Classroom Insights / May 25, 2023

Family Engagement Plan Examples: Support and Buy-in Level

Parents supporting their children at parent pick up at the end of the school day.

Educational leaders today are often like scientists in the lab, mixing and testing messaging apps, phoning, creating email announcements, and scheduling on school websites in search of a family engagement action plan that keeps parents engaged.

What we don’t always realize is that when it comes to cultivating engagement, what’s most effective is to treat families the way we treat students.

With students, we can only ask them to learn and participate after we ensure their basic needs are met (shout-out to the Maslow fans).

In the same vein, we cannot ask families to become partners in their children’s education if we aren’t first meeting their basic needs from the educational perspective.

This article offers practical tips on anticipating and meeting these needs so you can earn parental support and buy-in. In addition, it details the ways to accomplish step one of our Three Levels of Engagement.

Access The Full Family Engagement Plan: Three Levels of Engagement

  1. Making an Effective Family Engagement Plan
  2. Family Engagement Plan Examples: Support and Buy-in Level
  3. Getting Parent Involvement: How to Increase Parent Participation in Schools
  4. Elevating Parent Participation to Parent Partnerships
  5. How to Remove Barriers to Communication as a School Leader or Teacher

Overview of the General Support/Buy-In Level

The Three Levels of Engagement pyramid is broken into the bottom level (General Support/Buy-In), the middle level (Participation), and the peak level of engagement, Parent Partnerships.

You know that look confused parents have at the start of the school year. You know, at student drop-off when they don’t know what’s going on? 

This is an apt visualization to keep in mind for parents at the General support/Buy-in stage of the Three Levels of Engagement. Parents are stressed when they don’t know what’s happening, even if you made it clear in that email three weeks ago.

More on how to make sure every parent gets the message

At the base level, parents need to know their children’s primary needs are being met in order to relax. They wonder, “Is my child safe at school? Are they happy? What’s going on? 

 

Therefore, the district’s, school’s, and teacher’s task is to ensure parents know their student’s basic needs are being fulfilled.

The basic needs parents need to know about their children during the school day:

  1. Safety
  2. Emotional well-being
  3. Information

General Support & Buy In 1. Is my child safe? 2. Is my child happy? 3. What's going on?

Once parents have answers to these questions, you’ve unlocked the first goal for most family engagement plan examples: Buy-in. Then, families will be able to form positive associations with the school and even feel content when they think about the experience their child is having at the school. 

What You Can Do Now: General Support/Buy-In Level Pro-tips

Keeping Quick Links up to date for parents is the first step toward answering their basic needs.

Quick Links

Consider the parents’ need to know safety and information. The easiest way to start addressing these needs is with quick links. Quick links are links to important information that parents constantly need at the top of the school and/or class webpage.

Adding quick links saves parents the headache of scrolling around aimlessly or giving up in frustration. 

ClassTag Quick Links include Welcome Announcements, the ClassTag District page, Back To School Info, and ClassLink.

 

Recommended quick links to add to your school’s websites would include links like:

  • Menu 
  • School Academic/Monthly Event Calendar
  • Report an absence
  • Contact us
  • PTA
  • Student Handbook

Your quick links should reflect the needs of the parents at your school. Once you’ve got them, make sure to:

      1. Place them near the top of the page so that families can find them quickly.
      2. Next, instruct parents on using them.
      3. Finally, keep them updated with the newest information at all times.

Reminders and updates, the day to day messages parents and schools send out, can be used as a way to gain parent support.

Reminders and updates

To meet a parent’s basic needs for information and safety, they need to know in advance about important information like school holidays, early dismissals, bus updates, etc.

In effective family engagement plan examples, educators keep parents in the loop by sending them concise reminders shortly before and on the day those changes take place via a communication channel that works well for them. 

Remember to add a visual; our research shows they will be more likely to get read (see Pictures, Pictures, Pictures below)!

Weekly Newsletters are a great way to include those student images and keep families informed of what's going on- a two for one!

