnership Resources

Read a Case Study on how Armadillo Technical achieved Family Partnerships

The Bottom Line

Although several roadblocks currently stand in the way of effective Family partnerships, you can use ClassTag’s Three Levels of Engagement (and a little planning) to achieve Family partnerships and build an effective family engagement plan.

Goodbye to the era of stress and finger-pointing. When educators provide parents with the necessary information, create opportunities to get involved, and work together for student achievement, parents trust educators and provide needed backup and support. Schools can make informed decisions, and the students are happy and learning better than before. Win-win. 

If you want more information about the free Tools for Building Family Partnerships webinar and the other webinars in our series, click here.

Want to talk with a team member about building an effective Family Engagement Plan for your school or district? 

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SchoolStatus
SchoolStatus is a unified K-12 platform that enables districts and schools to engage more families and improve attendance with our easy-to-use communications hub and data-driven attendance solutions. We support an integrated and impactful educational experience, from district leadership to families at home. With more than two hundred million successful school-home interactions, and millions of users, SchoolStatus drives meaningful results for districts and schools across the US.
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