Parents involved in their children’s school can be game changers when it comes to education. Research shows that regardless of income, background or social status, students of involved parents have better social skills, behavior and grades. But it doesn’t stop there … involved parents tend to improve the outcome for all children—not just their own.
However, according to a Child Trends Data Bank 2012 study entitled “Parental Involvement in Schools,” parental involvement has declined since 2007. Although the reason for this decrease is unclear, it is clear students of involved parents tend to garner greater attention from teachers, who in turn are more likely to identify problems that could inhibit learning at an earlier stage.
If you are seeking ways to increase parent involvement and empower parents to become game changers, keep reading.
Recruiting game changers
An all-hands-on-deck approach is a must when it comes to school transformation, and parents are the focal point. Here are some tips to communicate with parents and recruit them as agents for change.
• Education and promotion: There are many opportunities for parents to get involved; it can be overwhelming for some. Demystify the confusion with straightforward communication outlining the functions of the school board, PTO and other committees. Then, let parents know how they can help and how their contributions can make a difference. Recruit assistance by holding informational sessions where parents can find out more. Promote these sessions by posting information to your website, sending out email blasts and mailing flyers. Ask parents to sign up and thank those who do so with a small gift of appreciation, such as school logo’d bumper stickers, magnet clips or key lights.
• Relationship development: Schools should cultivate a welcoming and trusting environment where parents and students alike feel accepted and comfortable. When trust is at the core of this relationship, parents and teachers can feel confident in knowing they have the best interests of the students in mind as they partner together to bring about positive change. Taking the opportunity to connect with parents through one-on-one meetings, phone calls and written communications can help. For K-8, a folder or notebook that goes with the student to and from school can be an effective way to promote back and forth communication. Including parents of older students in communications about important deadlines, school functions and student progress is just as vital. The texting app Remind101 can be a great tool for communicating this important information.
• Parent engagement: It is beneficial for teachers and administrators to engage parents in frequent and meaningful conversation about what’s important to them. Poll parents for their input on decisions that impact school improvement and use their feedback to drive school change. Incent parents to participate and thank them for their input with a small token of appreciation, like a school logo’d iPad® sleeve or tumbler. Parents of college students can be engaged, too. For instance, the University of Minnesota provides parents with a resource guide containing tips and strategies on creating a supportive partnership while encouraging independence. There is even a “Parents Association” that provides collaboration opportunities between the alumni association and moms and dads.
• Don’t become a helicopter: Involved parents can transform schools and students for the better; however, there can be too much of a good thing. Avoid the helicopter phenomena—hovering too close and being “hyper-present,” thereby stifling independence. The goal for parents and teachers alike should be to work collaboratively to teach students the skills they need to navigate through life independently.
Remember, increased parent involvement and empowered parents can transform schools and the future generation. Start recruiting your agents for change today.
”What Research Says About Parent Involvement.” ResponsiveClassroom.org. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 01 April 2014.
Elizabeth Rich. “Empowering Parents to Transform Schools.” Edweek.org. Education Week. 15 Nov. 2013. Web. Retrieved 01 April 2014.
Gadoe.org. State of Georgia Department of Education, n.d. Web. Retrieved 02 Apr. 2014.
“Parent Advice and Involvement.” Parent Program—University of Minnesota. N.p., n.d. Web. Retrieved 22 April 2014.
Byrne, J. A. “Attack of the helicopter parents of MBA applicants.” Fortune Management Career Blog RSS. N.p., 10 April 2014. Web. Retrieved 21 April 2014.