Updated: Jul 29
Family engagement. It’s been the focus of many conversations this past year, and the main theme of our blogs.
As schools across the country seek ways to improve relationships with the parents and caregivers of their students, we want to reiterate the importance of taking a holistic approach to the components that make up the entire family experience.
Family engagement doesn’t begin on the first day of school. It begins with the first encounter a family has with your school, and oftentimes this is well before a family has made an enrollment decision.
This year we shared research and insights on the benefits of a quality family engagement program. We looked at ways you can use school marketing activities to jumpstart the relationship building process with prospective families, and we dug into some recent research which highlighted the expectations parents have regarding their child’s learning experience.
As we begin to unwind a bit this summer, we wanted to share a few project ideas that will prepare you for a great start to the next school year.
Recent Trends in Family Engagement
There’s been a lot of buzz around family engagement this past year and schools which have embraced parents as a key component of a student’s learning journey are seeing positive effects on student engagement and school culture. Here’s a few recent trends:
Increased Parent Involvement
There have been several research studies shared over the last year which take a closer look at parent behavior and how this is impacting a student’s learning experience. You can read more on this topic in our February blog What do Parents Want? Trends, Tips and Resources for Schools.
Bye Bye Email
Email is still one of the most frequently used tools to communicate with parents. But over the next few years, it is expected that email use will drop dramatically and mobile apps, texts, and social media to be the primary methods of getting messages out to parents. Read more in this blog from the Global Family Research Project - Research Shows Home-School Communication is Forever Changed.
New National Parent Council
There has been fierce debate over education policies this year and many parents have taken a more active role in their local school board elections. As a result, the US Department of Education recently announced the creation of a new National Parents and Families Engagement Council with a goal “to facilitate better relationships with parents and families and help them understand their rights in the education process.” Learn more in this article Education Department launches new council to work with parents at local level.
5 Projects to Tackle This Summer
Creating an intentional family engagement program is a necessary component of every school's annual plan, and that means summer too. Parent engagement is about developing relationships with your families, and meaningful relationships can take months, if not years to develop.
Here’s five ways to make the most of summer, and still find time for a little rest and relaxation yourself.
1- Reflect on Last Year
Carve our time to consider what programs worked well this past year and where you might have room for improvement. Review family surveys, talk to front office staff and teachers, and consider any questions you heard from parents repeatedly throughout the year.
2- Update Your School Website
Summer is a great time to do a simple website audit and make updates before the new school year begins. Create a plan to swap out photos, review time sensitive documents and update your calendar of events for the year ahead.
3- Stay Active on Social Media
Keep your social media pages active over summer, even if that means dialing back your post schedule to just a day or two a week. Wondering what to post when school’s not in session? Check out these tips from Andrea Gribble Creating Consistent Summer Posts through User-Generated Content.
4- Connect With Prospective Families
If you are still looking to fill open seats for next year, be sure to keep communication channels open with prospective families. Consider opportunities for new families to connect with your team. Post a schedule of camps and other activities your school is hosting this summer. Get active at local community events and festivals, and share those dates as well. Families love having opportunities to meet face to face with school leaders, teachers and other parents.
5- Organize Your Files
Review all the files your school uses to communicate with currently enrolled families and prospective ones. Spend time this summer getting organized. Create a folder to archive any images, promotional materials or policies that are no longer relevant or need to be updated for the next school year. It’s always easier to find what you’re looking for when you aren’t sorting through multiple drafts of documents!
Join the Discussion
As we look ahead to next year, let’s not lose sight of the ultimate benefit of a strong family engagement program, and that is increased student engagement. As you build your program for next year, be wary of metrics that don’t tell the whole story. All families are unique, and just because someone doesn’t show up for a parent teacher conference does not mean they are not supporting their child’s learning journey at home.
We need to continue to seek ways to engage all families. There is no one size fits all program for family engagement. And the stronger your relationship is with families in your school community, the more likely you will be able to create programs tailored to each of their needs.
We’ve enjoyed sharing our insights with you this school year. We hope you have a restful and joyous summer!
About the Author
Jennifer Larson is an entrepreneur, charter school founder and mother to four children. Connect with her @startupjen.