Parent involvement in their children’s education can be one of the biggest predictors of student success. This guide offers 19 proven strategies for increasing family engagement and strengthening the home-to-school connection.
Tip: Start the parent-teacher relationship right by sharing positive notes.
“Ask teachers to commit to choosing one student per day and sending a positive note home to parents with the back side of the note asking the parents to send a positive note back about their child. Even with a class of 30, that gives each child and family 6 notes or more during a school year. You would be amazed at what a little positivity will do to get parents engaged.”
—Dr. Kimberley Palmiotto
Tip: Teachers, open the door for parents.
“It’s key that the teacher extend their hand and open that door first. Not all parents are comfortable making that first move. As a parent, you never know what the teacher’s comfort level is with parent engagement. One year you have a teacher who prefers to keep parents outside the school walls, the following year you have one who promotes interaction with each project/lesson. Letting them know up front removes the unknown.”
—Gwen Pescatore, President Home & School Association
Tip: At the start of the year, set expectations for parental involvement.
“At back-to-school night, as my kids’ teachers discussed the upcoming academic year and what to expect for our kids, they also outlined specific ways we could volunteer to help. They had sign-up sheets available on-site, and offered opportunities for both working and at-home parents, so everyone could participate…As a parent, this approach made me feel welcome and like I had an opportunity to participate in my child’s classroom in a helpful way.”
Tip: Communicate often about the need for and importance of parental involvement.
“My tip: be sure your school talks openly and often about the need for and importance of parent volunteers. Our school definitely does, and even has periodic ‘visitor & volunteer training days’ that communicate school expectations, rules, and procedures for everyone’s benefit. The meetings are always very well attended, and we have a steady stream of parent helpers…I’ve come to rely on parent help and really miss it on the days no one comes in!”
—Kevin Jarrett, K-4 Technology Facilitator
Tip: Be clear about what’s needed and create a structure that supports those needs.
“Our kindergarten teacher makes a schedule for each parent to bring a snack, and sets the expectation that the classroom will work together to supply an assistant each day for two hours. It’s a big class (27!) and she needs all the help she can get so the parents are motivated to help.”
Tip: Create school-wide, structured opportunities for parent involvement.
“Establish a SCHOOL-WIDE list of volunteer activities…If the list is too long, categorize items based on the time involvement required. Pay attention to the number of hours AND time of day required to complete an activity. Be sure to list items that can be done at home, maybe even with kids helping out. Then send out a checkbox list to ALL families allowing parents to select things they may be able to commit to doing. Or even better, have your students ask their families to fill out the checklist on Back-to-School night.”
—John S. Thomas, First & Second Grade Teacher
Tip: Match parents and resources to needs.
“I always like it when a teacher is able to utilize the individual strengths each parent has. Some parents would rather make a Costco run than work with small groups of kids. Some parents can take a day off work every now and then to chaperone field trips but aren’t able to commit to volunteering weekly in the classroom. At my daughter’s school, there was a parent who wasn’t a big volunteer most of the year, but she was able to get her employer to donate a year’s supply of tissue and hand sanitizer. If I’m doing something that suits my schedule and that I already have the skill set for, pitching in is a pleasure.”
Tip: Everyone has something to offer.
“Don’t assume you don’t have anything to offer if you can’t make face-to-face meetings. I’ve never been to a PTA meeting, but I launched and coordinated the e-newsletter for years. My schedule didn’t allow me to get to school during the day and my evenings were packed, but there was still something I could do!”
—Laura Thomas, Director, Antioch Center for School Renewal