Reach Every Parent / Sep 05, 2023
International Literacy Day 2023 – Mak...
What books do you read to your class during the first weeks back? Share pictures of your…
Family engagement plan examples have grown in new and intriguing directions in 2023. Apps and digital platforms have merged with teaching expertise to offer opportunities to close the student-parent-teacher-school loop more thoroughly than ever before.
What are the consequences of “closing the loop”? Perhaps most importantly, student academic, social, and behavioral progress. Furthermore, closing the engagement loop with parents brings you to the pinnacle of the Three Levels of Engagement.
And there, the ultimate payoff awaits, Parent Partnerships.
Before delving into tips and tricks, it’s essential to understand the distinction between parent involvement and engagement at the parent partnership level.
Before launching into forging parent partnerships, you must establish General Support and Parent Participation. Read the other blogs in the Family Engagement Plan Series for tips on each.
Read The Complete Family Engagement Plan Series
Let’s assume you’ve already implemented steps at the General Support/ Buy-in level AND at the Parent Participation level. Parents’ basic needs have been met, and families are attending school events successfully in person and digitally. They are scheduling meetings with teachers. They know what’s going on in class, and they even volunteer!
Everything is flowing well, and it’s time to pull off the crowing achievement– shifting parents from participants to partners.
How does this transformation happen? What’s the secret to achieving these transformative partnerships?
At the parent partnership level, it boils down to offering transparent and concise answers to parents on the following questions:
It sounds like a large order to fill, but it’s possible with the right tools for data sharing. The data you’ll want to share regularly should include the following:
The first surefire way to involve parents as partners is to share relevant data. Provide parents with access to their child’s academic progress, attendance records, and behavioral reports on a consistent, pre-established basis. One way to accomplish this and to cut down on doing extra work for teachers is to give them a digital way to input this information from the start on a digital device– do away with transferring data from the grade book!
The second surefire way to establish parent partners? Seek parent input. It may seem like a given for educators that parent support is requested. In reality, requests for parent support should be explicit. After you empower parents with knowledge from relevant data, you can invite insights in relevant and appropriate ways.
Pro Tip: Conduct surveys to gather parent perspectives on school policies, curriculum, and other educational matters.
Typically, when communicating all this information to families, districts, and schools resort to complex solutions. Meanwhile, classroom teachers are left to navigate the communication maze using many methods.
Here’s a thought… who better than the teacher to establish a close relationship with the student and their parent? Classroom teachers need to do the most communication and are already closest to the students. So, if you haven’t already, define how classroom teachers can share pertinent data with parents.
Pro Tip: Instruct teachers on the preferred school-wide two-way communication method for soliciting feedback from parents. By establishing clear guidelines, you define how teachers can engage in meaningful conversations to strengthen the parent-teacher partnership. Remember, unified efforts yield exceptional results.
Pro Tip: Schools and districts should also consider facilitating open channels for sharing data and fostering two-way feedback on a larger scale (when appropriate).
Additional Parent Partnership Resources
Get our free guide on building out your Parent Partnerships
Show parents you recognize them as individuals with useful skills. Parents are more likely to become partners when they feel their unique skills and contributions are valued.
So be clear about how they can support their child’s learning at home and in the classroom. Encourage them to get involved by sharing resources, volunteering, or even serving as guest speakers to share expertise with students.
When reaching out to parents, private personalized conversations are an effective way to request parental support. In addition, personalized private conversations are ideal for communicating how students are doing in class, especially for updating parents on previously set goals.
To add to that, invite two-way communication into your school or district. For example, consider allowing commenting when you post an announcement to your school’s feed. Then solicit positive commentary by modeling the positive comments parents can express. These nuggets of positive interaction will be classroom community-building blocks!
Pro Tip: If one parent has a question, there are many more with the same question. Instead of answering the same question multiple times privately, post the question to the shared space or feed with an answer.
Pro Tip: Don’t be discouraged if a parent hasn’t responded to your communication. Use your data to see whether parents are receiving and opening the communications. If so, set a reminder to reach out again later. If not, print a reminder about how the family should connect with the school and send it home with the student, followed up with personal communications.
Why not create a feedback form for parents to share their thoughts on various school initiatives? This provides a platform for their voices to be heard; it demonstrates your commitment to continuous improvement.
“I saw that my kid’s school did this and as a parent, I thought it was amazing because I had some feedback and some ideas. I wanted to share but I didn’t want to be that parent. So the fact that they asked made me so happy about it and it was so simple it was just a Google form that said Glows, Grows, and any other comments.” – ClassTag User
Now, if you decide to do something like this, ensure you have an action plan for reading all the comments you receive and a follow-up plan. These ignored messages can spurn negative parent sentiment if you don’t.
Ultimately, it is relatively easy to implement feedback forms and stream feedback into one place!
Pro Tip: Some parents will provide much feedback (even when it’s not requested). Give them a quick link to the Google form to fill in whenever they choose. Assign a member of admin to read and follow up on the feedback form to close the loop weekly.
