Parent Student Engagement

Honoring Our Military Heroes

May is Military Appreciation Month.   This month provides our students with a wonderful opportunity to honor and appreciate our service men and women for their tremendous sacrifices for our country.  These military heroes have demonstrated strength, courage, and resilience.   They motivate and inspire our students to model these same characteristics in school and in life.   Be sure that you take the opportunity to recognize these amazing military heroes this month.  Listed below are a few ideas to celebrate and recognize the valuable contributions of our military:

  • Invite local service members to speak to your students
  • Create a large appreciation poster signed by all students for the VA medical center
  • Schedule field trips to military points of interest and museums
  • Highlight military families on social media and in school newsletters
  • Send a classroom care package to service members overseas
  • Invite a service member to your classroom to share their stories
  • Sponsor an appreciation breakfast for military parents
  • Provide activities to support military students with school transitions

It is very important to acknowledge military families within your school for their service.  These simple acts of kindness will have a significant impact on productive and sustainable family and school partnerships.   

Strategic Goal Setting for Family Engagement

Family engagement is linked to a strong program and family relationship where educators and family members contribute resources and work together on behalf of children’s well- being. 

By understanding and appreciating the valuable role parents play in their child’s learning, you can align outreach goals to our schools’ data and match family interests and needs to your strategic goal setting.

According to the research by Karen Mapp and Anne Henderson in a “New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement,” they have concluded that “there is a positive and convincing relationship between family involvement and student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class or parents’ level of education.”  Through this research, you know that all programs in the school must be linked to learning for student success and achievement; but also help parents to:

·         Get a clear idea of what their children are learning and doing in class

·         Promote high standards for student work

·         Gain skills for helping their children at home

·         Understand what good teaching looks like, and

·         Discuss how to improve student progress

By knowing what research tells you about the best practices for family engagement, you can use this information to develop strategic goals and objectives for family engagement in your school programs that will have a positive impact on student achievement and school improvement.

The first step involves using data effectively.  Data is the road map that will lead your school to target specific instructional areas of students’ greatest needs. Next, determine the academic needs at each grade level that will make the greatest impact of student achievement and school improvement.  Then determine any “non-academic” needs that will impact student progress, for example: attendance, tardiness, or discipline.  At this point, determine your parent needs and interests through surveys, discussion groups, coffee chats and/or suggestion boxes.  This can be accomplished at each grade level for more parental involvement accuracy. On this roadmap, collecting data will be your starting point of goal setting to reach your destination of school improvement.  By pinpointing academic needs, your family engagement goals need to be aligned for making the greatest impact on student progress.  Here are some guided questions that can direst your path for goal setting.


Family Engagement on Demand is the nation's premiere on-demand subscription site for building collaborative family and school partnerships. 
Using any mobile device, tablet, laptop or computer a parent can watch streaming family outreach videos that will equip and empower them to take a more active role in their child's education. Family engagement you can easily track and analyze using our customized dashboard that grants access to real-time data for each school on the platform.

As you strategically investigate your family engagement in the school programs, consider these questions:

1. Keep or Continue

  • What aspects of the current family engagement partnership are working well and should continue in the future?
  • What is unique/good/significant that you would want to continue or unchange?
  • What measurable goals are aligned to your data to show student progress and family engagement?

2. Add or Start

  • What would you like to see added to the existing program or partnership that meets the needs of the students and parents?
  • What are some gaps in capabilities that could be met to involve families at each grade level?
  • Should there be more financial support?  Are their business partnerships that can be included in your program to meet your expectations?
  • What additions might be improved upon for faculty/staff morale, commitment and leadership?

3. Improve or Change

  • What aspects of the partnership need to be improved?
  • Are there emerging needs with your school climate or environment?
  • Is there new information or research that should be applied to improve this partnership?
  • How is the communication among school and families?  Is this an area that can be addressed for school improvement?

