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Parents and schools want more meaningful engagement

By Megan Walker Grimaldi Aug. 31, 2016

At Communities In Schools, we love data. As the nation’s leading dropout prevention organization, we recognize the effect that caring people with access to timely information can have on the lives of students across the country. Research and data are woven into our model — from the needs assessment we conduct at the beginning of each school year, to the evidence-based practices we implement, to the monitoring and adjusting that happens as our site coordinators find just the right resources for our students — we believe that continuous evaluation and learning will help us support families across the United States.

That’s why I was so excited when I heard the results of this year’s PDK Poll of the Public’s Attitudes Toward the Public Schools. Not only are the results full of meaningful, actionable information, but they also speak to the amazing opportunity that organizations like Communities In Schools have to work with parents in improving their children’s education. Parents want their students to succeed, and the poll results indicate they want to be more involved in this process. A full 40% of parents said the school only occasionally gives them opportunities to visit, and fewer than half of parents said schools have given them a chance to provide insight into how things are done at their school. Similarly, over half of parents said they want more opportunities to provide feedback into how things are done at school.

Schools can only benefit from giving parents the chance to be involved. According to multiple sources, when parents are intentionally engaged in their school, the performance of all children at the school tends to improve. One of the best ways to engage parents is to ensure that they have positive relationships with the school — in other words, they trust school staff, feel that they are welcome in the school, and have positive experience interacting with school staff members (Froiland & Davison, 2014).

So if the PDK poll shows that parents want to be engaged and that having engaged parents is associated with improved academic performance, what can we do to ensure that parents have that positive relationship with the school? According to recent internal research by Communities In Schools, though 85% of principals in our network indicate that a lack of parent involvement has been a serious or moderate problem in their community, Communities In Schools affiliates are addressing the problem by working creatively to involve parents. By hosting family nights with opportunities for families to practice math skills through games, by providing transportation to school-based parent events, by inviting parents and children to chat about important topics together while enjoying refreshments, by hosting and marketing informal conversations between parents and school leadership, and by engaging parents in a host of other meaningful ways, Communities In Schools affiliates are bridging the gap between families and schools by welcoming parents and fostering positive, meaningful relationships with them.

Though there is room for improvement, there is plenty of reason to celebrate. Parents, educators, and Communities In Schools employees all want the same thing: for students to stay in school and achieve in life.

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Hear from Megan and other experts on the PDK poll blog here.