Parental involvement in education is important, but teachers often struggle to get parents engaged. Busy two-income households can lead to parents not having the time to focus on their child’s education, which in turn can lead to struggling students. Teachers, students and parents can all benefit by putting strategies for involving parents into action.
The benefits of parent involvement in education show up in student performance. Studies by the National Education Association (NEA) show that students with engaged parents achieve higher grades and test scores, develop better social skills, adapt better to school and continue into post-graduate education more often.
Knowing this, teachers employ various parent engagement strategies. Success depends on finding the right approach for their particular situation.
Tips To Create Better Parent Involvement in Education
Learning experiences outside the classroom significantly impact a child’s education. Students succeed when parents are involved and schools make a focused effort to promote parental engagement.
Teachers and educational leaders should find parent engagement strategies that work best in their community and put them into action. Following is a list of tips, including some from the NEA, for teachers and educational leaders who want to engage parents in their community.
Start With a Positive Experience
It’s always best to first contact a parent with praise for their child. Teachers should help parents see them as an ally. Teachers should reach out to parents with praise for their child, identifying their strengths, before contacting them to discuss challenges.
Hold Regular Meetings
Regular meetings where parents can see what their children do daily in their classrooms can foster more parental engagement. According to the Hechinger Report, a school in Colorado does this through GET Togethers (Guaranteed Education Teams), in which parents experience firsthand what their child’s class is like.
At some GET Togethers, teachers instruct parents on math games they can play with their children. Others feature 30-minute workshops where teachers and parents discuss a wide range of topics that include how to set limits and understand trauma.
Build Relationships with Families
The school in Colorado—Laurene Edmondson Elementary School—serves students from lower-income areas of the community. School staff and teachers take extra steps to encourage parental involvement. Edmondson’s educators extend personal invitations to parents for events, solicit parent input, communicate in Spanish and work on getting families basic resources like groceries.
In some cases, teachers and school staff visit families at home. The Hechinger Report says home visits are “gaining traction in schools, such as Edmondson, that serve vulnerable populations.”
School officials and teachers should make it easier for parents to communicate with them. Open communication is encouraged by using multiple channels to transmit necessary information (including the school website, email lists and traditional methods for those without reliable email access).
Transparency nurtures active parent involvement in education. For instance, teachers should let parents know of any new initiatives, such as practicing restorative justice in the classroom. Transparency helps avoid a parent’s confusion about what their child is learning. Schools should also communicate the rationale behind incorporating new approaches, including the research that backs it up.
Fresno Pacific’s Course on Dealing with Difficult Parents
Fresno Pacific University offers Dealing with Difficult Parents, a course focused on engaging parents. The instruction allows educators to earn professional development credits while learning best practices to engage parents. Educators will leave this impactful course better prepared to build positive relationships with parents.
The curriculum includes assignments that guide teachers in using creativity and choice to develop a deeper understanding of parent relationships. The course focuses on the book Dealing with Difficult Parents by Todd Whitaker and Douglas J. Fiore.
Student outcomes for the course include:
- Analyzing and describing positive communication with difficult parents while identifying parental communication as an integral part of educating students.
- Evaluating differences and similarities students and parents have while embracing differences for academic success.
- Communicating a vision on how to deal with difficult parents while also providing the best instructional practices for their child.
- Improving communication and community-building skills. This includes recognizing and neutralizing ineffective communication.
- Improving creative and critical communication skills.
Educators graduate from the course prepared for the critical work of engaging parents in their child’s education. The successful outcome is two-fold: increased parent involvement in education and improved academic performance for their children.