Numerous studies show that engaging families in their children’s education increases student success and decreases dropout rates. Research also shows that community engagement is essential for student achievement as well as building and sustaining school improvement and creating school cultures that support all students.
Having effective family and community engagement is not a one-time program, but day to day practices, beliefs, and interactions that create the proper learning environment for all students to prepare for college and career. To ensure student achievement for all students schools, families, and community groups should work together to promote engagement that is systemic, sustained and integrated into school improvement efforts.
Here are 5 ways to increase student success through family & community engagement.
1. Create a welcoming school climate.
- Greet visiting parents, students and community members with a personal greeting and welcome packet that includes a community services directory, important school contact information, school calendar and coupons to local businesses.
- Require teachers to make personal contacts with families through e-mail, phone calls or home visits.
- Hold an open house event, prior to school opening, where families can meet their kid’s teachers, tour the school building, and meet other parents.
- Provide transportation and child care to enable families to attend school-sponsored, family engagement events.
- Support non-English speaking families by offering translators to welcome and assist families during school activities.
2. Provide families’ child development information and help parents create supportive learning environments at home.
- Offer workshops and provide materials for parents on development and appropriate parent and school expectations for different age groups. As well as information on the high expectations and standards children are expected to meet and provide ways for them to support the expectations and learning at home.
- Provide learning materials for parents on home conditions that support learning at each grade level.
- Partner with local community groups and agencies to provide regular parenting workshops on nutrition, family recreation or communication.
- Have school personnel make home visits during transition periods such as preschool and elementary, middle and high school to help families and students understand what to expect.
- Provide training and materials for parents on how to improve children’s study skills or learning in various academic subjects.
- Make regular homework assignments that require students to discuss with their families what they are learning in class.
Engage families in opportunities to work with their children in setting their annual academic, college and career goals.
3. Establish effective school-to-home and home-to-school communication:
- Provide parents information on homework policies and monitoring and supporting student work at home.
- Send home student work weekly or monthly for parent review and comment.
- Develop electronic grade books so families can frequently monitor their children’s progress.
- Clearly communicate school policies to all families in their home language.
- Establish formal mechanisms for families to communicate to administrators and teachers as needed (e.g., direct phone numbers, e-mail addresses, weekly hours for families to call or meet).
- Create a “suggestion or comment” box (digital and print) for families to anonymously provide questions, concerns, and recommendations.
- Make all of this important information easily accessible by using a digital form of communication like a mobile app. Now parents can have everything they need and communicate directly with schools and teachers right from the palm of their hands.
4. Engage families in school planning, leadership, and meaningful volunteer opportunities.
- Involve parents in all decision-making and advisory committees, properly training them for the areas in which they will serve (e.g., curriculum, budget or school safety).
- Provide equal representation for parents on school governing bodies.
- Conduct a survey of parents to help identify volunteer interests, talents, and availability. Match these resources to school programs and staff support needs.
- Create volunteer recognition activities such as appreciation events, gift certificates, and thank-you cards.
- Create system that links every family with a designated parent representative
5. Increase community support for your schools
- Build school-community partnerships that facilitate families’ access to community-based programs (e.g., health care and human services) to ensure they have resources to be involved in their children’s education.
- Establish school-business partnerships that offer students mentoring, internships, and on-site, experiential learning opportunities.
- Connect students and families to service-learning projects in the community.
Invite community partners to share resources at school events, such as your annual open house or parent-teacher conferences.
It truly takes a village to prepare students for success in college and future careers. What are some strategies your school(s) are using to increase family and community engagement?