Every parent has heard it. You ask your children, “What did you learn at school today?” The response, “nothing.”
While parents and educators alike want families to be more informed on what their children are learning. It can be challenging for schools to find the time and means for these conversations. A nudge from the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) has sparked new interest in both parent engagement and the tools that can support it.
Although it has gotten a little attention, a section of ESSA encourages schools to develop greater parent participation. It makes use of Title 1 funding to do so. It wants to create accountability on schools to give opportunities for parents to be as involved as possible.
Helping parents get involved in children’s education is worth the effort. Parents’ involvement will help students’ engagement and performance.
Here are some other ideas for what parents can do to get engaged in their child’s learning.
1. Use short videos to reach busy parents, and track achievement of students
Some school districts are implementing short, single-topic videos that can easily be watched on a phone to reach busy parents. Some parents work long hours and cannot always keep up with what their child is doing in school, so having a quick video to show them it helps them engage with their child at a more personal level. The videos can cover things like specific subjects to college preparation.
2. Help teachers reach parents with easy-to-use conferencing apps
Google Hangouts, Adobe Connect and even Skype all have conference call making abilities, and most can do it with video as well. If a parent-teacher conference needs to be on short notice, this is a perfect way to get to parents quick.
3. Keep emails to parents short, and link to website or portal
With many schools, their website is the go-to place for parent information. Full of facts, parent pages can contain links to everything from dress code to carpooling to food allergies. Knowing what parents are asking is a great way to start making a great parent page.
Many schools have a monthly or weekly newsletter that goes out to parents, giving them an update on the school and any particular events that may be going on soon. Keeping them short and to the point almost always guarantees that a parent will read the entire thing, and then if they want more information, asking them to click a link to a website will be beneficial to parents knowing what’s on the website. And it can also be used to track web clicks and see how much site traffic a school is getting.
4. A secure parent portal can be better than a general website
Letting parents see what their child is doing in a virtual space is great for busy parents because you can log on from anywhere. With a portal instead of a general website, it is tailored to parents and they can see specifically what their kids are doing in school.
Other things that a portal could add are announcements and news items pulled from the school website.
As schools work to communicate more effectively with parents—pushed in part by expanded language in ESSA—teachers are increasingly turning to online tools for help. With training and support for teachers, the right tech tools can help close information gaps among parents, teachers and students.