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Ways to Engage: Parents & Schools

By Steve Majors March 17, 2015

A new NBC News "State of Parenting Poll",  sponsored by Pearson, looks at how parents feel about their child's education and the state of American schools. One of the most striking findings relates to their level of involvement in their child's education. According to the poll:  "51% of parents say they spend more time with their children than their parents did with them. But for working parents, striking a balance between time at home and time away can be a struggle - only 46% of working parents spend more time with their children than their parents did with them, for non-working parents, that number is 63%. Time can also be an issue for parents who want to be more involved in their child’s education - 43% say they’re too busy.

In spite of those challenges, there is a clear connection between parental involvement and positive outcomes for children. Research from Child Trends finds that "students with parents who are involved in their school tend to have fewer behavioral problems and better academic performance, and are more likely to complete high school than students whose parents are not involved in their school."

Communities In Schools (CIS) recognizes that parents sometimes need guidance in how to stay engaged.  These top 10 ways to engage are among those offered by CIS site coordinators to parents who want to remain involved with their child's education.

  • Engage Teachers Early: Whether it’s parent orientation day, back to school night or summer classroom cleaning, find ways to meet the teachers and staff in your child’s school early in the school year.
  • Study School Policies: Learn about your child’s school policies, teachers and curriculum so you have a good understanding of how you can make a positive difference.
  • Be Present: Be a visible presence in your child's school and classroom. Introduce yourself to teachers, counselors and staff.
  • Tell Teachers What’s Working: It’s not just your child who wants to hear a job is “well done”.  Positive feedback is also important for your child’s teachers so they know what’s working well.
  • Connect with Technology: Emails, List-Servs, Texts and School Apps are additional ways to stay connected with your child's school.  Sign up for what works for you and use it to obtain and share useful information about your child’s progress
  • Tag Team with Your Spouse: If Mom is too busy, then Dad, Grandma or Aunt Jo can attend the science fair, report card meeting, student talent show or teacher appreciation night. 
  • Question Policies, Not People: If you have a question, concern or complaint about a policy, make your conversation about that policy and not the people who are there to implement it.
  • Visit and Volunteer:  Schools offer numerous ways for parents to be engaged including chances to volunteer, serve on school project committees, visit a classroom or chaperone field trips.
  • Create School Community:  Reach out to fellow parents to share ideas about how to work together to improve the school experience for your children and their classmates.
  • Ask Questions and Advocate: Don't be afraid to ask tough, but fair questions and to advocate firmly but respectfully for your child.