One way to start improving your school’s parent-school partnerships is by assessing present practices. The following questions can help you evaluate how well your school is reaching out to parents.
- Which partnership practices are currently working well at each grade level?
- Which partnership practices should be improved or added in each grade?
- How do you want your school’s family involvement practices to look three years from now?
- Which present practices should change and which should continue?
- Which families are you reaching and which are hard to reach?
- What can be better done to communicate with the latter?
- What costs are associated with the improvements you want?
- How will you evaluate the results of your efforts?
What opportunities will you arrange for teachers, parents, and students to share information on successful practices in order to strengthen their own efforts?
Goal: Recruit and organize parent help and support.
Sample best practices
- Distribute Project Appleseed’s learning compact known as the Parental Involvement Pledge to recruit and organize parent volunteers.
- Distribute Project Appleseed’s Parental Involvement Report Card . The Report Card is intended to help parents evaluate their contributions to their child’s success at school.
- Use the Parental Involvement Pledge form to identify all available talents, times, and locations of volunteers.
- School and classroom volunteer program to help teachers and administrators students and other parents. Parent room or center for volunteer work, meetings, resources for families.
- Class parent, telephone tree, or other structures to provide all families with needed information.
- Parent patrols or other activities to aid safety and operation of school programs.
Findings from the U.S. Department of Education’s Prospects Study (1993) reveal that students in schools with pledges or learning compacts in place perform better than children in similar schools without them because of greater reinforcement of learning at home. Furthermore, effects of the pledge on student learning were stronger than effects from other forms of school-home interactions.
- Use the Parental Involvement Pledge to recruit volunteers widely so that all families know that their time and talents are welcome.
- Make flexible schedules for volunteers, assemblies, and events to enable parents who to participate.
- Organize volunteer work, provide training, match time and talent with school, teacher, and student needs, and recognize efforts so that participants are productive.
- Skill in communicating with adults.
- Increased learning of skills that receive tutoring or targeted attention from volunteers.
- Awareness of many skills, talents, occupations, and contributions of parents and other volunteers.
- Understanding teacher’s job; increased comfort in school interactions and carryover of school activities at home.
- Self-confidence in ability to work in school and with children, or take steps for own education or work.
- All-family awareness that families are welcomed and valued at school.
- Gains in specific skills of volunteer work.
- Readiness to involve families in new ways, including those who do not volunteer at school.
- Awareness of parent talents and interest in school and children.
- Greater individual attention to students, with help from volunteers.
Goal: Help all families establish home environments to support children as students.
Sample best practices
- School provides suggestions for home conditions that support learning at each grade level.
- School provides workshops, videotapes, and/or computerized phone messages on parenting and child-rearing at each grade level.
- Parent education and other courses or training for parents (e.g., GED, college credit; family literacy).
- Family support programs to assist families with health nutrition, and other services.
- Home visits at transition points to preschool, elementary, middle and high school; and neighborhood meetings to help families understand schools and to help schools understand families.
- Provide information to all families who want it or who need it, not just to the few who can attend workshops or meetings at the school building.
- Enable families to share information about culture, background, children’s talents and needs with schools.
- Assure that all information for and from families is clear, usable, and linked to children’s success in school.
- Awareness of family supervision; respect for parents
- Positive personal qualities, habits, beliefs, values, taught by family.
- Balance in time on chores, other activities, and homework.
- Awareness of importance of school.
- Understanding and confidence about parenting, child and adolescent development, and changes in home conditions for learning as children proceed through school.
- Awareness of own and others’ challenges in parenting.
- Feeling of support from school and other parents.
- Understanding families’ backgrounds, cultures, concerns, goals, needs, and views of their children.
- Respect for families’ strengths and efforts.
- Understanding of student diversity.
- Awareness of own skills to share information on child development.
Goal: Design more effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications with all families each year about school programs and their children’s progress.
Sample best practices
- Conferences with every parent at least once a year, with follow-ups as needed.
- Language translators assist families as needed.
- Weekly or monthly folders of student work are sent home and reviewed, parental comments returned to teacher.
- Parent and student pick-up of report card, with conferences on improving grades.
- Regular schedule of useful notices, memos, phone calls, newsletters, and other communications.
- Clear information on choosing schools, or courses, programs, and activities within schools.
- Clear information on all school policies, programs reforms, and transitions.
- Review the readability, clarity, form, and frequency of all memos, notices, and other print and non-print communications.
- Consider parents who do not speak English well, do not read well, or need large type.
- Review the quality of major communications such as the schedule, content, and structure of conferences; newsletters; report cards and others.
- Establish clear two-way channels for communications from home to school and school to home.
- Awareness of own progress, and actions needed to maintain or improve grades.
