On the iconic 1950s television show Leave It to Beaver, the Cleavers’ involvement in school was limited to mom June being on the PTA and dad Ward maybe having to go to the school if Beaver got himself in a peck of trouble. Things have changed a lot in 60-plus years!
What is parental engagement?
Today we have moved to a model of “parental engagement” in education. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, “engagement” means “home and school come together as a team. Schools empower parents and caregivers by providing them with ways to actively participate, promoting them as important voices in the school and removing barriers to engagement.” And research supports the importance of parental engagement. According to the foundation, children whose parents are engaged in their school get higher grades and score higher on tests. They graduate from high school and college at higher rates; develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom; and exhibit stronger social skills and better classroom behavior.1
Celebrating 125 years, the PTA has also moved far beyond bake sales and book fairs. According to its website, PTA is no longer a noun, it’s a verb—“to PTA.”
“PTA to support your child’s teachers and curriculum. PTA to advocate on the issues impacting your child and affect change at the local, state and national levels. PTA to build a stronger, more diverse and inclusive school community.”2
Teachers want parental engagement in schools. According to research from the National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement, 84% of educators would choose a school with more-engaged parents over one offering a higher salary, but 73% identify engaging with parents and the community as challenging.3
Here are some ideas for supporting parent engagement in your customers’ schools and your community:
- Offer to inform parents. Offer to host a parent night to introduce your program or service to address their questions. You can do this at the time of purchase or during the decision making process. This model was successfully employed by technology companies in the 1990s to alleviate parents’ fears of the unknown when tech was first being introduced in schools.
- Create parent resources. Provide teachers and school leadership with resources for answering parents’ questions about your products so that they can respond quickly and easily. During pandemic school closures, some companies created space on their websites to answer questions directly from parents. You could even host a chatbot just for parents to come to with their questions. If your programs have a home component, ensure that similar resources are available to support a parent helping a child learn at home.
Be sure to have those resources translated for communities where a percentage of the parent population are not native English speakers. Whether it is Spanish or Afghani, both the educators and parents will appreciate that you looked at your resources through an equity lens.
- Connect with parents. Form a Parent Advisory Committee for your company to help guide product development. Take nominations of highly engaged parents from customer schools.
- Get engaged yourself. Become engaged with your child’s school or, if you don’t have children, your neighborhood school. Offer employee incentives for volunteering at a local school or participating in other school-related activities. School leaders are always looking for concerned, motivated community members who want to contribute.
MDR is excited to support your efforts to spread the word about the importance of parent engagement. Reach out to us!