Weekly or Monthly Newsletters

The digital newsletter is great for showing student achievement and growing school pride. In addition, newsletters help to answer the parents’ needs for information on their children and confirm their children’s well-being through images and text.

They are fantastic; the only downside is that we know parents don’t always read them cover-to-cover. 

We’ve all been there. After the school sends out a gorgeous monthly newsletter with a full-page spread on the science fair,  a parent asks us a question about what’s going on with the science fair. Therefore, while newsletters can be very easy, efficient, and visually appealing, we don’t suggest using them to communicate information and student well-being to parents. 

Pictures, Pictures, Pictures! 

As they say, a picture is worth a thousand words, and in this case, it’s true. ClassTag’s insights uncovers some very intriguing data on parents:

Parents who see featured photos of their children at school are 3x more likely to become engaged than those who don’t. 

That’s huge. In other words, posting photos of students has a direct impact on whether parents support and believe in the school and staff (one step closer to becoming parent partners).

We know it might be too much of a stretch to add the job of the class photographer to the ten your teachers already have (educator, therapist, stand-up comedian, detective, life coach, test docent, interior designer, classroom IT specialist, role model). 

One way to get around putting more work on your teachers’ plates is to have a member of the staff circle around the school once a week to snap some photos. Another option at the class level is to make the job of class photographer a weekly rotating classroom job. 

Pro-tip: The student photographers could access the class IPad for the week to take photographs, and later the teacher can decide which ones get sent out, all with the student’s byline!

Weekly class agendas posted or sent out weekly earns parent support, especially into middle school.

Weekly Class Agenda

Many elementary schools do a great job of keeping parents informed about assignments. However, once the middle school years hit, there is the myth that all of a sudden, our students have matured enough to keep track of their assignments and due dates. 

Unfortunately, there is often a steep learning curve for students who haven’t mastered their agendas. The parents of those students who want to check whether homework is done have no way of doing so. They wish they could have a weekly class overview of assignments and due dates to double-check that what is being assigned is being completed at home.

A weekly agenda teachers keep posted or communicate to parents should include key information such as the following: Planned focus for the week of 9/28

  • Assignments and testing date
  • Any other important information (like Progress Report date, where to find any missing assignments for your child, due dates
  • Teacher contact information
  • Tutorial information
  • Google Classroom link

If your teachers share this information weekly, in the best scenarios, parents can use them to help their children prepare at home. With time, these Weekly Class Agendas will also remove pressure from the teacher in terms of reminders, make-up assignments, back-and-forth parent communications, and more. 

Positive Notes

Positive notes are the cherry on top, and textually communicate your student’s well-being to their parents. Most educators know that sending out important and positive feedback about a student is important. That said, school leaders often find it difficult to find time to schedule it into family engagement plan examples.

Pro-tip: Have teachers schedule a time weekly to send out positive notes to help parents understand that the teachers and schools truly care about their happiness and academic success. 

Remember, they don’t have to be long or formal! Access and circulate our free encouragement resources to get you started.

Parents pick up students from school

The Bottom Line

73% of parents state they would "love to customize communication preferences" or would likely do so.

Teachers and schools need to communicate clear, concise, and easy-to-find information at all times. This will respond to parents’ basic needs for their children throughout the school year.

To cultivate parent support and buy-in, educators must first confirm the students’ safety and emotional well-being. Then they must update information for parents and families in a way that parents can access.

What looks like the basic information you are sending to parents, like book fair dates and t-shirt orders, is, in reality, the foundation for strong parent partnerships. Ensuring you get this information out to parents in a consistent way earns brownie points. Getting information out in a consistent and timely way will earn your class and school the family support you’ll need for the students throughout the school year. 

Now you have sketched out the Engagement Support/Buy-in planning for your Family Engagement Plan. This means you are ready to plan for parent participation, the second level of the Three Levels of Engagement.

Want to know more about how to use technology effectively for parent support and buy-in? 

 

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