- Understanding of school expectations and procedures for behavior attendance and other policies.
- Informed decisions about courses and programs.
- Awareness of own role in partnerships, serving as courier and communicator.
- Understanding school programs and policies.
- Monitoring and awareness of child’s progress.
- Conduct of responsive activities to address student’s problems as needed.
- Interactions with teachers and ease of communications with school and teachers.
- Increased diversity and use of communications with families, and awareness of own ability to communicate clearly.
- Appreciation and use of parent network for communications.
- Increased ability in two-way communications for family views of children’s programs and progress.
Learning at home
Goal: Provide information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curricular-related activities, decisions, and planning.
Sample best practices
- Information for families on skills required for students in all subjects at each grade.
- Information on homework policies and how to monitor, and discuss schoolwork at home.
- Information on how to assist students to improve skills on various class and school assignments.
- Regular schedule of homework that requires students to discuss and interact with families on what they are learning in class (e.g., TIPS).
- Calendars with activities for parents and students at home.
- Family math, science, and reading, activities at school.
- Goal setting for students with families each year, and for future plans for college or work.
- Design and organize a regular schedule of interactive homework (e.g., weekly or bimonthly) that gives students responsibility for discussing important things they are learning, and helps families stay aware of the content of their children’s class work.
- Coordinate family linked homework activities, if students have several teachers.
- Involve families with their children in all important curricular related decisions.
- Gain skills, abilities, and test scores linked to homework and class work.
- Homework completion.
- Positive attitudes toward schoolwork.
- View of parent as more similar to teacher, and home more similar to school.
- Self concept of ability as learner.
- Awareness of own role in sharing schoolwork at home, and of links of learning to real life situations.
- Know how to support, encourage, and help student at home each year.
- Discussions of school, class work, and homework.
- Understanding of instructional program each year, and what child is learning in each subject.
- Appreciation of teaching skills.
- Awareness of child as learner.
- Better design of homework assignments.
- Respect of family time.
- Recognition of equal helpfulness of single parent, working mom, and less formally educated families to motivate and reinforce student learning.
- Satisfaction with family involvement and support.
Goal: Include parents in school decisions, developing parent leaders and representatives.
Sample best practices
- Active PTA/PTO or other parent organizations, school advisory councils, or committees (e.g., curriculum, safety, personnel, and other committees) for parent leadership and participation.
- Independent advocacy groups to lobby and work for school reform and improvements.
- District level councils and committees for family and community involvement.
- Information on school or local elections for school representatives.
- Networks to link all families with parent representatives.
- Include parent leaders from all of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, and other groups in the school.
- Offering training to enable leaders to serve as representatives of other parents, with input from and return of information to all parents.
- Include students (along with parents) in decision making groups.
- Awareness of representation of parents in school decisions.
- Understanding that students’ rights are protected.
- Specific benefits linked to policies enacted by parent organizations and experienced by students.
- Input into policies that affect child’s education.
- Feeling of ownership of school.
- All-family awareness of parents’ voices in school decisions.
- Shared experiences and connections with other families.
- Awareness of school, district, and state policies.
- Awareness of parent perspectives in policy development and decisions.
- View of equal status of family representatives on committees and in leadership roles.
Collaborating with the community
Goal: Identify and integrate resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.
Sample best practices
- Information for students and families on community health, cultural, recreational, social support, and other programs or services.
- Information on community activities that link to learning skills and talents, including summer programs for students.
- Planned service integration of school in partnership with businesses, civic, counseling, cultural, health, recreation, and other agencies and organizations.
- Service to the community by students, families, and schools (e.g., recycling, art, music, drama, and other activities for seniors or others, etc.) Alumni to link to school programs for students.
- Solve turf problems of responsibilities, funds, staff, and locations for collaborative activities.
- Inform families of community programs for students, such as mentoring, tutoring, business partnerships, and other programs.
- Assure equity of opportunities for students and families to participate in community programs or to obtain services.
- Match community contributions with school goals; integrate child and family services with education.
- Increased skills and talents through enriched curricular and curricular experiences.
- Awareness of careers, and options for future education and work.
- Pride in community, and in own service to the community.
- Specific benefits linked to programs, services, resources, and opportunities that connect students with the community.
- Knowledge and use of local resources by family and child to increase skills and talents, or obtain needed services.
- Family pride in and contributions to community.
- Interactions with other families in community activities.
- Awareness of school’s role in the community, and community support and contributions to the school.
- Awareness of community resources to enrich curriculum and instruction.
- Openness to and skill in using mentors, business partners, community volunteers, and others to assist students and teaching practice.
- Knowledgeable, helpful referrals of children and families to needed services.
- Pride and participation in community.