Four Ideas for Improving Parent and Community Involvement in Schools
Author: Dana Penick
As an educator and a consultant, I’ve always recognized the power of involving families and community members in schools. It’s like multiplying your school’s resources tenfold through donations, volunteering, and partnerships. Here are some ideas I’ve seen schools use to increase parent involvement and community engagement:
- Local events and gatherings. Regardless of your location, communities around the world host bazaars, festivals, and other community events. See if there is a way your school can participate in these events. You could have a booth where students share information about school projects and student activities that are making a difference in the community. You could have students perform a skit related to your school’s values and culture. This is a fun way to educate your community and raise awareness of the great things that are happening within your school.
- Adopt-a-Teacher program. Business leaders often get tired being asked for financial contributions. Instead of asking them for money, appeal to their skills and expertise. The “Adopt-a-Teacher” program is an opportunity to build relationships between local business leaders and your school. For example, business leaders partner with a teacher and present monthly lessons focused on learning and applying the career skills students need in a work environment. I saw this program in action and was impressed by the final project—a “Reverse Career Fair”—where students shared what they learned with the school body, parents, and community leaders. This type of experience invites business leaders to see student leadership firsthand, and they may decide to support schools financially later so that the great program can continue.
- “Pledge to attend.” It seems a challenge to get parents to attend school meetings and parent-teacher conferences. A school I visited came up with a way to encourage parent attendance at events. During the back-to-school event, administrators had a calendar of school events with descriptions. They asked parents to pledge to attend a certain number of the events throughout the year. Parents indicated preferences on a pledge sheet, and a personalized invitation to their desired events was sent home, in addition to the general school announcement.
- Publish your success. You likely get a lot of feedback from students, teachers, parents, and community members about how your students are impacted by different programs and initiatives. What should you do with this feedback? Use it, of course! Instead of keeping positive stories in a crowded inbox or mail stack, compile all of your written and verbal anecdotes and add images of student work. This makes a great gift for new families, community organizations, and guests. You can also keep it in the office and library for visitors and students to enjoy.
What do you do at your school to increase parent involvement and community engagement?