How do you answer the question, “What do you do?” It’s complicated, isn’t it? Perhaps the better question is – “What don’t you do?” After all, you hire the best possible teachers. You make sure your school’s students have every tool they need to succeed. You maintain and enforce behavioral standards. You even make sure the building and facilities meet your teachers’, students’, and parents’ expectations.
You do it all. Every one of those activities revolve around one central goal – helping students succeed. If you have to boil your work down to one tenet, that’s it. You put students in position to succeed.
However, if you’re not actively working to keep parents engaged in their child’s education, you may be missing the biggest influence on student success. Parent involvement. A growing body of research shows that student success is most dependent on something that occurs mostly outside your building – parent involvement.
In numerous studies, researchers have found that student success in the classroom is most heavily influenced by his or her parents’ ability to:
- Encourage learning and education
- Set high – but not unrealistic – educational standards and goals
- Become involved in school and community activities
Researchers have also found that students who do benefit from strong parental involvement have:
- Higher overall achievement, regardless of socioeconomic, ethnic or racial background.
- A higher completion level on homework.
- A higher level of self-esteem in all aspects of life.
- Better social behavior and lower probability that they will get into trouble outside of school.
- Greater comfort navigating different cultural environments between home and school.
- Less likelihood of being placed in special education courses.
- Less probability of dropping out of high school.
How to increase parent involvement
You can’t force a parent to be involved in their child’s education, but you can encourage and facilitate it. Parents are more likely to be involved if you make it easy for them. Twice-a-year parent-teacher conferences aren’t enough anymore. In a world of dual-income households, single-parent households, and unconventional work hours, you should provide multiple opportunities for them to fit engagement and interaction into their schedules.
The good news is that the digital age offers a wide variety of tools to allow parents to connect with your school and teachers. Here are some innovative ways to fuel parental involvement:
Online advice videos.
Parents and teachers can share ideas via web videos on your school’s website. Teachers can provide guidance on how parents can help with certain assignments and parents can provide feedback on areas where their child may need extra help.
A dedicated blog and online calendar.
One of the biggest objections to parental involvement is that parents are so busy that they just don’t know when events are happening. A dedicated parent blog, accompanied by social media presence and an event calendar, can keep them in the loop.
Use social media at your school to connect to parents.
The number of parents using social media is increasing at an alarming rate. Examine your school’s social media policy and begin planning to communicate on an ongoing basis using popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google Plus. Social media provides excellent ways to connect parents to your school’s website and begin engaging them.
Home visits and parent/teacher conferences.
Just because we live in a digital world doesn’t mean that face-to-face interaction is dead. On the contrary, nothing can replace an in-person visit.
Hosting an Open House event in which a student’s entire family can visit the school and classroom in an informal and laid back setting builds the parent-teacher relationship. It also eliminates the pressure and expectations of a formal sit-down meeting. Allowing students to bring siblings and parents to their classroom ensures a greater sense of confidence within the student and gives parents to see the day-to-day operation of their child’s education.
Special volunteer opportunities give parents the chance to transition from spectator to active participant in the school and their child’s education. It can also give them a greater understanding of what their child does on a daily basis and what challenges he or she may face.
One of the best ways to coordinate these activities is through the school website. Certainly, the dedicated blog, event calendar, and advice videos can take place online. However, the website can also help in other areas. An online volunteer sign-up form can make volunteering easy and convenient. Videos of past family nights may encourage more parents to attend. Skype, Google Hangout, and other online video conferencing services can facilitate online meetings when a face-to-face one isn’t possible.
A school content management system like the one Campus Suite provides can make online communication with parents simple. It allows teachers to easily create and manage their own webpages. Additionally, the school’s site can be quickly updated to communicate special events, volunteer needs, and other opportunities for involvement.
Marketing director and content strategist for Campus Suite, Jay’s a former school public relations specialist who’s helped businesses, schools and colleges use the power of web communications to improve their image, generate support, and optimize relationships. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him @jay4schools.