April 2018

What Works: How We Engage Families

By School Counselors across the U.S.
How do you encourage parents to be part of the school community?

First and foremost, by developing a relationship with the family that makes them feel important and not judged. The administration, social worker, school nurse, and teachers all work together to build the relationship with the family.
Paula Terpstra, Horace Mann Elementary, Sioux Falls, S.D.
I think parents often think that because their children are in high school they are now somehow responsible for themselves. I like to remind parents that they are still in charge, although we want our kids to start making their own decisions it is still the parents role to guide them down the right path.  Parental involvement is imperative for raising successful individuals. 
Erin Consorti, Righetti High School, Santa Maria, Calif.
Daily face to face contact with parents as they drop off their children in the morning…calling to invite them to attend meetings to discuss their student's needs; family night nearly each month, that include fun activities around a specific academic subject and refreshments.
Lise Copeland, Hazel Grove Elementary, Kansas City, Kan.
I work in a Career and Technical Education District. We invite parents to "come and do" alongside their student. For instance, at Coding, parents have Hack Night where they learn to code!
Speranta Klees, West-MEC, Phoenix, Ariz.
We host FAFSA workshops once a month and use survey data to find the best times for our families. We provide food, babysitting, prizes, information and support. We personally call parents/guardians to invite them, work with local agencies to provide additional support in the FAFSA process and have college reps on hand to help.
Tonja Odell, Centennial High School, Pueblo, Colo.
I write them an email after each lesson describing what the students learned. I try to give them something to talk with their child about over supper. It has been received very well and many parents are now keeping their contact information with the school current as a result.
Daniel R. Kennedy, Iroquois School District 02-3, Iroquois, S.D.
Homework Diners are weekly family engagement events that allow students and families to receive homework support from paid teachers and volunteer tutors and a free meal for the whole family. 
Lyn Bush, Valley Springs Middle School, Asheville, N.C.

What are your biggest obstacles to getting parents involved?
Misunderstanding on the part of educators about a parent's way of engaging with the school. If we only consider school attendance at school sponsored events as involvement, we miss a huge part of the contribution that parents make to their children's education.
Dr. Marcia E. Jackson, Alexandria City Public Schools, Alexandria, Va.
The fact the I am in an alternative HS setting is a challenge because many parents have lost the interest or the belief in their kids or feel it might be a negative interaction with the school. My job is to be reassuring and invitational in nature.
Cecilia Chavez, Innovation High School, Tustin, Calif.

Many of our families are living in poverty.  Parents are struggling with the family's daily needs.  Many do not have transportation to school events.
Rosemary Wood, Overton Elementary, Salisbury, N.C.
The biggest obstacle is the time demands we all are under, especially the demands that parents are under who have to work full-time or must work 2 or more jobs. Unless financially well-off, parents are stressed and tired all the time, and school involvement is often felt to be an additional "to do" item.     
Patti Young, Shepardson Elementary, Fort Collins, Colo.
The biggest obstacle is getting the parents who have had a poor school experience themselves, as children, into the schools as adults. Maybe they feel intimidated or think the other parent volunteers, or even the school staff, is looking down on them because of their social status, level of poverty, lack of education, etc.
Karen Bader, Pate Early Childhood Center, Aurora, Mo.