The essential relationship between K-12 schools and families.
Parents and guardians can be an invaluable resource to schools, whether they’re partnering with a school to improve students’ educational outcomes or serving as proud advocates on behalf of the school when talking with friends and neighbors.
Research shows that as parents become more involved with their child’s education and the life of the school, that student’s academic achievement and participation improve. Yet parents are often busy and don’t know how they can best make a significant contribution within the limited time they have.
Read on to learn why family involvement and engagement can be beneficial to students and schools.
You will also find tips on creating meaningful, ongoing opportunities for this to take place at your school!
School-Family Interactions Matter for Student Achievement
So what is parent engagement — and how is it different from parent involvement?
True engagement takes place when families and school staff work together, on an ongoing basis, to support and improve the learning and growth of students.
When parents and families are fully engaged in the lives of their children’s schools, they display a strong sense of pride in the school and advocate for it when talking with friends, colleagues, and other members of the community.
How to Support Family Engagement in Schools
Families tend to increase their engagement with a school when they believe that their efforts will have a direct and positive impact on their children’s education and overall well-being.
Accordingly, an overall family engagement plan at the district or school level is recommended for providing structure and follow-up so that family engagement can be woven more directly into ongoing school activities.
Some parents may want to contribute, but they may not feel they have the time or resources to get engaged with the school. But there are many ways for them to become involved according to their availability, interests, and resources.
Successful Engagement with Parents and Guardians
Engagement is often more successful when schools offer flexible options for parents to get involved.
There is sustained, ongoing partnership throughout the year, and parents can see the positive benefit of their personal investment in the school — both for their own children and for the broader community.
At the parent-involvement level, schools can offer resources and support on parenting as well as supplementary educational resources that support home learning via a school newsletter, social media updates, or in-person workshops.
Schools can also make it easier and more convenient for parents to participate in events by offering online and mobile event registration.
Asking parents to help with activities that can be done outside of working hours — such as helping with fundraising, coordinating volunteers, and planning events — is also a great way to get them involved. Parent and family education can also play a major role in engagement.
By educating families on important subjects such as literacy, financial literacy, and neighborhood resources, schools can better support both families and the communities in which they live.
Inviting parents and guardians, via a school assessment or an online survey, to share their priorities and concerns about their children’s educational experience is also a good way to begin involving them in school matters.
In that survey, administrators can invite them to share any skills or contributions they would like to share with the school community. Using the information provided, schools can provide families with volunteer opportunities to match those skills and interests.
Bringing Families Into the Decision-Making Process: Resources and Suggestions
Some schools welcome parents to be part of their decision-making process by inviting them to join specific councils or committees that are charged with setting school policy, for example.
Schools may also find it beneficial to create an advisory committee comprised of teachers, administrators, and parents and guardians to solicit and provide input on educational initiatives and policy to make sure they meet the community’s unique needs.
Until recently, parent engagement was typically a volunteer-led role at many schools, but administrators are beginning to see the value of formally staffing this position, particularly as some states include family engagement as a criterion for evaluating teacher performance.
Ultimately, supporting family engagement at your school or district comes down to proactively and consistently soliciting parental feedback and creating opportunities for shared dialogue, partnership, and decision-making to take place.