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How do I get parents to take a more active role in their child's education?

Parental involvement in the education of children is very important. Research shows that when families get involved, their children get better grades in schools, graduate from high school at a higher rate, are more likely to go to college, and are better behaved and have more positive attitudes.

Unfortunately many parents may not be as active in their child's education as needed due to family and/or financial obligations. As the educator, your overall support and understanding of these parental challenges is essential, as is your continuous reinforcement of the value of their participation. Here are some strategies you can use to encourage parents to take an active role in their child's education:

  • Educate parents. Stress to parents the importance of their continued involvement in their child's education. Provide tools and techniques that parents can use at home to not only encourage their children to learn but also to reinforce what is being taught in the classroom. Listed below are some of the techniques that parents can utilize in the home to foster a positive learning environment:

    • Make reading a daily routine.
    • Keep an adequate supply of writing utensils in the home.
    • Discuss with the student what he/she is learning in school.
    • Limit television viewing, and monitor what the child watches.
    • Provide the child with a regular, quiet place to study.
    • Express high but realistic expectations for achievement.
    • Help the student with his/her homework.
    • Review all completed work.
    • Keep a school calendar of activities and events posted at home.
    • Help the child to see the connection between school and life lessons.

  • Send home school newsletters or calendars with your students. Sending home newsletters and/or activity calendars will help keep parents informed about school news and events. These publications can also be used as a tool to ask about a parent's availability to volunteer at the school.

  • Meet with parents. When meeting with parents, make a point to share information with them about their child's performance that can assist them in better understanding their child's specific learning and development style. Regularly communicate with parents about your expectations as well as any problems or concerns as they arise.

  • Send home progress reports. Provide parents with regular communication about their child's performance and progress in school. This report will keep them informed, and it can also help parents identify the academic areas that their child may need additional assistance with.

  • Make school activities accessible. Be sensitive to the needs of the population that your school serves. Parents may not be able to participate in school activities due to a variety of issues, including transportation, child care, language barriers, and/or work hours that extend beyond 5 p.m. Do your part to minimize the risk factors that may prevent or discourage families from participating in school activities. You may also want to consider providing some of these activities and meetings on the weekends to increase participation.

  • Inform parents about educational parent resources and organizations. Providing a handout of local parent organizations and resources to parents may encourage them to become involved with these agencies, and that may ultimately lead to their expanded involvement at school. This resource will also serve as a reference and help parents to quickly locate resources if they need additional support or assistance.

  • Put parents in touch with other parents. Developing parent organizations within the school is often the most effective tool to initiate and sustain parent involvement. Active parents can act as advocates and reach out to other less active ones. Another added benefit involves helping to rally together parents for such activities as fundraising opportunities, political lobbying and the like.

  • Call parents. Personally reaching out to parents may give them the extra nudge needed to participate at the school and in their child's overall educational pursuits. Talking one-on-one with parents lets them know that you care about their child and that you also see them as a partner in their child's success. Telephone calls hold parents accountable, and they also make them feel more comfortable when talking with other school personnel.

  • Get suggestions from the source. Parents are the best source for obtaining information on what it actually takes to increase overall parent involvement at the school. Ask parents to share their ideas on the subject and brainstorm about possible reasons why others are unable to get involved. Make a point to discuss ways that these issues can be resolved. Discussions of this nature can inspire parents to become real advocates for one another and ignite their desire to participate in parent organizations. Informed parents like this also make for a supportive parent community at your school.

For more tools and sample activities for enhancing parent involvement, consider this notable resource:

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