Family engagement empowers families as stakeholders in their children’s education. Studies have shown the positive relationship between academic achievement and family engagement. True family engagement goes beyond the normal homework assistance and into parents working with schools to set academic, behavioral, social, and emotional goals. Whether your school is in-person, virtual, or hybrid, increasing family engagement efforts as a staff is vital for our students to reach their goals this year.
Keep Website and Social Media Accounts Updated
Schools should keep their website and social media accounts updated with the newest information for parents. There should be easily identifiable graphics and concise information for parents to be up to date with the latest information around updates, school closures, parent engagement opportunities, school events, and more. In addition to updates online, schools and teachers should post their class and content schedules onto their classroom websites so parents can know what their child is learning in each content area.
→ Read our whitepaper on How to Enhance Family Engagement in Schools
Robocalls are a really great way to push important school information to all families. Principals can send weather and school closure updates, reminders about family engagement dates and times, awards and ceremony information and more. Schools should be careful to only use robocalls as step one of the communication train. Follow up robocalls with a printed flier sent home in school bags, post onto the school website or social media accounts, and then have teachers contact parents individually.
Engage Parents with Family Messages
Kickboard’s parent portal updates in real time so parents can log in at any time and see the most up-to-date report on their students’ behavior. Parents can also see the comments attached to behavior logs, which teacher logged it, the time it was logged and the number of points or dollars their student has. Parent messaging through the app allows teachers to be in contact with parents throughout the day. Parents can even use Alexa on their smartphones to receive behavioral updates on their children to congratulate them on positive behaviors.
Schedule Positive Communication Touchpoints
Parents want to hear from their child’s school more often than when something is wrong. Leaders can create staff norms around how many positive parent messages should be logged into the app, how many positive notes should be logged in Kickboard’s Family Portal, positive phone calls and texts your school wants to send to parents each week or month. Parents will appreciate those positive deposits of relationship building with them and have more trust in the school especially if there are academic, behavioral, attendance, or retention concerns.
Flexible Family Engagement Schedule
Covid restrictions have impacted some schools’ bus capacity, service provider hours, enrichment and after school activities, and family engagement opportunities. Schools can still plan for family engagement opportunities by assigning family projects, virtual PTA meetings, opportunities like “bring your parent to virtual class,” and homework that involves family members.
For parent conferences, take advantage of the increased familiarity with video conferencing and use Zoom or another platform to meet with parents at a time that is convenient for them. Hold virtual office hours for parents to check in or ask questions at different times throughout the year so that parents with different work schedules can attend.
When Covid restrictions lift, having an ‘open door policy’ is a great way to have parents volunteer when they have time within their schedules. Caregivers can volunteer within their child’s classroom or in other grades by facilitating art projects, read alouds, small group support, STEM projects, or presenting their career to students. This will help educators facilitate art activities, center rotations, read-alouds, while caregivers will feel valued and involved in the classroom learning.
Incentivize and Prioritize Literacy and Homework
Homework is so important to student learning as we know students need to reinforce and spiral last year’s content while learning new grade level content. Parents would greatly benefit from content guides to help explain the unit material and specific strategies like math strategies that their children need to use to solve problems. Especially if students are attending school virtually, parents need to know what is expected of the students so they can support their child with completing assignments and projects. Some curriculums provide parent communication letters for each unit and topic. If your curriculum does not, it would be beneficial for parents to create an accompanying flier for families.
Another way schools can engage families with homework is by incentivizing literacy with a Reading Log Competition. Parents can time and track the minutes their children read at home and sign the log after the teachers’ designated amount of time. Just like content support pages, teachers can provide parents with a list and guides on grade-appropriate literacy skills like retelling, answering text-dependent questions, and writing about a text with their children to reinforce comprehension after reading books at home.
Family Engagement will look different this year, but it is just as important, if not more important, to include families in decision-making and listen to their feedback.