Engagement with schools empowers families as stakeholders in their children’s education. When family engagement is successful in a school, it will improve student achievement results as well.
Studies have shown the positive relationship between academic achievement and family engagement, but the details of parental engagement affect student achievement results. When engagement was defined as just homework assistance, researchers saw the weakest results. When engagement was defined as working together with teachers to set expectations for and meeting student achievement goals, academic results were the strongest. This study found consistent results across grade levels and ethnic groups as well.
This information illuminates the importance of educators fostering strong, authentic, parent engagement opportunities that include parents in defining academic goals and being accountable to their children achieving these goals.
Here are some strategies your school can implement to get parents involved and increase student achievement.
Create the Right Conditions for Family Engagement
Staff need training on positive ways to engage with parents from diverse backgrounds. Teacher mindsets might also need to shift in order for families to truly have a voice in this partnership. All staff must recognize the wealth of insight, ideas, and knowledge that families bring to the table and create a platform for families to share that information.
Administrators can help staff embrace a growth mindset by using Margaret Caspe’s 5 Rs model: Reach Out, Raise Up, Relate, Reinforce, and Reimagine. Principals and coaches should also facilitate professional development sessions using family engagement case studies to train teachers on best ways to engage with families.
Routinely Send Communication Home
The first factor that contributes to student achievement is that students are in the classroom learning every day. Schools and parents need to routinely communicate to ensure that students are exhibiting positive behaviors that are conducive to achievement in school. Kickboard makes it easy for parents to track student behaviors, time of occurrence, and analyze trends within their child’s behavior. Teacher notes and communication help parents work with teachers to ensure positive behaviors that support classroom learning occur.
Take parent communication to the next level as a school by adding behavioral and academic progress calls and notes on top of the behavioral communication norms. Communication should be ongoing so parents should not be surprised every nine weeks when they have report card conferences.
Schools can stress the importance of parents logging into a virtual family portal. Kickboard’s portal updates in real time so families can see data for the entire day, week, month, and school year. This will increase accountability for teachers to log behavioral data and detailed notes into Kickboard and create a weekly conversation between families and their children about their behavior.
Teachers can also send home Kickboard student reports along with current student exit tickets and tests. Teachers should follow up with a phone call or message to parents to congratulate their child on their improvements or share how behavior or low grades are affecting their overall performance in class. Parents and teachers can work together on creating an action plan for that student to help them meet their behavior and academic goals.
Create Structures for Parents to Co-Create Student Goals
As the results show, homework assistance is not enough to make the biggest academic gains. Parents should be involved in creating their children’s goals at the beginning of the year with teachers. Staff can set private meetings with families to analyze and discuss behavioral data and academic data, the child’s strengths and areas for growth, motivations and interests, and create behavioral, academic, social, and emotional goals.
During report card conferences, parents and teachers should revisit these goals to see how the child is progressing. Each time families and parents communicate about behavior and academic grades, the goals should be stated and progress towards goals should be discussed.
Share Unit Overviews, Lesson Topics, and Testing Schedules
Most schools share the daily schedule to inform parents on how their child’s day is structured and the length of time their child participates in different activities. Teachers should share unit overviews, lesson content, and assessment schedules as well. This will help parents understand how the daily lessons, activities, and exit tickets build towards the larger unit assessments and grading. If your school uses a character education or SEL curriculum, teachers should also share the focus for the week or month so parents can weave that into their family’s routine at home. Parents can use this information at home to help their child with assignments, studying, and to motivate their children by including unit content into their family discussions and family life.
Implement Open Door Classroom Policy
One big way to boost family engagement is to implement an open door policy for parents to come and volunteer in the classroom when they have availability throughout the day. Parents will feel valued and appreciated and will have the opportunity to be a part of the learning. Parents can see how complex content and strategies are being taught by the teacher to better assist their child at home. This will also give families a great model on how they can have better, richer conversations with their children as they are reading books as a family and completing homework.
Focus on Positive Literacy Experiences at Home and School
Researchers estimate that for every 1,000 words read, children learn one new word. If a child reads at least 30 minutes a day between kindergarten and twelfth grade, they will encounter 13.7 million words. This means, they should acquire 13,700 words compared to only 1,500 words for students who read less than 15 minutes a day. That’s a vocabulary gap of 12,200 words for only 15 more minutes of reading a night. Parents should be aware of statistics like these and schools should help by stressing the importance of positive literacy experiences and time at home.
Our work as educators is to implement strategies that will genuinely include parents in supporting their children in reaching their academic goals. When parents are authentically engaged in their children’s academic goals and progress, academic achievement increases.