November 21, 2019 marks the 25th annual National Parental Involvement Day—a day to highlight how important parents, families, guardians and community are to the education of children. Here are a few ways to celebrate it:

  • Highlight the many ways parents support your school on your social media and use the hashtag #NationalParentalInvovlementDay.
  • Send a thank-you letter to parents.
  • Host an appreciation breakfast for families.
  • Recognize parents and community organizations whose involvement goes above and beyond with an award.

 

Six ways to strengthen family involvement

Did you know there are six distinct ways to strengthen your family involvement program—and each one can help you engage with families and communities to boost student success? Dr. Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University outlines the six types of parent involvement:

  1. Volunteering. Promote participation by offering parents and community members a variety of ways to support your school.
  2. Parenting. Share parenting tips to help parents create a stable home environment for their children.
  3. Communicating. Consistently send home information about student learning and school events.
  4. Learning at home. Share strategies to help parents reinforce learning at home and provide support at homework time.
  5. Decision-making. Include parents in school decisions and give them leadership roles.
  6. Collaborating with the community. Strengthen your family programs by identifying and integrating resources from the community.

 

Quote of the Day

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“Research repeatedly correlates family engagement with student achievement, yet this strategy is rarely activated as an integral part of school reform efforts. A 10% increase in parental participation (a form of social capital) would increase academic achievement far more than a 10% increase in school spending.”

Project Appleseed

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According to a study by Duke researchers, teachers may hold the key to reducing student absenteeism in the early grades. The study followed a pilot program that helped elementary school teachers establish positive working relationships with parents. The teachers in the study:

  • Visited the homes of their students.
  • Used school-issued smartphones to engage in frequent communication with parents.
  • Helped identify specific barriers to attendance, such as health issues, transportation problems and parental needs.
  • Connected families to school and community resources to address attendance problems.

The results? Elementary school absenteeism decreased by an average of 10 percent. Keep this study in mind when addressing attendance concerns at your school. While you may not have access to the same resources, even small changes that support strong parent-teacher relationships can lead to great gains.

 

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Review your attendance policy

The first step in improving student attendance at your school is to take a closer look at your attendance policy. Make sure it is:

  1. Clear. If your policy is too confusing, parents and students will have trouble adhering to it. Avoid using jargon or abbreviations.
  2. Concise. People are more likely to read and remember a short policy. If your policy is complicated and lengthy, create a one-page summary of the policy families can use for quick reference.
  3. Consistent. Make sure definitions of terms are consistent—for example, be sure a medical appointment isn’t considered an excused absence in one part of the policy and unexcused in another. Ensure that all members of your staff will be enforcing the same policy, as well.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

According to a recent study, having one unexcused absence in elementary school is much more predictive of negative academic and socioemotional outcomes than having 18 excused absences.

J. Pyne and others, What Happens When Children Miss School? Unpacking Elementary School Absences in MMSD, Madison Education Partnership.

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Studies consistently show that a positive home environment contributes to student success at school. That’s why it’s important for schools to share information about effective discipline with parents.

  • A structured home life promotes school success. Regular schedules and routines, such as scheduled homework time, bedtime and meals, help children develop the independence and self-discipline they need to succeed in school.
  • Discipline is about teaching. Punishment does not teach children what they should do; it merely attempts to stop negative behaviors. Effective discipline begins with establishing clear rules and consequences—and enforcing them consistently. It also helps to acknowledge and praise children’s positive behavior.
  • Children perform better when they know what is expected of them. When parents set high, yet reasonable expectations, children are more likely to meet them.

 

Engage parents from diverse cultures

Culture affects how we view time, personal space, body language, voice volume and small talk. Culture also dictates how parents view their role in educating children. Understanding these differences is a first step in bridging the cultural gap between educators and parents. It’s also important to:

  • Be aware of your biases. Notice when you are making a judgment—positive or negative—about a student or parent. Ask yourself if this judgment comes from an assumption based on the person’s culture, education level or other factor?
  • Become familiar with the holidays and traditions your students celebrate. Try not to schedule events that conflict with important dates or traditions.
  • Build rapport with parents. Ask them to share their cultures and experiences with you.
  • Make sure your school reflects diverse cultures from books and curriculum to pictures on the wall.
  • Identify parent advisers. If you’re unsure of the appropriateness of materials or lessons, consult them.

 

Quote of the Day

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“We all should know that diversity makes for a rich tapestry, and we must understand that all the threads of the tapestry are equal in value no matter what their color.”

Maya Angelou

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Before parents can help their children succeed in school, they need to understand your school’s curriculum and goals. Here are four ways you can keep parents informed:

  1. Create brief, jargon-free descriptions of the goals for each grade and each subject area. Include information about the teachers and key curricular events in each area, too.
  2. Host a series of parent workshops that focus on the curriculum.
  3. Invite parents and teachers to participate in discussion groups that focus on current teaching activities.
  4. Hold parent/child workshops that teach hands-on activities to reinforce the curriculum. Provide ideas for family activities that help parents make a connection with the subjects. Hold the workshops at different locations in the community and/or at different times of day.

 

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How to be an approachable principal

To keep the lines of communication open with families, it’s important to be a principal that parents want to talk to. Make sure you are:

  • Visible. Walk the hallways, stand outside during student drop-off and pickup, and attend school events when possible.
  • Engaged. When you attend school events, don’t sit off to the side. Sit with parents and engage in conversations.
  • Friendly. Smile and greet students and parents whenever you see them.
  • Open to feedback. Let parents know that you want to hear from them. Outline all the ways they can reach you to share their comments and concerns.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

According to a new study, reading to young children in any language will likely help them learn to read in English. The study found that children who had strong early reading skills in their native Spanish language experienced greater growth in their ability to read English from kindergarten through fourth grade than their peers without strong early reading skills in their native Spanish language.

J.E. Relyea and S.J. Amendum, “English Reading Growth in Spanish‐Speaking Bilingual Students: Moderating Effect of English Proficiency on Cross‐Linguistic Influence,” Child Development.

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Parent involvement is critical to student success in school. Yet many teachers still have no formal training in working with families. When planning your next teacher staff development session, consider including skill training on strategies to improve collaboration among teachers and parents. Show teachers how to:

  • Conduct parent interviews. What to say to parents to elicit meaningful responses.
  • Design a parent involvement plan. How to design a year’s worth of activities with parents that support student learning.
  • Develop a parent involvement notebook. How to start gathering resources and ideas for working with parents—where to go and whom to ask for ideas that work!
  • Learn from parents. What do parents think about school involvement? How can teachers help parents maximize their efforts?
  • Understand families from diverse cultural backgrounds. How to communicate respect and acceptance.

 

Foster positive teacher-parent relationships

When the lines of communication are open between teachers, students and parents, everyone wins. Students become more motivated to learn, have better attendance, improved behavior and more positive attitudes. To build relationships with parents, encourage teachers to:

  • Attend school events. Whether it’s the annual Fall Festival or the fourth-grade musical, teachers’ presence matters. When parents have opportunities to interact with teachers outside the classroom, they are able to form stronger connections with them.
  • Communicate with parents regularly. Send home weekly updates to let parents know what’s going on in the classroom. Parents feel like partners when they are kept in the loop.
  • Ask parents to contribute. Send home a questionnaire to find out about parents’ cultural traditions, interests, skills and knowledge. Invite them to share information with the class when it connects with something being taught in the classroom. Parents feel valued when they are asked to contribute.

 

Quote of the Day

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“Leadership is not about you; it's about investing in the growth of others.”

Ken Blanchard

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