Engaging and maintaining parent engagement isn’t easy. Yet parents play a significant role in the academic success of their children so engagement can’t be ignored. Multiple studies show big gaps in the success of students whose parents are involved with what’s going on in school and the students with parents that are not.
While traditional communication channels certainly help improve parent engagement, they leave a lot of opportunity on the table. For instance, it’s difficult to track conversations with parents. It’s hard to collect feedback so that it can be used in an actionable way. It is hard to time the communication such that parents and schools can access information at the best time for each of them. Fortunately, digital tools can help with all of these challenges. So how do you increase parent engagement in students’ success using a combination of traditional systems and digital technology?
Here’s a list of things that will boost parent engagement at schools:
1. Create A Way for Parents to Engage With Each Other
Parent engagement with their child’s school is as much about their engagement with other teachers, parents and students as anything. Therefore schools want to consider – what opportunities are we creating for parents to connect with each other? Special events? Facebook groups? Parent ambassadors?
If parents don’t feel comfortable knowing each other, or educators in the building, it will make it harder for them to engage.
2. Create A Way for Parents to Engage With The Curriculum and Academics
Schools should consider what they want parents to know about the academics at their school – and how schools are going to share that information.
Perhaps schools think parents aren’t interested in that – and perhaps parents aren’t. But parents should at least get the chance to know.
In an era without textbooks it is harder than ever for parents to know what their kids are learning, who the source of that truth is, and how to know if their child is mastering that content.
A clear system for sharing information on academics – whether through pages sent home, or a more sophisticated digital platform – is important.
3. Power Parent Engagement by Managing Conversations
Life is busy and it is hard for parents and schools to catch up with either. Technology can help. By using a platform that helps manage the timing and engagement of parents, and making it easy for schools to access this information when needed. Having a centralized place also allows school staff to be aligned with parents – and each other.
4. Use Video Conferencing for One-to-One Meetings and Events
As educators know, it’s not easy for most parents to come into the schools for meetings. Fortunately, there are many free tools like Zoom, Skype, FaceTime, and Google Hangouts, that allow teachers to set up personal meetings even if the parents are in remote locations. Also, video conferencing can enable parents to see what’s going on in the classrooms.
Many different parent engagement activities can be set up using this solution. Imagine running student and parent events where parents can call in to take part in the event. Programs like these allow busy parents to participate without being physically present. Leveraging video conferencing can be one of the best ways to get parents involved in school if there is a problem with low engagement rates.
5. Take Advantage of All Communication Channels
Many schools use online channels to communicate with parents but then drop old-fashioned paper or phone outreach. Or schools use paper and phone but don’t use any digital platforms. We have found that schools that get the highest engagement use all of the above communication channels. Their list of used channels includes paper newsletters, email newsletters, social media, teacher texts, Facebook live, feedback and culture measurement platforms, etc. If a few of the parents missed an important update in an email newsletter, they might be able to catch it on a social media announcement.
Another great channel that isn’t used enough is text messaging. The great thing about text messages is that it allows schools to communicate on a personal level without parents having to make a big commitment. It’s a simple way to keep parents updated about everyday events and a reliable way to reach out to them if there’s something important that needs to be discussed.
6. Collect Feedback and Suggestions Through the Platform
The great thing about using many of these online digital tools is that you can save the data you collect through them for future reference. Through these digital platforms, you can ask for feedback and suggestions from parents. This information will allow educators to get an overview of areas of improvement for their schools or classrooms.
It also empowers parents because you are giving them a voice. Parents often feel like they don’t have a say in what goes on in their student’s schools.
7. Use Technology to Get Around Barriers
There are always going to be barriers to parent engagement. Common restrictions can include busy work schedules, language, miscommunication, and a lack of awareness of what’s going on in classrooms. Technology can help reduce many of these barriers. For instance, the tactic of using video conferencing can help accommodate parents with busy work schedules.
Next, many tools help translate English into other languages. Also, real-time conversation channels can make it easier for parents to talk with teachers. And, as mentioned earlier, the platform itself may offer deep insight into what students are learning in the curriculum.
Finally, we know that using technology may not be so easy for non-tech savvy families. If using technology to increase parental engagement is the goal, schools should make sure they are using the most accessible platforms for parents.