4. Drop or Stop

  • Are there aspects of the current partnership that are no longer effective or appropriate and should be discontinued?
  • Has there been a significant decrease in demand for something you have been doing in the past that is no longer effective?
  • Is there a better way that could replace the existing process?
  • Is some aspect of the family engagement program ineffective but is still being continued anyway?

The purpose of the reflective questions is to guide your school leadership team in rethinking family engagement in your school programs. 

Now you are ready to begin writing your strategic family engagement action plan. Your planning team will need to have parent representatives who can share in the decision- making process for developing the school plan. 

Select your needs from the analyzed data and prioritize areas that need to be addressed first in a timely manner.  Develop your goals and objectives that are aligned to the data, that include academic and non-academic areas.  Develop the strategic action plan for improvement to include measurable outcomes.  You will want to make sure that communication is a key component in developing your strategic plan.  Keep everyone informed and involved in developing the goals, objectives and activities to have a successful outcome.

Family engagement is not an initiative or an add on, but rather, a commitment to a partnership among educators and families for the purpose of student achievement and school improvement.  By developing a strategic family engagement action plan, you will be building capacity of staff and parents for the benefit of all children.  Family engagement will make a positive difference in your student achievement and school improvement when everyone is committed to the philosophy of how important parents are to the learning process of all children.

Home Sweet Home...Visit

There is no doubt among educators that to ensure greater student academic success, we must build trust with families and engage them consistently in their child’s education.  Educators have also become very creative in soliciting the attendance of parents at school events and activities in order to build trust, engage, and equip families with practical skills to help their children.  We all have reached into our “bag of tricks” and rolled out the red carpet for our families to increase participation and engagement; using food, door prizes, giveaways, awards, kid performances, and many more gimmicks and fanfare to get parents to come to the school and engage with us.  But one simple outreach effort often overlooked and even deliberately ignored is the home visit.  But a home visit can be just the ticket to build lasting trust, form a solid partnership, and equip families with the tools to help their children be successful.

Have you ever seen the movie; “Dangerous Minds?”  Based on a true story, former U.S. Marine, Louanne Johnson turned teacher at a notorious inner city high school, is charged with teaching a class of bright but underachieving and even troubled teens.  There is a point in the film where Ms. Johnson decides to make a home visit of two of her students who have recently gotten in trouble and have been suspended.  She has trepidations about these home visits and when she arrives at the first family’s home, they too are nervous about the teacher being in their home.  However, what begins as uncertainty quickly becomes a great opportunity and building block of trust with not only these two students and their families, but the class learns of her bold actions and gains more respect and trust for her because of the home visits.  Even the most difficult student in the class tells Ms. Johnson that what she did (conducting the home visits) was “cool”.   Home visits are more than “cool”, they are an essential outreach strategy that all educators should consider adding to their family engagement goals.  If you have not seen “Dangerous Minds” (1995), I recommend it! 

I also recommend the publication; “Building a High Achieving School 3 C’s to Success”.  In this book, many innovative outreach strategies are discussed to help educators build and sustain lasting and trustful family and school partnerships.  The book even highlights conducting meaningful home visits and provides a checklist of tips on implementing a successful home visiting program.  In writing the book, much research was done on gaining actual case studies involving successful home outreach programs.  One such case study highlights the efforts of educators in rural McDowell County, WV Public Schools.  Here is an excerpt from their story;

In McDowell County, West Virginia, a small abandoned coal mining community, 47% of students are raised by a grandparent.  In an effort to combat this staggering statistics, the school district created the “Second Time Around Club” to educate, equip and empower these grandparents and guardians to navigate the school system and to understand learning expectations for the children in their care.

These club meetings were conducted at the school and on home visits.  School policies, strategies, resources, after school programs, upcoming events and community support services were just a few items shared at each club meeting.  Meeting families where they are and building a good relationship with them begins in the home.  Just as Dorothy quipped; “There is no place like home.”