Engaging Parents in Education

I have heard much about education reform in my 15 years of teaching in a public high school.  Teachers and administrators across the country are fast realizing the significance of ed reform due to changing expectations of universities, the inconstancy of the job market, the growing use of technology and how that is truly ‘shrinking’ our world, as well as many other aspects at the local level.  There seems to be four key components in our schools for ed reform to grow legs and become a reality.  Administrators, Teachers, Parents, and Students all have a stake in education; therefore all four interest groups must convene at the round table to develop a shared vision of local and national ed reform.

Last evening our school district hosted Parent-Teacher Conferences.  I currently have 112 students enrolled in my courses.  I had parents from TWO of my 112 students show up last night.  Coincidentally, both are parents of A students.  This is just an example of a trend of parents not being involved.  I know that the timing might not be right, I know that some parents are intimidated by schools maybe because of their own experiences, and maybe it’s because they believe their high school age children are ‘old enough’ to figure it out on their own.

I know that Desiree and I are regularly in contact with our elementary aged children’s teachers…weekly.  Will that change as my children grow older?

Why don’t more parents get involved in the education of their children?  How can administrators and teachers persuade and welcome parents to the table to discuss positive change for ed reform?  In order for our schools to create a shared vision of ed reform, we need all stakeholders be a viable part of the process.  I am searching for solutions to engage parents more regularly in dialogue with administrators and teachers, to have them support the educational process, and to be a part of their child’s educational experience.  Actions speak louder than words…we need to stop talking about it, roll up our sleeves, and get to work, cooperatively, with administrators, teachers, parents, and students.

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About jpsteltz

Proud husband and father of four; Literacy Specialist; Reading Teacher; Literacy Coach; HS ELA Teacher; Published Author
This entry was posted in Education, Family and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to Engaging Parents in Education

  1. Jeff says:

    John, that discussion has come up at our school and we have not figured it out. One thing you did not mention is the Parent Access on Power School. Alot of our parents are checking it and using that as the communication tool. This has also forced better conversations regarding students because parents have more information. The use of email is a quicker tool that parents are using. I beleive the PT conference that existed for however long, needs to be changed. One school has changed the winter conference into arena schedule and those that have parents along get 1st dibs on classes. They had a 95% participation of parents in scheduleling. That did force conversations with parents and teachers regarding future classes, Times have changed, but the format for PT conferences has not. Good thread.

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  2. jsteltz says:

    Jeff-
    Thanks for the thoughts. You are right, parents do have much more access in terms of the progress of their students. I like the idea of connecting scheduling classes to pt conferences. We need parents involved if we want the change we seek!

    Thanks for the valuable comments!!

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  3. Parks says:

    Engaging parents, by definition, necessitates their involvement. We speak about students being taught/conditioned in our educational systems, but we often don’t recognize that parents also become conditioned – they become accustomed to a role of “watching” as their kids are educated. School systems should prevent that conditioning by involving parents from the start of their child’s education through high school. Once that habit is established early-on, it should continue (maybe even become a cultural expectation). Consider involvement through frequent e-mail messages about each student’s status, upcoming examinations, and issues that families could discuss relative to the class; integrating parents into the classes as helpers or to make presentations (videotaping or Skyping if work conflicts with class times); providing extra credit/recognition for students whose parents get involved; providing positive recognition for parents who do get involved (e.g., recognition in a school newsletter, free tickets to a school event, etc.); etc. When brainstorming ideas, put yourself in the shoes of the parent and ask, “What’s in it for me?” – then you can better identify what will motivate them to become involved. I’ve discussed this in terms of parents, but this could reasonably be expanded to discussing family, where (for example) grandparents become involved with their grandchildren’s education too.

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    • jsteltz says:

      Parks-

      I appreciate your submission on this topic. I believe you have some extremely valuable ideas. As a parent myself, I believe the answer to ‘What’s in it for me?’ is simply the educational experience of my children. I understand your point though…maybe we need to help parents see the value in being involved in the educational process.

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  4. Jenna says:

    I think we need to be careful when we directly correlate attendance at school scheduled, school agenda parent/teacher conferences with the much bigger and with much greater potential and impact- parent engagement. Parents, by nature are engaged with their children so where do we need to look at the engagement that IS and build on that… to develop the relationships where, de facto, parents engage as we wish as well.

