Family involvement in schools has long been seen as key to student success. Research indicates that "the more comprehensive and long-lasting the parent involvement, the more effective it is likely to be, not just on children's achievement but on the quality of schools as institutions serving the community." Getting families and parents involved, however, is not always easy.
Ways to Encourage Parent Involvement
Schools that involve families in their students' educational experiences are successful when they make a unified plan. Here are a few ways to encourage parental involvement:
Create an effective communication plan. A weekly newsletter or updated website may be useful, but they cannot meet all of the needs for every family. Make sure that language is not a barrier when issuing print or voice-message announcements. Provide families with an easy-to-use method to respond to messages that request feedback. Encourage frequent dialogue between families and teachers.
Do not wait for an emergency or concerning situation to communicate. The first communication between the school and the family should be positive. Waiting until there is a problem gives parents the feeling that the only time the school cares about its students is when there are behavior problems or academic performance issues.
Develop a variety of opportunities for families to volunteer at the school. Family members are often willing and able to assist teachers, monitor play activities and assist with art projects. Schools with strong family participation understand that requests should include choices, such as:
- One-time and recurring events.
- Events to suit a variety of personality types (quiet to active).
- Academic and social settings.
Offer workshops and events to bring families into the school. First of all, familiarizing family members with the physical layout of the school creates a sense of belonging. Secondly, information about child development, homework help and local services can enable future volunteers to feel valued beyond the free assistance they offer to teachers.
Provide training when appropriate. If special skills are required to participate, offer parents and family members training support and opportunities to practice. Although most volunteer positions at schools require little to no experience, volunteers feel more valued and confident when they are well-prepared.
Make it easy to volunteer. From the beginning of the school year, have a comprehensive list of both classroom and schoolwide volunteer positions you want to fill. Then, when teachers make personal contact with parents, whether on the phone or at a conference, they can easily encourage families to review the needs list and talk about upcoming events. Keep the sign-up sheet handy.
Why Family Involvement Is Important for Student Success
When families support their students both academically and socially, everybody wins. Psychology lecturer and career coach Rebecca Fraser-Thill shares several ways students benefit from parental and family involvement with education:
- Students whose families value school and who receive support and assistance at home are much more likely to have more regular attendance. Supportive families encourage students to attend, and students who receive support and assistance at home feel more competent in school, and are less prone to truancy.
- When the communication between home and school is open and frequent, students behave more appropriately, taking fewer discipline risks. These students have lower rates of substance use and abuse, and they make better choices. Social functioning also improves as families and parents maintain a close relationship with teachers and school personnel.
- Healthy self-esteem and better mental health of students can also be attributed to parental and family involvement at school.
According to the National Parent Teacher Association, "The most accurate predictors of student achievement in school are not family income or social status, but the extent to which the family creates a home environment that encourages high yet reasonable expectations for the child's achievement and becomes involved in the child's education at school."
The Master of Education in Curriculum & Instruction — General online program offered by Southeastern Oklahoma State University includes the course Collaboration Between Families, Communities, and Schools. By completing this course, as well as the master's degree program, you will have the tools and skills you need to promote and lead family involvement initiatives in your school.
Learn more about SOSU's online M.Ed. in Curriculum & Instruction — General program.
Sources:NASSP: The Poor Man's Guide to Family Engagement in Our Schools
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