Educators know that students do better if parents are involved. They get higher grades, learn at a faster rate, and have better attendance.
However, there are still many barriers that decrease parental engagement. Educators are working hard to figure out how to improve parental involvement.
What is Parental Engagement?
Parental engagement is when parents and educators work together to address the challenges students face, help students’ performance, and improve the school environment.
Schools engage with parents for a wide variety of reasons:
- Evaluating academic performance to make sure that students are on track.
- Working with parents so they know how to help their children do well in school.
- Developing relationships with parents so that there is an open dialogue.
- Bringing up issues students may face, such as bullying and drug use.
- Letting parents know about events and programs run by the school.
- Helping the school be better by leveraging the asset and community of parents.
What is the Difference between Parental Involvement and Engagement?
It’s important to distinguish between parental involvement in the school and engagement. Most parents try to be involved on some level. They make sure their kids are engaged in school, doing their homework, and doing well socially. This level of involvement doesn’t necessarily mean that they are engaged with what’s going on in the school.
Engagement is about building a relationship between educators and parents. It’s a partnership to enrich students’ lives and help them succeed. Schools alone cannot make all the decisions because they are unaware of existing problems if parents do not communicate. The difference between parental involvement and parent engagement is that parents help make critical decisions for the school.
How to Measure Parental Engagement
Educators understand the need for parental engagement more than anyone. Yet measuring engagement has – heretofore – been more elusive. There are a number of ways to measure parent engagement – from attendance at school activities, to volunteerism at school, to participation in school surveys or focus groups.
More specifically, schools can take a look at how active parents are with school activities like volunteering, PTA meetings, regular communication with teachers, and submission of feedback.
What is a Parental Engagement Policy?
A parental engagement policy is a policy that requires schools to have a set of guidelines and practices to engage parents. Schools, states and districts come up with a clear policy and plan so that educators can take an action-based approach to parental engagement. Without a strategy and plan in place, the action-steps educators need to take are often unclear.
How to Improve Parental Engagement
Here are some ideas to improve parental engagement:
- Identify barriers and work to resolve them. Are parents busy working? If so, when are the best days and times to reach out to them? Do they not pick up phone calls from unknown callers? Is there a language barrier?
- Learn which communication channels parents prefer. Do parents want to be updated via paper, website, blog, email, phone, social media, or text messages? Maybe all of them?
- Work to get parents into school events. We have found that parents are most invested in events with their child – consider adding an art exhibit, poetry cipher, choir performance- to report card conferences. Have students invite their parents to events.
- Encourage parents to submit ideas and offer feedback. The goal here is to listen to parents and have them take part in the conversation.
- Provide resources for parent engagement. What are the ways schools can easily here from and capture the insights of parents?.
Parental engagement is, of course, important- but not always easy to measure or successfully execute. Hopefully, this 101 overview helps schools successfully start planning their engagement.