Leaning Into Small Parent Turnout: Starting Where You Are with Parent Engagement

Activities, Communication, Engagement / /

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You may have heard of the book “Good is the Enemy of Great“.  It is a wonderful book that outlines why we don’t have great organizations because we’re willing to settle for good – or good enough organizations.  Here’s the reality.  We really don’t have that many good organizations.  Sparing specific names –  think about airlines, banks, cable companies, cell phone companies.  Few of those organizations are great – or even good.

Because instead of dealing with the opportunity and assets in front of them, many organizations try to leapfrog where they are so they can get to great.

Schools and districts are no different.

Principals probably see this concept most centrally when they hire teachers.  Many a principal regrets a good teacher they passed on in November because they saw visions of a great teacher dancing in their eyes – a teacher that never came to fruition.  By June they have to make due with a passable teacher.


The Trap

Sometimes schools and districts risk falling into the same trap with parent engagement.  There are plenty of barriers to maximizing parent engagement – bad (or changing) phone numbers, outdated student information systems, busy families, racial, linguistic and socioeconomic lines of difference, etc. And yet, to get great at engaging parents – you have to start with good – or with whatever you’ve got.

That’s right.  You may only have correct contact information for 40% of your families.  You may only have 5 or 10 parents who show up to events.  Your most engaged parents may be the ones who show up again and again.  You may not even know why you want to engage parents.  And yet, start there.  Make sure those 5 parents feel valued, heard, and important.  Sure enough they’ll become your biggest advocates – and they’ll bring friends – and those friends will bring friends.  It’s how underdogs win political campaigns, how Facebook becomes Facebook, how the Ice Bucket Challenge (or the Keke Challenge) grows, how movements happen.  A small group becomes a bigger group becomes viral becomes a part of the fabric of life.


Good to Great Organizations- In Action

We got to see this in action just this week!  We’re lucky to now have schools in their second year of partnership with Possip – so we can compare data year to year.  And our schools are seeing parent response rates that are 5-10x of what they were just one year ago.  They are seeing parent attendance at meetings both grow in number and diversity.

Those schools started where they were.  They didn’t let good be the enemy of great.  Maybe just 12 parents responded to last year’s Possip surveys.  This year they have 80 parents responding.  Maybe just 8 parents came to their PTO meeting.  This year they have 30 parents engaging with schools for PTO.

So instead of focusing on what you don’t have or who you don’t have – focus on who you do.  Start there.  And let that transform the future.

Want to learn more about starting where you are to build a strong parent-school community?  Email us at possip@possipit.com.