Parent Engagement: To help parents be actively involved in their child’s education, schools can build partnerships with parents by welcoming them into the school, communicating often, explaining their roles, and offering opportunities for parents to develop relationships with the teachers, the principal, and other school staff.
Parent Involvement: Although parent involvement can mean physically showing up at the school or joining a school’s Parent-Teacher organization, parents can also be involved in their children’s education outside of the school. Any parent, even if they never go to their child’s school, is involved when they help their child with homework, ask about what their child is learning every day, read to their child, or communicate with their child’s teacher. An involved parent will find out what their child is learning in school and try to link that learning to what is happening at home. Click here to see some examples of how to be an involved parent.
It can be a challenge for schools to engage every parent in the transition to kindergarten when time and resources for engagement activities are scarce. However, following some basic principles of engagement can be effective under any circumstances.
Engaging parents early in the transition to kindergarten is the best and easiest way for school staff to start a relationship with a parent on a positive note. The more time schools have to build the relationship and define expectations, the better. It’s best if teachers find a way to meet and talk with parents before school is underway.
Regardless of when schools first meet parents, it’s important not to wait to communicate with them until there is a problem in school. If the relationship between teacher and parent begins on a negative note, focused on behavior problems or poor academic performance, then the relationship is likely to remain negative.
Additionally, parents are more engaged when they feel that their time and effort on behalf of their child’s education is appreciated and that they are treated as partners in supporting their children. Although face-to-face contact is ideal, schools can also reinforce these feelings by sending parents a note or encouraging letter.
Why Parent Engagement Matters During Transition
Decades of literature supports the notion that family educational involvement supports a child’s school success. Data show that positive parent involvement is more powerful than many typical educational barriers such as poverty and lower levels of parent education. As the entry point to K-12 education, the transition to kindergarten is an ideal time to foster relationships with parents and to promote parent involvement.
Research shows that although parents want to be involved in their child’s education, many are unsure of how to be involved or don’t feel that they are welcome participants in their children’s education process. One study found that building a parent’s confidence and skill in participating in their children’s education helps parents become more active participants.
Making Engagement Work
- Make an effort to be friendly when you see parents. Welcome parents like you would welcome a friend into your home. If you see parents dropping off or picking up their children, smile and say hello and tell them it is good to see them. Any member of the school’s staff, not only teachers, can welcome parents in this way.
- Assure parents that you are supporting their child and want them to succeed in school. Establishing their trust and friendship will ensure a positive relationship even if the child is having difficulty in school.
- Clearly explain what is expected of the child. You are the best source of information for the child and parent. As parents navigate the new school environment with their children, it is important that school staff explain information thoroughly and respectfully.
- Examine the school entrances and procedures sure they “welcome” parents and that there are no obstacles, physical or otherwise, that parents will encounter when they visit the school or drop off or pick up their child. Click here to learn more about welcoming schools.
- Six Types of Parent Involvement
- Hoover-Dempsey Model of Parent Involvement
- Harvard Family Research: Family Involvement
- Family Involvement in School and Low-Income Children’s Literacy Performance
- Harvard Family Research: Publications on Family Engagement
- Having Their Say: Parents Describe Why and How They are Engaged in Their Children’s Learning
- Why Do Parents Become Involved? Research Findings and Implications
- Be Your Child’s Advocate
- PA Parent Information & Resource Center
- PTA National Standards for Family-School Partnerships