Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Increased parental engagement will help your one-to-one program succeed

Communicating with parents can lead to better relationships between parents and the school, and it can also decrease negative behaviors in students.  Better communication can also lead to academic gains for the students.  If your school is building a one-to-one program, one often-neglected aspect is the focus on improving your communication with parents.

The research on school-parent communication can be grouped into five different categories:
  1. Communication flows from the teacher to the parents in an effort to keep the parents informed of school and classroom activities.
  2. Communication flows from parents to the teacher to educate the teacher as to how to best reach their children.
  3. Communication helps to build strong relationships between the parents and the school.
  4. Using one communication method is not effective, especially when using technology.
  5. Students have fewer instances of negative behaviors when their parents are involved in their schoolwork.
The most common form of parent-teacher communication is when information is sent to parents by the teacher, usually in the form of a newsletter or an email.  This type of information is important to parents because they want to stay connected.  Nora Carr wrote, “they [parents] greatly appreciate frequent updates about their children’s progress—as well as online access to homework assignments, grades, attendance, discipline reports, teacher notes, and student portfolios.”

One aspect of communication that is often ignored by teachers is the information that can be gained from listening to a parent.  Teachers are often seen as the expert who knows what is best for the child, and they offer advice to the parent on how to best help their child learn.  A great deal can be learned from the parent if the teacher only knew to ask.  Parents will become truly engaged in their child’s learning if they are treated like a partner in their education.  Kevin Mixon wrote, “when working on National Board certification ... two-way communication is an area of weakness for most teachers.”  Larry Ferlazzo wrote this:
“In involvement, the teacher might be akin to a social worker, doing things for parents or tending to tell them what they should be doing with their children. In engagement, the teacher is more of an organizer who helps parents do things for themselves. He or she would elicit ideas from parents about what everyone (parents and school staff) could do differently to support students and their community.”
Building strong relationships helps build trust and helps facilitate meaningful conversations between parents and teachers.  This can be done by having conversations unrelated to specific children and instead everyone can discuss education and/ or parenting as a whole.  David Ruenzel wrote that his school holds potluck dinners where parents and teachers can just sit and talk in a less formal setting, and while misunderstanding still occur it happens less frequently.

Different technology should be used in different situations and to reach different audiences.  Due to a wide variety of conditions that affect families - socioeconomic status, technology skill level, personal preference related to communication - there is a need to utilize technology that can be accessed through multiple means to meet everyone’s needs.  Schoology offers teachers the ability to connect via email, a website, or through an app that is accessible on Android and iOS phones and tablets.  The increase in smartphone adoption has greatly assisted in reaching parents of all types.  Nora Carr wrote, “America’s smartphone obsession cuts across gender lines as well as racial and ethnic groups. Women are about as likely as men to own smart phones (45 percent versus 46 percent, respectively), while smartphone ownership rates among blacks (47 percent) and Hispanics (49 percent) surpasses those of whites (42 percent).”  Teachers also need to be trained on how to best utilize technology to communicate, and school policies often have to change to match the changes in technology.  The state of Illinois' rule requiring one instance of making contact with a parent per year is outdated, especially in this era of hyper-communication.

Increased participation by a parent in their children’s lives has been shown to have a positive effect on the child’s behavior.  It can help reduce the number of Fs students receive and the number of discipline problems that are documented by the school administration.  One related study by Michelle Molnar reported, “Higher parental involvement in schools may reduce rebellious behavior because parents have more time or are more committed to being involved in their kids' lives. It may also be that schools where most of the parents are involved increase parental network ties, which helps them keep better track of their adolescents.”

Your one-to-one program will focus on changing the way teachers teach and students learn. Increased student engagement will probably be one of your measurements of success. Increased parent engagement is also important, measurable, and attainable. One of the goals for you one-to-one program should include parent engagement, if for the sole reason that increased parent interaction will help you reach your other goals.


Carr, Nora. "Smart Phones Require Smart Communication Strategies." Smart Phones Require Smart Communication Strategies. ESchoolNews, 10 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/10/10/smart-phones-require-smart-communication-strategies/>.

Cavanagh, Sean. "Parental Engagement Proves No Easy Goal." Education Week. Education Week, 28 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2012/04/04/27engagement_ep.h31.html>.

Epstein, Joyce Levy. School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Preparing Educators and Improving Schools. Boulder, CO: Westview, 2011.

Ferlazzo, Larry. "'Back To The Future' For Parent Engagement." Education Week. Education Week, 17 Apr. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2012/04/back_to_the_future_for_parent_engagement.html>.

Ferlazzo, Larry. "Follow-Up: Parent Engagement vs. Parent Involvement." Education Week. Education Week, 23 Apr. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2012/04/the_roles_of_parents_teachers_administrators_in_parent_engagement.html>.

Johnson, Graham. "Teachers: Involve Parents in the Flipped Classroom, Too." Teachers: Involve Parents in the Flipped Classroom, Too. ESchoolNews, 26 Oct. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.eschoolnews.com/2012/10/26/teachers-involve-parents-in-the-flipped-classroom-too/>.

Mixon, Kevin. "Making Parent Involvement a Two-Way Street." Education Week Teacher. Education Week, 7 Dec. 2011. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://www.edweek.org/tm/articles/2011/12/07/fp_mixon.html>.

Molnar, Michelle. "More Parental Involvement Means Fewer Runaways." Education Week. Education Week, 1 Apr. 2012. Web. 05 Nov. 2012. <http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/parentsandthepublic/2012/08/parental_involvement_in_schools_is.html>.

Molnar, Michelle. "Va. Superintendent Initiates a System-Wide Involvement Approach."Education Week. Education Week, 24 Sept. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/parentsandthepublic/2012/09/Va_superintendent_initiates_a_system-wide_involvement_approach.html>.

Ruenzel, David. "Just What Do We Mean By 'Parent Involvement'?" Education Week. Education Week, 18 Apr. 2012. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://blogs.edweek.org/teachers/teaching_ahead/2012/04/just_what_do_we_mean_by_parent_involvement.html>.

Stansbury, Meris. "Strong Communication Key to Online Learning." Strong Communication Key to Online Learning. ESchoolNews, 6 Oct. 2009. Web. 28 Oct. 2012. <http://www.eschoolnews.com/2009/10/06/strong-communication-key-to-online-learning/?ast=93>.

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