Pro Tip: Sprinkle some humor into the forms to keep things light-hearted and engaging. For example, ask them to rate an event from “Could use more sprinkles” to “Awesome Sauce.” Laughter is the best way to engage educators and parents alike!
Appropriate two-way engagement is so important for everyone’s sanity. How you define what’s suitable for your school or district depends on what works best for you.
Once you make guidelines for how and when parents should be able to communicate, set those boundaries clearly for your school and district. Common examples are setting office hours with OOO messages for teachers and staff, turning on (or off) parents’ ability for comments, and permitting parents to create their posts in the classroom shared feeds.
Once boundaries are in place, open lines of communication between parents and educators fuel the right kind of communication with engagement pieces like newsletters, updates, and other features on parent-teacher communication platforms.
Pro Tip: Set aside time for teachers weekly solely to work on two-way communication and engagement. By placing importance on the culture of open dialogue at the school and district level, you’ll see teachers and parents planning together in return.
You’ve heard a lot by now about closing the feedback loop in your family engagement plan examples. It is best understood in a common teaching scenario when positive reinforcement leads to more action, more positive reinforcement, and ad infinitum.
In this scenario, a teacher has just posted class photos in an online album for parents to comment on and enjoy. Shortly after, because the school decided to leave on the parent commenting ability, the photos got all kinds of likes and parent comments and compliments.
The teacher feels immediately supported and rewarded for this work and wants to do it again next week, and maybe with more photos… a relatively easy way to start a positive feedback loop for everyone involved. Feedback loops like this are powerful ways to enable parents to learn about their children and weigh in while providing opportunities for educators and parents to address any concerns.
While the above example is open to all parents to engage in at once, private feedback loops are also possible. For example, consider implementing regular progress reports or parent-teacher meetings to discuss academic achievements, growth areas, and support strategies.
Pro Tip: Education technology platforms for schools and districts like ClassTag Connect offer innovative solutions for feedback loops. By embracing such platforms, schools can unlock the full potential of parent-teacher partnerships, ensuring the best possible outcomes for students.
Of course, parent-teacher conferences are a significant part of fostering parent partnerships and are one of the only universally used pieces of parent-partnership communication. But that doesn’t mean the traditional sit-down meetings twice or three times a year are optimal.
Let’s reflect for a moment. In many cases, parent-teacher conferences are the only form of personalized communication a parent gets all year long outside of maybe checking the grade communications. But, unfortunately, that is a lot of pressure to put on a few half-hour sessions. So instead, offer the option for parents to attend the conference virtually.
Regular parent-teacher conferences allow open dialogue and a deeper understanding of a child’s strengths and areas for improvement, increasing parent participation. Encourage teachers to schedule conferences at convenient times for parents, providing ample notice to ensure maximum participation.
While they can sometimes be nerve-wracking, parent-teacher conferences present an excellent opportunity to foster partnerships. Prepare for these meetings by gathering specific examples of a student’s achievements and areas needing improvement. Next, highlight the child’s strengths and offer constructive suggestions for growth. Finally, approach the conference with a positive and solution-oriented mindset, ensuring that parents leave feeling empowered and motivated.
Pro Tip: Schedule digital parent-teacher conferences in the week following the traditional parent-teacher conferences to make up time for parents who want to follow up after the first meeting. Additionally, use this time to reach out to any parents who couldn’t make the conference and schedule a meeting with them that fits with their availability.
Pro Tip: Make it easy for parents to sign up for parent-teacher conferences with open time slots. Send them confirmation of the meeting once scheduled and a reminder closer to the date.
You’ve already set boundaries on how and when parents, teachers, and schools should interact. Now, teachers and schools can work on communicating as honestly and transparently as possible to help parents understand the reality of each child’s situation.
Does this mean that educators should insult students or parents? (Of course not).
Encouraging meaningful conversations is helping educators and parents to engage in genuine conversations with parents about aspirations, concerns, and hopes for their child’s education.
Pro Tip: As they do in person, teachers should show empathy and seek common ground via written communication. After all, when parents feel heard and respected, they are more likely to participate as partners in their child’s educational journey actively.
Pro Tip: Foster this type of communication by offering teachers and parents a list of suggested question starters for their conversations.
Transforming parent engagement into partnerships requires effort, creativity, and a sprinkle of humor. Involving parents as partners creates a powerful support system that nurtures student success.
Provide data and seek feedback, establish two-way communication, and utilize parent-teacher conferences as opportunities for growth. Engage in meaningful conversations, encourage parental support, and foster a feedback loop that promotes continuous improvement.
As you and your fellow educators embark on the Parent Partnership journey, may you find fulfillment as your parents help you achieve your students’ academic goals together. Happy partnering!
Want to know if ClassTag Connect is right for your school or district?
What books do you read to your class during the first weeks back? Share pictures of your…
Mental health in schools needs more attention and support. Although mental wellness is not a new concern,…
As a school leader, why should you make data integrity your priority? Even though they share a…