To achieve optimal academic and developmental performance, the lessons your students learn in the classroom must be reinforced at home. Since your students’ parents and guardians do not take part in classroom instruction, school leaders need effective strategies to maintain a regular cadence of updates and communications home to ensure parents and guardians are well-informed of their child’s progress and know how to play an ongoing, active role in their child’s development.
The Importance of School-Family Engagement
The best student outcomes are produced when all invested parties work together. Data shows that students whose parents and teachers engage in regular in-person communications are more likely to1:
- Complete homework assignments.
- Produce higher academic outcomes.
- Participate in class.
- Feel positive about school.
Studies also show that when parents and guardians maintain regular contact with school representatives, students are less likely to2:
- Require classroom discipline.
- Be frequently absent.
- Fail courses.
- Experience negatively impactful school-related stress and anxiety.
The following six tips will help you and your teachers to communicate better with parents about their child’s academic progress
#1 – Maintain Your School’s Blog
Blogs are valuable tools to share school-wide updates, initiatives, and events in words, photos, and videos. Work with each school in your district to build and maintain a blog on the school’s website and plan to post updates weekly. To be successful in producing regular updates, create a content calendar at the start of the school year with a plan for what types of news and updates you will share every week. Focus on seasonal and timely initiatives such as statewide testing, seasonal or holiday activities, and year-end reminders.
Ask faculty and staff to get involved by writing guest contributions with updates about the progress their students have made, or exciting accomplishments at the class or student levels. To keep your blog engaging, mix up your mediums by sharing dynamic content such as video blog (vlog) updates, written updates, and photo galleries.
Such updates will be valuable for both students and parents to read regularly; however, understand that creating your blog is only step one. You will need to publicize it to ensure parents and students review it frequently. Use all your available communications channels to announce every time you publish a new blog. Such channels should include social media, a link on your website, emails, and e-newsletters.
#2 – Address Issues and Concerns Promptly
Instruct all teachers and staff members to address student issues with parents or guardians promptly. As a school leader, you can help facilitate such discussions when issues are appropriately escalated. Regardless of who makes contact, however, the sooner parents are aware of negative behavioral, social, or academic trends, the sooner all parties can put together a collaborative plan that is in the student’s best interest.
#3 – Offer Frequent and Diverse Opportunities for In-Person Parent/Guardian and Faculty/Staff Communications
Your district should be facilitating annual open house nights and parent-teacher conferences, but you should encourage other, less structured engagement opportunities throughout the year. Such events may include event volunteer opportunities, informal roundtable discussions, and parental invitations to after-school activities. In appropriate cases where a parent or guardian is not able to visit during school hours or after school events, a school representative may facilitate a one-on-one visit at home or a convenient third-party location.
More frequent interactions between parents and teachers, even if the conversation does not focus on student progress, will help build trust and comfort between both parties. As a result, if a student issue arises, parents and teachers will be more comfortable working together proactively to collaborate on a solution.
#4 – Produce a Podcast
The average American drives approximately 25 miles per day and spends an average of one hour behind the wheel3. As a result, you have 60 minutes in which you can captivate your parent and guardian’s attention by providing updates and news in podcast format. Start by producing podcasts monthly and make them available for download from your school website.
Experiment with both monologue and dialogue formats to boost interest and engagement. Some months you as the school’s superintendent can share progress about school initiatives. Other months you can ask one of your principals to interview a teacher to discuss powerful practices that have proven successful in achieving learning objectives. Some months, you can invite students to share news and information and challenge them to create and produce the month’s content. The participation and format opportunities are endless, and the outcomes will be extremely positive. Your podcasts will enable a powerful and dynamic sharing of news and information in an easily consumable format that parents can listen to without asking for them to carve time out of their busy schedules.
#5 – Use Technology to Maintain Transparency
We live in an era where Internet-enabled devices provide access to any time, anywhere information. Parents are right to expect the same level of insights and transparency from their child’s school district. If your school district has not already done so, invest in technology and tools that allow parents to log-in to a portal to view their child’s progress report, current grades, upcoming tests, after-school event opportunities, and homework assignments. The more information that parents can access, the more they will be able to guide their child at home and stay engaged in their progress.
#6 – Use all Available Communication Channels
Just like your students, parents will have varying preferences for how they learn and consume information. The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) conducted a survey in which they asked parents and guardians about their preferred communication methods. The findings revealed that parents prefer the following five communication methods4:
- District and school emails
- Online parent portals
- District and school e-newsletters
- District and school websites
- Telephone and voice messaging
This study reinforces that school districts should not rely on a single communication channel to share news on the whole or individually. Just as with your students, the more methodologies you employ to share information, the more impactful student learning and engagement.
The more communication tactics you test to engage parents and guardians in your school district, the more success you’ll find in improving engagement levels. The most important strategy is not to give up. Even if your initial blog readership levels are low, or no parents sign up to volunteer for your initial after school event, continue reaching out. Once parents realize that your district is committed to open and fluid lines of communications and that it values their involvement, you’ll see participation levels boost—and student achievements will accelerate too.
1. “How Two-Way Communication Can Boost Parent Engagement.” Edited by Waterford.org, Waterford.org, 8 Nov. 2018, www.waterford.org/education/two-way-communication-parent-engagement/.↩
3. Steele, Lauren. “How Much Time Do American Families Spend in Their Cars?” Fatherly, 17 May 2018, www.fatherly.com/play/how-much-time-do-american-families-spend-in-their-cars/#targetText=Each%20day%2C%20Americans%20drive%20about,one%20hour%20behind%20the%20wheel.&targetText=Each%20day%2C%20Americans%20drive%20about%2025%20miles%20and%20spend%20an,one%20hour%20behind%20the%20wheel↩
4. “National Survey Pinpoints Communication Preferences in School Communication .” Nspra.org, 6 Aug. 2011, www.nspra.org/files/docs/Release%20on%20CAP%20Survey.pdf.↩