Parents work hard all day. Once they get home, they still have to prepare meals, do household chores, check homework, get younger children to bed, etc. To encourage them to attend school events:

  • Begin and end promptly. Advertise a beginning and an ending time—then stick to your schedule.
  • Shorten meetings. If parents know that an event will take only an hour or an hour and a half, they may be more likely to attend.
  • Provide refreshments. Let parents know what they can expect: light refreshments, pizza or a potluck dinner. Ask grocery stores or restaurants to donate food.
  • Provide childcare. Consider recruiting high school students. They may be able to earn community service hours.
  • Meet parents at the door. It’s hard to walk into a room filled with strangers. Having a teacher, a school administrator or other friendly member of the staff greet them can ease new parents into the group.

 

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Boost attendance at family events

If you are experiencing low turnout at your family events, it’s time to get creative. Here are three attendance-boosting strategies that have worked for other schools:

  1. Ask for “neighborhood parent leaders.” These parent volunteers will be in charge of corralling parents in their neighborhoods. They might set up carpools or pool their resources for childcare. Sometimes, simply knowing a familiar face will also be attending an event is enough to get parents to attend.
  2. Ask for endorsements. If you host an event every year—like a “transition to middle school” event—ask parents who have previously attended to recommend the event to this year’s parents.
  3. Try the buddy system. It works for students on field trips; perhaps it can work to increase parent attendance. Encourage parents to pair up with a “buddy”—buddies can call or text each other before events and make plans to meet.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

According to Pew Research Center, a growing number of Americans use smartphones as their primary means of online access at home. One in five American adults are “smartphone-only” internet users—meaning they own a smartphone, but do not have traditional home broadband service.

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As schools become more diverse, look for ways to incorporate and celebrate the diversity. Here are three ideas:

  1. Establish a buddy program for families that do not speak fluent English. Pair these families with a bilingual family that is familiar with your school and can answer questions.
  2. Plan a culture fair. Invite families to bring an item that expresses their heritage and would help others learn about their culture. Display these artifacts and give families a chance to mingle and talk.
  3. Create a cookbook. Invite families to submit a favorite recipe that reflects their culture. Along with the ingredients and directions, ask families to include a short paragraph about their memories of preparing and eating the dish. Collect these recipes in a class or school cookbook.

 

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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“Diversity is being invited to the party; inclusion is being asked to dance.”

Verna Myers

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Helping students develop social and emotional skills leads to higher academic performance, improved peer relationships and deeper connections to school. Here are ways schools can engage families in social-emotional learning:

  • Get to know students’ families. Gather information on family composition, concerns, special skills, experiences, etc. This knowledge can help teachers forge stronger relationships with families.
  • Ask families to set goals for their children. What types of social and emotional skills would they like their children to develop? What support might they need?
  • Form a committee made up of educators, parents and community members to oversee SEL program development, implementation and evaluation.
  • Plan on-going initiatives. Host workshops for parents. Distribute handouts at family events. Include articles in your newsletter and on social media.

 

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Reinforce positive student behaviors

Certain student behaviors are linked to a positive school culture. To promote them, encourage teachers to recognize students who demonstrate:

  • Kindness.
  • Pride in their work.
  • Effective communication skills.
  • Leadership.

did-you-know  Did You Know?

Social-emotional learning is comprised of five core competencies: self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, social awareness, and relationship skills.

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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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