Take a moment to think about the strategies your school or district is currently implementing to address parental engagement. Did your line of thought include exciting, empowering and energizing strategies? Or, did your mind conjure up the same old tired procedures that have not kept up with the times? Now is a great time to “kick things up a notch” and move beyond the status quo.
For real change to occur we must be open, creative and tireless in our pursuit of forming lasting partnerships with the families in our school community. Let’s challenge ourselves to employ strategies that may appear unconventional and embrace the potential in new ideas.
Below are five tips that will put your school on the road to more effective and meaningful parental engagement. For additional suggestions, browse the rest of the Arizona State PIRC website.
- Host meetings and events in the community. Community centers, neighborhood parks, movie theaters, faith-based organizations and other local businesses could be potential sites for your next meeting.
- Institute a home-visiting program in your school or district. Encourage staff to make at least one home visit per school year. Additionally, try a staff “field trip” to become familiar with the neighborhood and community you serve.
- Invite parents to be part of hiring committees for administrators, teachers and support staff.
- Remember support staff is crucial in connecting with families! Provide professional development on parental involvement for ALL staff members. (i.e. bus drivers, teachers, cafeteria support, custodial, administrative and office staff)
- Have parents help create your school’s parent involvement mission statement. Promote this mission statement throughout the school, in newsletters, school website and display on school campus. Have a shortened version, possibly one sentence or slogan that is promoted on bookmarks, magnets, recorded on the voicemail system, posted on the marquee and/or included on written correspondence.
Moving Towards Engagement
“When it comes to a breakfast of ham and eggs, the chicken is involved but the pig is committed.” This humorous quote captures the differences between parent involvement (the chicken) and parent engagement (the pig). (Anonymous) It can also serve to describe the struggles facing schools working to build strong family partnerships. Let’s dig a little deeper into the specific school practices that differentiate parent involvement from parent engagement.
When you “involve” parents, ideas and suggestions come primarily from the school. The school typically identifies priority areas and recruits parents to assist, based on these priority areas. Parents who are involved serve the school’s agenda by- volunteering, parenting in positive ways and supporting student learning at home.
When schools engage parents, ideas come primarily from the families and communities based on their needs and priorities. The parent is considered a leader who is critical to identifying a shared vision and goal. When we engage parents, we have the potential to create a shared community, where families and educators work alongside each other to support and enhance student learning.
Here are some suggestions to move your school towards parent engagement:
- Actively solicit parent participation on decision making committees. Communicate specifics on where decision-making skills are needed (i.e. site council, PTO, or other committee). Promote opportunities in newsletters, meetings and events, on the website and marquee, and best of all by personal invitation.
- Conduct an annual survey or form focus groups for parent input on current or proposed school programs and policies.
- Ensure parents on the school improvement team represents diversity of the school population
Have a suggestion box in the front office or on the website, encouraging parents to share concerns and ideas.
- Provide various opportunities and different levels of engagement for parents at different stages of involvement. To ensure a variety of parents are involved in school decision-making committees, consider adopting a 1-2 year term limit on school committees/boards. Invite parent representatives from each grade level to participate.
- Provide leadership development opportunities for families.
Publicize successful changes resulting from parent initiation and involvement.