Parental involvement in student life is proven to improve education performance,1 but it tends to taper off in the high school years. Some of this is only natural — as children grow into teens, it's normal for a bit of distance to develop between them and their parents. In lower grades, parents are often required to attend parent-teacher conferences and sign off on report cards and homework, but this doesn't always continue into the higher grades. We think it should — more parental involvement in school correlates with higher grade point averages and further sets students up for success.
To foster a partnership between your school and parents, make your efforts convenient and inclusive of working parents, immigrant parents and low-income parents. Here are some simple ideas for improving parental involvement at your high school:
Offer a Welcome Kit
Some parents may simply not know how to get involved in their child's education, especially in those difficult teenage years. Help solve this by providing welcome kits at the beginning of each school year. Include a calendar, volunteer opportunities and an explanation of what to expect during the year. Keep parents informed from the start — it sets a precedent that involvement is expected and encouraged.
Host an Open House
A great way to engage parents is by hosting an open house at the school. Classroom teachers can invite parents to homeroom for an evening of meet and greets, and to answer any questions parents may have about the curriculum, volunteer opportunities, or special needs for their child. Establishing face-to-face rapport can help encourage ongoing communication between parents and teachers that may not have happened otherwise.2
Reduce Language Barriers
It's difficult for non-English speaking parents to engage in student life when they are still trying to learn English themselves. Provide translators and meeting materials in multiple languages so they can get involved in their child's education. If you know the demographics of your school, you can cater to the most prevalent non-English languages spoken by parents in order to reach out to them.
Give Online Access
Scheduling conflicts make it difficult for working parents to attend PTA meetings and get more involved at their child's school. Provide written minutes or recordings of these meetings online. This enables busy parents to learn what is going on at the school at their convenience, without having to physically be there.
Schools across the nation are increasingly adopting parent portals, too. These online systems allow parents to log in online and view grades, contact teachers and receive updates from the school. Online options are convenient for parental involvement, even for the busiest parents.
Teachers often believe that parents of low-income students cannot as often be a part of their child’s education compared to a middle class parent.3 Combat these stereotypes by making it easier for lower-income families to be involved. If parents don't have a vehicle, it can be challenging for them to get to school meetings. Provide transportation to and from the school. By offering buses or other mass transport to the events, you can make these families feel more welcome.
Fit Into Their Schedules
Think of how your school can fit into the lives of families. Some parents work, some have small children and some are in a one-parent household. Offer simple dinners at the school on nights when an event or meeting is taking place, so families can bring their children and not worry about cooking or paying for dinner. Provide child care during the meeting for families that bring small children. Offering convenient services for parents can make it easier for them to get involved.
High schools may never be able to reach 100 percent parental participation, but these steps will help. Reach out to these families and facilitate their involvement in their child's education.
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