Engaging Parents in High Performing Schools

by | Nov 19, 2015 | Parent Engagement

Recently, I wrote a blog on how schools can effectively engage parents in schools, making the case that, much like differentiated instruction, we need to acknowledge the diversity of parent attributes and characteristics and therefore provide high-quality options for their engagement.

High-quality parent engagement builds trust, agency, ownership and a community of learning between school, parents and community necessary for student development and school success.  I suggest the following strategies to effectively engage parents building on the concepts and principles of differentiated instruction so that we connect with parents in ways relevant to them.

  1. Identify parents’ talents, gifts and strengths by asking students to share their perspectives as well as asking parents directly during Parent Nights, Student-Parent-Teacher Conferences and responses to surveys.
  2. Provide choices for parents to be engaged by offering multiple in school and after-school opportunities to allow parents to be engaged at times they are available.
  3. Seek and respond to feedback from parents frequently to better understand parents’ experiences, preferred ways of being engaged and how to respond to the challenges they face.
  4. Create groups of parents, similar to differentiated instruction group work strategies, to work together for the benefit of students and the school.
  5. Create a safe engaging school climate so that parents feel safe, comfortable and motivated to contribute to their child’s education experiences, the classroom and the school.
  6. Develop home-school visitation programs where teachers visit students home and engage parents and other family members.
  7. Build a culture of equity where parents can contribute to their own daughter’s/son’s school experiences and assure that other students receive a high-quality education.
  8. Co-create with parents a means of evaluating progress and success of parent engagement strategies.

At the same time we engage parents in local schools, I am delighted that many national education conversations focus on engaging parents in high performing schools deliberations and decisions.  This is a much-needed shift in how education leaders and policymakers (at all levels) view the role of parents in their daughters’ and sons’ education.

I appreciate those who advocate for parents’ active engagement in enhancing education policy and practice and look forward to their many contributions creating effective environments for student success in school and in life.

Here are four ways education leaders and policymakers can engage parents in creating and sustaining high performing schools:

  1. Ensure information about proposed change is communicated in ways that parents find easy to understand; far too often education reform theories of change, strategies and outcomes are framed in education or policy “speak.”
  2. Invite parents to be part of study groups, task forces and work groups addressing high performing schools; offering their perspectives starting with their vision and goals of education for students and the community.
  3. Given that many parents are not available to contribute in formal groups, parents can also be engaged as respondents to current thinking, policy options and preferred school practices.  This can be achieved through web-based surveys, conference calls and web-based interactions; and for those not available via technology the telephone and mail systems are options for sharing and seeking responses and reactions from parents.
  4. In addition, they can work directly with schools to glean the lessons they have learned about engaging parents and create policies and options to support the highest-quality parent engagement.

Engaging parents in school activities and change is a critical step in ensuring this valuable education stakeholder contributes to decisions on how schools are organized and effective practices supported so that each student can fully develop in school and in their community.

The following national organizations provide additional resources, strategies and networks for parents and advocates to effectively contribute to High Performing Schools.

  • Harvard Family Research helps stakeholders develop and evaluate strategies to promote the well being of children, families and their communities.
  • Head Start Parent, Home and Family Engagement Project provides a roadmap for progress in achieving the types of outcomes that lead to positive and enduring change for children and families by promoting parent and family engagement in children’s learning and development.
  • Mom’s Rising is a network of people united by the goal of building a more family-friendly America.
  • National Association of Family, School and Community Engagement shines a light on high-impact practices that build the capacity of educators and families together to promote children’s learning and development.
  • National PTA provides an assortment of resources for parents and teachers around family involvement in a child’s success in school from the largest volunteer advocacy association in the country.
  • Parents for Public Schools is committed to strengthening public schools by engaging, educating and mobilizing parents.
  • Parent-Teacher Home Visitation Project increases student and school success by building and sustaining a national network of partners who effectively implement and advance our relationship-based home-visit model and teacher engagement in public schools across the United States.

Parents can contribute in many meaningful ways to high performing schools we need to create together the conditions and engagement strategies for their progress and success.

[NOTE: To continue the conversation on parent engagement and advance strategies supporting high-quality parent engagement at the district level Arnie Fege and I will co-author and release a blog on this website next week.]

Terry Pickeral
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Terry Pickeral

Terry Pickeral, has extensive experience in policy development, advocacy, education reform, youth leadership, teaching and learning strategies, education collaborations, evaluation and civic development. His commitment is to ensuring schools create and sustain quality teaching and learning environments for all students to be successful in school and contribute to their communities as active principled citizens.
Terry Pickeral
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