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Eight Key Strategies and Ideas for Engaging Parents in Education

These strategies are based on the work of Dr, Joyce Epstein and modified slightly to address the needs of principals, teachers and parents in Ontario.  Dr. Epstein's framework includes six key strategies.

For each link, you will find the the strategic intent for the type of involvement along with examples of several specific initiatives.

Communicating

Helping at home

Attending school events (new for Ontario)

Building parenting skills

Volunteering

Fundraising (new for Ontario)

Participating in decision making

Leveraging community resources

For hundreds of additional ideas, please visit the  'Promising Partnership Practices' listed by the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University. 

Also download a copy of Parent Inclusion Activities in Ontario published by People for Education, containing a snapshot of recent activities from across Ontario.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Eight Strategic Categories of Parental Involvement (Strategic Level) 

Types of Parental Involvement Initiatives and Programs (Program or Tactical Level)

 

 Communicating

 Strategic Intent:

 Establish an informative two-way dialogue between home and school to:

bulletBuild a sense of school community
bulletExchange information about upcoming events in the school or in a child’s life
bulletEnable parents and teachers to monitor a student’s progress and reinforce key messages

 

 

 

 

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Elementary and Seconday

bulletSchool newsletters
bulletEmail
bulletClass newsletters to keep parents up to date on curriculum progress and how parents can help at home
bulletWebsites - schools, classes, departments
bulletUse of a voicemail system to share information
bulletSchool signs to announce upcoming events or accomplishments
bulletTelephone calls to home
bulletA class parent telephone tree
bulletStudent ‘courier packs’ to get information to and from home
bulletUse of student agendas
bulletDistinct communications initiatives to meet address the informational needs of different types of parents
bulletMailing items to home when necessary
bulletHandouts at curriculum nights or parent teacher interview nights

This is the most important method for engaging parents as all other types of involvement depend on a foundation of good communication - at both the elementary and secondary levels.

 

 

 Helping at home

 Strategic Intent:

Enable parents to provide helpful assistance to their children at home including:

bulletGuidance and support to complete homework assignments
bulletGuidance on course selections when required
bulletSupport to prepare for and participate on school teams, clubs and special events

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Elementary and Secondary

bulletA clear school homework policy endorsed by the whole school
bulletHomework instructions that enable parents to provide home support
bulletHomework sign-backs
bulletHomework assignments and due dates on a website, in a class newsletter, an email or on a voicemail recording
bulletTips to enable parents to help students (without doing the homework)
bulletInformation about the various extracurricular school teams, clubs and events that students might participate in

 Secondary

bulletCourse selection information
bulletCareer planning and post secondary prerequisite information to enable informed course selections

Although it is mostly invisible as most of it occurs at home, research suggests that this is the most impactful method for parents to be actively involved in helping children succeed as students.

 

 

Attending school events

 Strategic Intent:

 Encourage parents to attend activities at the school to:

bulletLearn about ways to further support the learning and development of their children
bulletBe welcomed as important contributors to the vibrancy and effectiveness of the school community
bulletDemonstrate an active interest in the activities of the school to their children, which reinforces the importance of the school and learning to their children

 

 

 

 

 

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Elementary and Secondary

bulletCreate a welcoming and memorable meet the teacher night
bulletProvide advance notice for key events
bulletEncourage all parents to attend parent teacher interviews, and reach out to those who cannot attend
bulletEncourage both parents and students to attend events together or create events for both parents and students
bulletConcerts
bulletAcademic nights (e.g., Science, literacy or music nights)
bulletSporting events
bulletSeasonal events
bulletLeverage some events for participation first and add a  component of fundraising

This is an important method for parents to reinforce how important the school is.  Students receive the message that "I am important, and this place is important."

While many secondary students won't admit it, they still appreciate it when their parents come to the school for events. 

 

Building parenting skills

 Strategic Intent:

 Build the confidence and capacity of parents by providing access to resources to:

bulletSupport the growth and development of their children.
bulletGain knowledge and skills to remain resilient in the difficult task of raising a child
bulletBecome aware of issues facing their children, and how they might recognize and deal with those issues (e.g., bullying)

 

 

 

 

 

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Elementary and Secondary

bulletEstablish a parent resource centre within the school with books, DVDs etc. either within the library or within a dedicated Parent’s Room
bulletOrganize guest speaking events to cover topics of interest to parents (helping children at home, building literacy skills at home, bullying, etc.) 
bulletPartner with other schools to expand available range of topics.
bulletAnnounce other events occurring in the community that might be of interest to school parents

Until kids come with instruction manuals, everyone in the business of helping children succeed needs to recognize the need to continuously build skills in dealing with children.  Teachers need teaching skills, parents need parenting skills and resilience!