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    • jsteltz says:

      This is an awesome point Jenna and you raise an even bigger question, how can we begin that dialogue w/ parents? How can we get them in our buildings more…especially at the hs level?

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  5. mzmacky says:

    A group of educators has just started an initiative to develop a series of training materials for schools to offer parent training in a variety of digital technologies. Our hope is that by increasing the comfort level for parents in some of the tools students use in and out of school that they will become more engaged. Although we’ve just started, schools can take a look at the training modules we’re planning to create and follow our progress at http://digitalparent.wikispaces.com.

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    • jsteltz says:

      Thank you so much for sharing this! I will pass this along to my colleagues and admin. This is exactly what we need to do. I can’t wait to check out the link and begin the discussion w/in our building/district.

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  6. Russ Sauntry says:

    A problem all over the world! We used to get more parents at Academic review days in my previous (less successful) school than in my current school. I believe this is due to the nature of the evenings. % Mins with each member of staff can be 4 min too long or 100 min too short. Parents become disengaged over time and do not bother.

    I also think we are victims of our successes. As we get better at letting parents know what is going on (Comprehensive six weekly progress checks, texts if kids miss class, or get removed. Information on the website, Email and Phone access with Staff and lately Twitter) Parents feel they are up to date.

    Finally, the kids bear some responsibility too. My little one cannot wait to tell me what she did at Nursery, my frinds with older children report that their children’s response is always the same when asked what they did, I do not need to tell you do I? The parents then give up, and I cannot blame them. Also some of them are bonkers, one has recently complained because she did not want texts from the school. This included texts saying the school was closed due to snow!

    What I do is contact them as they want to be contacted, by phone usually. Our non-teaching support contact all parents who do not respond to the invitation to attend evenings but even so attendance drops off as they get older. I have even held coffee mornings for parents to meet more of them.

    So not too successful but I prefer to hear, “leave me alone” rather than, “I never hear anything from that school.”

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    • jsteltz says:

      Russ-

      Your final statement in this post says it all! Thanks so much for your thoughtful response. Among the things that stood out to me is the idea of parents giving up. I think in some ways you are right. However, I had this thought about my own children one day just recently. I was frustrated about who knows what and I wanted to ‘give up.’ Then I thought, ‘how crazy is that??!! If I give up, who is going to be in support of my children if the parents aren’t?’ We can’t give up!

      I think most educators make phone calls home. This is the right thing to do. When looking to make change in education we need parents involved in their children’s education. Coffee mornings..great ideas.

      I have pasted your last sentence here….it’s worth repeating

      So not too successful but I prefer to hear, “leave me alone” rather than, “I never hear anything from that school.”

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  7. Stacie says:

    As a veteran teacher myself, I know that parents generally speaking don’t contact the me or that much. However, more often than not, they do appreciate when I contact them and tend to be quite supportive. When we get burned by an angry parent who enables dysfunctional behavior in their child and gets on attack mode, that can make us less likely to make future parent contacts to other parents as well which is unfortunate.

    As devils advocate I would say that as secondary teachers if we had over 100 parents contacting once a week we’d never be able to handle that volume of contacts and still plan and grade.

    As my son has moved to middle school and we have access to his grades online, I have started to make him more accountable for following up w/ questions that arise with teachers (i.e. a grade not being entered in correctly, etc.). I have him write it in his planner to remind him to speak w/ the teacher and then I follow up by checking that the mistake was fixed by either talking to him or checking the online grade book. It teaches him to be more responsible and independent and it is more efficient for the teacher since she doesn’t have to also field my call or email.

    Therefore, the teacher may not see my involvement but our fingerprints are all over his academic success and budding independence.

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    • jsteltz says:

      This is great perspective Stacie. I appreciate your devil’s advocate point of view. I have to say I agree with that concept. I guess I would like to see more parents involved in the ‘change’ element…more parents sitting down at the ’round table’ to evoke a shared vision for positive change in education. Too often, as we all know, parents tend to be upfront, personal, and involved with extra curriculars…I would like to see that in the academic side as well…for positive change!

      Thanks for posting your thoughts…valuable ideas!

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