Research continues to show the importance of involving fathers in their children’s education. One analysis of studies found that when fathers are involved, their children, on average, experience academic gains equal to nearly a half year of typical academic learning.

In addition to helping with homework and volunteering at school, the researchers noted the benefits of fathers’ involvement in mentoring, comforting and disciplining their children. Keep this in mind as you plan for next school year. Consider including virtual events, support groups and workshops designed specifically for fathers—to help them understand the importance of their role in their children’s development. When schools reach out directly to fathers and give them tools and opportunities to be meaningfully engaged, everyone wins.

 

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Engage school staff over the summer

The next school year will look very different than this past one. That’s why it’s especially important to stay connected with your school staff over the summer. Here are three ideas to try:

  1. Send summer emails. Provide information to help staff members get ready for the school year. Give frequent updates on COVID-19 and inform them of changes taking place at the school or district level. Share bios of new staff members so that returning staff can welcome them.
  2. Host a virtual event to welcome new staff members. Consider assigning mentors to new teachers.
  3. Have a virtual planning retreat. Include in-service training and team-building activities. Brainstorm a theme for the new school year together. Invite an inspirational guest speaker.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

The AASA has released a comprehensive guide for reopening schools based on recommendations from its COVID-19 recovery task force. The School Superintendents' Association: Guidelines for Reopening Schools is a detailed step-by-step checklist of considerations for school leaders. Check it out at niswc.com/SACF_reopen.

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This has been an unprecedented school year, no doubt. As you wrap up the year and begin planning for next year, it’s a good time to assess your school’s family engagement practices. That way, you can make any necessary changes before the start of the next school year. Think about your current practices and reflect on the questions below:

  • What would I want to know if I were a parent with a child in this school? What would be the best way for me to find the information I need?
  • How much time can most parents in our community devote to being involved in their child’s school?
  • What special knowledge, talents and abilities do parents in our school possess? How can we make it easy for them to share those talents?
  • What’s the best way for us to learn about the needs, interests and concerns of families?

 

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Create a parent advisory group

How do you find the time to plan and implement family engagement programs? Turn to parents for help! Consider creating a parent advisory group to promote effective family involvement. Here’s how:

  1. Contact parents who are already active in your school and invite them to join the group. Ask for their help in recruiting other parent members. Include teacher representatives, too.
  2. Determine the purpose of the committee. In an initial meeting, decide on topics to tackle—remote learning, new safety measures, homework, school/parent communication, etc. Establish clear roles and responsibilities of administrators, teachers and parents.
  3. Hold regular meetings—in person or online. Have at least one teacher representative present at all meetings. It is essential for parents and teachers to see each other as partners in student achievement. Together, they can plan and implement parent involvement activities.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

Education Week has compiled an excellent list of resources to educate educators and students about racism, policing and protest. Check it out at niswc.com/SACF_edweek_resources.

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Caring for parents is one effective way that schools can boost student achievement. There are many ways school leaders and teachers can support parents during remote learning and the summer months. Here are just a few:.

  • Ask families about their overall wellbeing—not just about student learning.
  • Seek to understand what’s happening in families that may affect a student’s completion of assignments or participation. Work with families to find solutions.
  • Connect families with local resources that can help them overcome the challenges they are facing—from healthcare to food and housing.
  • Promote mental wellness by sharing stress-relieving activities that parents can do on their own or with their children.
  • Find ways to connect parents to each other so they can harness the power of peer support.

 

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Get the most from professional development

The summer is a perfect time to attend professional development events—in person or online. To reap the most benefit:

  • Prepare yourself. Think about what you want to learn. List specific questions you’d like to get answered.
  • Print out speaker handouts—including those from sessions you are not able to attend.
  • Take notes and review them. Write a summary of what you experienced and learned.
  • Plan to share the highlights of what you learned with coworkers. Discuss new ideas you might implement in your school.
  • Keep in touch with speakers. Write to them about your questions on specific topics. Ask them how to get additional information on their specialties.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

Teachers Involving Parents—A Professional Development Program to Enhance Parental Involvement for Student Success is an evidence-based professional development program designed specifically for teachers. Its six 90-minute sessions provide instruction and individual and group activities on essential topics including: school-family communication, overcoming barriers to family engagement, what's working in family involvement, and improving engagement practices. Learn more at: www.parent-institute.com/tip.

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Parent-child relationships play a powerful role in children's learning and development—which is why it’s beneficial to share parenting information with families. One study by the Search Institute identified five actions parents can take to strengthen their children’s perseverance, conscientiousness, self-control and ability to work with others. Encourage parents to:

  1. Show an interest in what their children are learning and doing. Let their children know they will always be there for them.
  2. Set high expectations for their children. Help their children set goals and strive for improvement.
  3. Provide support. Help their children complete tasks and achieve goals.
  4. Share power. Listen to their children’s ideas and concerns and let them participate in making family decisions.
  5. Expand possibility. Broaden their children’s horizons and introduce them to new people and experiences. 
photo of a father and child

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Working with immigrant families

Newly immigrated students often need special help in making a successful transition to their new school. Here are things to consider when working with immigrant students and their families:

  • Students may be homesick for their friends, language and customs.
  • Parents may have substantial formal education in their native language but little skill in English. Avoid educational jargon and consider using interpreters in meetings with parents not fluent in English.
  • Economic survival is often the primary concern for immigrant families.
  • Immigrant students and their parents can be rewarding to work with if you take the time to learn about their needs, backgrounds and strengths.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

According to a USA Today/Ipsos poll, one in five teachers say they are unlikely to return to the classroom if schools reopen this fall. Eighty-three percent of the surveyed teachers say they are facing challenges teaching students, and two-thirds say they are working more than they did before the COVID-19 pandemic. In a separate poll of K-12 parents, 6 in 10 say they would be likely to pursue at-home learning options instead of sending their children back to school this fall. Thirty percent of parents say they are "very likely" to do that.

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Parents are often looking for ways to support their children’s learning over the summer. Family learning kits can help families do just that. Here are some tips:

  • Collect everything parents need to conduct engaging learning activities in boxes or bags. Include items such as videos, books, conversation starters, games, craft items and other materials to support positive parent-child interactions. Ask local businesses to donate materials that could be used in kits.
  • Organize kits by grade level and theme (animals, everyday math, famous scientists, crafts).
  • Schedule drive-up pick-up/drop-off times. Families can check out the kits and return them to the school when they have completed the activities. Once kits have been restocked and sanitized, they can be checked out by other families.

 

photo of a mother and child working with arts and crafts

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Stay in touch with parents over the summer

Summer break should not signal the end of home-school communication. Staying connected with families during the summer months will help you keep parents informed and make the start of next school year less chaotic and more efficient. Plan to send families information on:

  • Summer events. Send out reminders about any summer camps, activities and school tours.
  • What to expect when school starts. Due to COVID-19, there will be changes to many school policies and procedures. Outline those changes as soon as possible. Sharing information early gives parents a chance to ask questions before the year starts. Also include links to forms that will need to be filled out.
  • Next year’s calendar. Share the dates for important meetings and events as soon as they are scheduled. Include dates for standardized testing and parent-teacher conferences, too.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

June 5, 2020 is World Environment Day—created by the United Nations (UN) to stimulate worldwide awareness of the environment and enhance political attention and action. Encourage students and their families to adopt healthy, environmentally friendly habits. Offer ideas: They could clean up a local park, write to their government officials, use less water, walk more, switch to sustainable products and more.

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