People like Barbara Colorosso and Dr. Karyn Gordon, can help parents help their children.

 

  

 

 

  Volunteering

 Strategic Intent:

 Increase the capacity of the school to support student learning by:

bulletProviding volunteers with opportunities to develop and contribute
bulletEncouraging parents and members of the community to volunteer in a variety of activities of their choosing
bulletSupporting volunteers with training, direction and appreciation

 

 

 

 

 

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More elementary than secondary

bulletActively welcome volunteers into the school
bulletRecruit, provide instruction and direction and recognize volunteers for their contributions
bulletEncourage teachers to identify key roles for volunteers to assist with key curriculum goals (e.g.,  literacy), class field trips or special events - parents who want to volunteer  want to know how they can help
bulletField trip supervisors
bulletClass readers
bulletMath or Science helpers
bulletLibrary or office assistance
bulletEstablish a joint parent/teacher leadership team to coordinate volunteering activities within the school
bulletHold volunteer meetings separately from the school council (many volunteers are not interested in school council issues)

Board level and school level

bulletLeverage resources from Volunteer Canada, including the Canadian Code for Volunteering to assist in creating rewarding experiences for school volunteers

 

 

Fundraising

 Strategic Intent:

 Enhance the financial resources of the school with additional funds to:

bulletSupport student learning through support for the school plan for continuous improvement
bulletProvide additional educational resources or opportunities for teachers, students and parents
bulletSupport children and families with programs to enhance a healthy learning environment

Focus on raising money for a specific purpose, which brings meaning to a fundraising drive - and helps avoid conflicts over how to spend the money after it is raised.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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More elementary than secondary

bulletInvest in education program (a one-time annual contribution rather than a continuous stream of piecemeal fundraising initiatives)
bulletMagazine sales
bulletBook fairs
bulletFlower or tree sales
bulletBake sales
bulletOrganized charity events such as Jump Rope for Heart, Hoops for Heart, the Terry Fox Run
bulletHot lunch programs (which can also double as a service to parents and to children within the school)
bulletGolf tournaments
bulletSchool events
bulletGuest speakers (can be no charge, cost recovery, or profit making)
bulletEaster egg hunts
bulletFireworks displays

 

 

Participating in decision making

 

Stimulate a sense of partnership and ownership in decisions that support students and the school by:

bulletProviding parents with the timely information they need to make decisions or assist their children with decisions regarding school affairs
bulletEstablishing conditions for an effective school council
bulletInviting parents and the community into a dialogue on major issues or decisions facing students or the school

 

 

 

 

 

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Elementary and Secondary

bulletProvide parents with the information they need to make informed decisions with or for their children

Create conditions for an effective school council

bulletCouncil training sessions
bulletPlanning nights
bulletGuest speakers
bulletShare school budget information
bulletShare the school plan for continuous improvement, seek input and the support of the council
bulletEncourage school council members to network with others in the board or elsewhere in the province
bulletEncourage skills in teamwork
bulletEstablish a method for resolving conflicts
bulletBuild the skills of the school councils and parent leaders to reach out to other parents

 

 

Leveraging community

 Strategic Intent:

 Mobilize community resources to enhance student learning and:

bulletHelp address task of teaching all students within a community environment
bulletFoster community responsibility, participation and interaction
bulletEmbed the school as an increasingly integrated part of the community

 

 

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Elementary and Secondary

bulletSeek out community resources helpful to the school to support curriculum, fundraising or to become more integrated within the community
bulletBring organizers of community groups and clubs and providers of learning opportunities to the school for a “community fair” event  
bulletBring a Junior Achievers program into the school
bulletEstablish a music lesson service through the school
bulletEncourage parents to take advantage of community sports teams, clubs, Cubs, Scouts, Brownies, Guides, Sparks, Beavers, church groups
bulletFill the Community Representative position on the school council
bulletBring local business owners into school events
bulletForm relationships with local services, eg. Police, Firefighters, Ambulance Services and have them speak to students before there are emergencies

 

 

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Last modified: November 17, 2012