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WHAT WORKS IN EDUCATION The George Lucas Educational Foundation

Getting Parents Engaged with School

Getting Parents Engaged with School

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12 Replies 2975 Views

Last night, we had a meeting at the high school to talk about our STEM program and also about Digital Citizenship. While it was well attended by administrators, very few parents actually attended, and it was all the familiar faces that attend every meeting.

We're going to try some novel approaches to parent engagement in the coming months, including everything from videos online, allowing remote access to meetings. email newsletters and more. What approaches work well for your school? How do you get parents information they need, or even to become interested in subjects like digital citizenship that can actually affect their kid's job or college application process?

It seems like parents may be most engaged at transition times and at the beginning of the school year. We'd like to build relationships that are ongoing and not episodic, and built on openness and collaboration instead of crisis management. We know this will take time.

What do you think might help? What has worked best in your school? Does the messenger matter? Is it best coming from the teacher or from the school, or District as a whole? Is it better coming from other parents?

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Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

Gwen- I love the idea of having kids present at every meeting as well- I think we often forget to do that and honor kids voices, and doing it as part of the PTO/PTA meetings is a great idea. Thanks for the links as well!

Amanda's picture
Amanda
Positive Learning Advocate for Learning Connections

I recommend "Motivating the Middle". This book was meant for leadership in college communities but can be applied to situations in education. It's not just about appealing to parents, it is also about reaching the middle third parents who have constraints in time, are afraid of being singled out, etc.

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

As a mom with kids in more than one school, I have to admit that I don't attend many PTA events. I volunteer when I can, but sometimes it's all I can do just to make sure my kids are getting their homework done, getting to their activities, and getting enough sleep. The best communication tools for me have been e-newsletters, the district Facebook feed (which I think they don't use nearly enough) and online surveys of fewer than 5 questions. Face to face meetings are tricky- and I find they aren't always necessary to accomplish the goal.

Nate Nielsen's picture
Nate Nielsen
Support Representative for Memberhub.com

Going along with Laura's comments, I have worked with a ton of parents that engage through social networks and other online tools. Parents are on their mobile devices for a good portion of each day and do not always have to time to make meetings. You have to meet them where they are.
To make it successful, I believe that the message does need to come from the parents. Granted, I've only worked with preschools and elementary schools where parents are more likely to be involved with the classroom compared to High School.
Tools such as Remind 101 and teacher graph are great for older students

Whitney Hoffman's picture
Whitney Hoffman
Producer LD Podcast, Digital Media Consultant, Author

I'd also love it if we started to get both email lists and numbers to text parents in a master list we could segment as needed. ie. we could use Remind101 or even something like Class Parrot to remind parents and kids of upcoming events or needs, and be able to segment that list based on class, school, etc. as needed. Right now, at least as it's run as a PTO function, each school has a Yahoo or Google email group we call "Bottom of the Bookbag" and a Facebook page for parents in the District, but we're still finding a lot gets lost and we're trying to find better ways to communicate. I think digital and mobile is a good part of the answer, but it's not always easy to make sure you have "pinged" everyone when it's just email....

Jason Markey's picture
Jason Markey
Principal, East Leyden High School

There are some great comments and ideas here. I just wanted to share something new we are trying. We have two challenges in particular to connecting with parents.
1. Our parents often work multiple shifts and/or second shift which is when typical parent nights are.

2. We have three primary languages, and nearly 30 others, that are spoken at our school.

This year we have added to our typical parent nights with the start of what will become a series of videos put together by our student video announcement team. What I especially like is that we have student anchors in all three of our major language!
Here is a link to the first edition:
https://sites.google.com/a/leyden212.org/east-leyden-clubs-and-activities/

Jason

MisterCMaine's picture
MisterCMaine
Technology Teacher & Integrator in Old Orchard Beach, Maine

I'm using "Class Messenger" to communicate with parents and its AMAZING. Check out their website.

http://www.classmessenger.com/

I have 13 of 15 parents with iPhones, so the iPhone app has allowed me to connect quickly and efficiently with parents. No longer do they have to allows check their email. Instead, they receive a notification. I send home reminders, pictures, videos, podcasts, etc. of the kids in action. The parents love it!

Laura Thomas's picture
Laura Thomas
Director, Antioch University New England Center for School Renewal
Facilitator 2014

Oh, that reminds me of Remind 101! https://www.remind101.com It's a great way to text reminders to kids and parents while preserving everyone's privacy.

Gwen Pescatore's picture
Gwen Pescatore
President Home & School Assoc, #ParentCamp Organizer, Co-Moderator #PTchat

Tech tools are truly a life saver for me and many of our families at our ES and MS. They are how we stay "in touch" with what is happening in between those face-to-face moments.

Nate, you are so right! You need to meet your families where they are. And that will almost certainly mean that you will need to use more than 1 communication tool. Everyone, everyday, may find a different tool that best suits their needs. On days when I'm in school, I can do the F2F. On days when I am running from place to place, Twitter is great for the quick burst of info. For other parents it may be hardcopies, email or Facebook.

I like tools that are 2way communication tools. Websites & Remind 101 are great to share info 1 way (HW assignments/flyers/event info) - but don't allow for feedback and/or dialogue easily. It is the sharing of ideas and the regular conversations that I think helps build the relationships necessary for strong communities.

Jason....your parent news in multiple languages is phenomenal! We have 22+ languages at our school and it is always a concern that we are not effectively communicating information to and with our ESL families.

Tanya Beach's picture
Tanya Beach
Design and Marketing Manager for Class Messenger

Thanks so much MisterCMaine! We're glad to hear that you are having your needs met with Class Messenger and are of course advocating our service! We are definitely working on ways to help foster this engagement between Teachers, Parents and Students and always looking and listening to everyones opinions about how to better enhance this process using technology. So if anyone has anything to share we're all ears!

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