Action Steps - Standard 2
- Make use of all channels of communication: cable television, newspapers, radio, automated phone systems, text messaging, school and PTA websites, etc.
- Identify parents, community members, local organizations, and businesses that can help strengthen home-school communication.
- Make sure all information is communicated in languages and formats to reach all parents.
- Sponsor events that allow educators and parents to interact socially, in addition to parent-teacher conferences and regular school meetings.
What Parents and Parent Leaders Can Do
- Design and print “Happy Grams” as an easy way for teachers to regularly report positive behavior and/or achievements to parents.
- Consider using color-coded lines on hallway walls, or footprints on floors, to help direct parents to important places like the school office, parent resource center, and library.
- Include a two-way communication mechanism, such as a question-and-answer section or mini survey, in each edition of your newsletter.
- Distribute calendars so parents can record upcoming events, assignments, and dates to check with teachers on their children’s progress.
- Role-play a parent-teacher conference for families and school staff, demonstrating effective ways for parents and teachers to share information and plan for the future.
What School Leaders and Staff Can Do
- Map the school’s parent-teacher contacts: How often do teachers communicate with families, what are the main topics, and when do they have face-to-face contact?
- Work with the PTA/parent group to establish guidelines for regular communication between home and school (e.g., monthly calls from teachers to parents, home visits, weekly newsletters).
- Engage school staff, community members, and parents in developing a parent handbook.
- Establish a method for parents to review their children's work on a regular basis. For example, use manila envelopes to send student work home each week; have a place for parent comments.
- Publicize the hours when administrators and teachers are available for parent visits and any procedures for contacting teachers on the telephone or in writing.
Connecting Families and Schools: Sacramento ACT (2005), a case study published by the Center for Community Change as part of An Action Guide for Education Organizing, tells the story of the Sacramento Area Congregations Together (ACT) home visiting program, which helps schools reach out to families.
Culturally Responsive Parental Involvement: Concrete Understandings and Basic Strategies, by A. Lin Goodwin and Sabrina Hope King (Washington, DC: American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education, 2002), offers concrete strategies for involving parents of diverse cultural backgrounds.
The Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) of the Harvard Family Research Project provides back issues of its electronic newsletters, many of which address issues of diversity.
The National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University publishes the Type 2 newsletter twice a year. Named for the second of six types of family involvement—communicating—it shares examples of best practices as well as solutions to challenges.
Parents and Teachers Talking Together: A Handbook for Facilitators (2003) outlines a discussion process developed by the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence in Kentucky. It includes a series of questions for parents and teachers to discuss, centered around the two main questions “What do we want for our students?” and “What do we need to do to get what we want?” Order the guide in the Center for Parent Leadership (CPL) Publications section at www.prichardcommittee.org.
Reaching Out to Diverse Populations: What Can Schools Do to Foster Family-School Connections?, by Chris Ferguson (Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2005), recommends that schools build on cultural values, stress personal contact, foster communication, and offer accommodations such as child care, translation, and transportation.