How to Strengthen Parent Engagement in K-12 Schools
It should come as no surprise to most educators that family involvement in K-12 schooling has been shown to increase student performance.
Since time is always slipping away and parents are becoming busier and busier, in person teacher-family communication is certainly a challenge. The digital era should be able to lend schools a hand in building easier relationships with families. And it all starts with good communication, whether it’s about school events or policies, project due dates, student behavior, progress, and extended learning possibilities.
Before exploring some of the most popular options to engage K-12 parents, we should highlight the undeniable fact that teachers and school administration should be the ones reaching out to families for educational matters, instead of having parents taking the first steps. At the beginning of the school year, ask parents what communication style they prefer by sending out an online survey.
1. The classroom blog
You’re aiming for a harmonious stage where students, educators, and parents enjoy each other’s company and work seamlessly towards the same goals.
A school website and blog are certainly useful, but alas, too static in content. They can’t possibly quench the thirst for a personalized communication.
So go for a class blog instead to get the conversation going. Make it the vehicle to convey details on classroom activities, since anyway more than enough children omit to pass important info to parents while at home.
A classroom blog is a great opportunity to give the learners’ ego a boost by letting them know their work will be looked at and appreciated online. Before you begin blogging though, ask students if they agree to their work being posted. Go even further and invite students to get their parents involved in writing guest posts on various subjects, for example, their hobbies or careers.
Pro tip: add a file upload form to the classroom blog to allow students to upload files, such as photos for a small photo contest 🙂
Without a doubt, educating parents to use a new platform might not always be a walk in the park. You need to get creative in order to highlight the simplicity of communicating through such a channel.
Some tips below:
- Make sure that at the beginning of the year you send home a general info note, including the blog’s URL and content, the safety rules while posting on the internet (the netiquette), along with a form for obtaining their permission to blog with the students;
- Emphasize the fact that, if the blog is public, you won’t post children’s photographs or names;
- Show them eloquent blog posts from previous years;
- Provide a simple, yet comprehensive blog navigation guide and point out the email subscribing feature, as well as the commenting section;
- Gather all the introductory notions on a static page on the blog as well, to make it easy for parents to refer to when needed.
You have got to make this one personalized, meaningful and timely. You don’t want to overwhelm the parents, busy as they already are. Opt for a monthly newsletter with important info, such as monthly goals, projects completed during the previous month, field trip updates, school events, and volunteer sign-up forms.
Tips for friendlier newsletters:
- Skip the attachment flooding. If some visuals need to be transmitted, they have a better chance of being seen if put directly in the email body;
- Getting your message across in a concise and straightforward fashion means also a catchy subject line. Pretty much like when doing marketing for businesses, right?
- In order to ensure privacy, hide email recipients with the BCC feature;
- If you need taking their pulse or obtaining consent on different topics, include a link to a digital form. You are welcome to try our form builder interface for free. You can even integrate our forms with the lovely MailChimp platform, if you are using the class newsletter in a professional manner.
Pro tip: use a student data tracking form to send to each family. This one helps students monitor their progress throughout the year.
3. Social media
Facebook or Twitter can be excellent environments to connect with K-12 families. Invite parents to follow your class pages and create a strong social media presence.
Facebook closed groups also represent a notable way to reach only the concerned parties for information exchange and feedback gathering. Getting parent perspective through engaging web forms is really a no-brainer with our contact form Facebook app.
4. Phone calls and text messages
Teacher-to-home communication can get a personalized touch by resorting to the good ol’ phone. While not as practical as emails (which seem to be at the very top of parents’ preferences), the phone is used on a large scale for event reminders or other types of school-related announcements.
5. Messaging apps
Now that nearly everybody owns a smartphone, using it for school communication comes in really handy. Easy to use even while on the go, they seem to be on the rise where school-home communication is concerned. Whatsapp groups especially.
6. Parent portals
Another paperless channel preferred by families is the parent portal. Pretty much like blogging, parents need to be educated to use it in order to maximize the exchange of classroom info. During enrollment, you might use the portal to offer comprehensive info on how they can get in touch with the school administration or join an advisory committee. It’s also a great medium to share personalized information about resources that would help children with emerging talents in specific areas develop.
7. Classroom management platforms
Digital tools like classroom management software have gained a lot of popularity in the last few years. They provide a personalized learning experience and a seamless flow of information between school administration, educators and parents.
8. Face-to-face meetings
…if all else fails, just ask them.
After all, human interaction should stay king even in this tech-rich environment. Technology should offer alternatives for those times when in-person conversation is not possible. Obtaining the right alloy of the two is an art, after all.
In any case, your expectations on how students and parents need to be involved in the educational process, as well as the communication methods you pick – should be crystal clear to families right from the beginning of the year. This way, you avoid confusion and make sure they keep checking the respective channels.
After all, having committed parents means a good advocacy for your class, as well as your school and overall community.