School–Community Engagement

How is your school district engaging parents? The benefits are clear. Students with engaged families:

  • earn higher grades and test scores;
  • enroll in higher-level academic programs;
  • are promoted on time and earn more credits;
  • adapt better to school and attend more regularly;
  • have better social skills and behaviors; and
  • graduate and go on to postsecondary opportunities.

Guidelines on how schools and communities can better collaborate to improve public education always existed, but in many instances, especially in public schools, they were not put in effect. “In the past, communication has always been a key factor in bringing teachers and parents together. Today, we might add transparency as a key factor in parents’ understanding of what goes on at school,writes Tom Whitby, a retired teacher, and he continues: “If we don’t want an adversarial relationship with parents, we need to educate them about the education of their children.

Superintendents, principals, and teachers are expressing their frustration that decisions about education are being made by politicians, economists, foundations, publishing companies and charter school operators. Lead learners publish their opinions in media or on their own websites and share their experience with other peers, creating Professional Learning Networks. (My previous post touched the topic of collaboration).

There are over 300 educational Twitter “channels/chats” anyone can join and contribute to. The chats have their regular weekly sessions on various topics (sample dated October 8, 2014). The NYSED also developed modules for parents—Parent Academies—but was completely marginalized by real-life needs and creativity of educators in individual school districts. For example, Corinth schools added a visual presentation to their robocalls. In their effort to create a bond between schools and community, they invited various community organizations to present their programs at the school open house.

Farmingdale schools parent universityThe Farmingdale school district organized for their residents an impressive Parent University (if link is not active see the thumbnail) evening consisting of 24 classes on ten topics presented in two sessions. Some topics were “sold out” weeks before the parent university took place. It is not by coincidence that the Farmingdale district also will let their facilities be used for the Long Island Connected Educators’ Meet-up in March 2015.

ParentCamp in Lansdale, PAThe efforts to engage community are spreading fast. While there was just one #ParentCamp listed for this region (Lansdale, PA) (thumbnail) last month, there is now a second one taking place in Hamilton Township,* NJ. The enthusiasm with which the educators are creating these classes for parents is amazing and noteworthy. The locally created classes reflect needs of each community. Malverne school district 12 (MUFSD) is preparing informational classes (Parent University) for parents as well.

* January 24, 2018 update: The website has been discontinued.

What would you like to learn about education of your student? Were you asked at your school open house what you would be interested in learning? Did you suggest a topic?


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