Over the years, parent and family engagement has continued to rise as an indicator for successful students and a successful school.
Many school districts across the nation now include parent engagement as an indicator in their rating system, often by gathering feedback from parents to measure how well a school does in providing opportunities for their families to be involved. Intertwined with parent engagement efforts is – you guessed it – effective and strategic communication between schools and parents.
To look at a school through a purely academic lens would mean ignoring the many layers that make up a thriving learning environment. Federal law actually requires a certain degree of parent engagement in schools. The Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) requires any school district receiving Title 1 funds to meet certain parent and family engagement standards. One obligation of schools within those districts is to develop a school-parent compact that “outlines how parents, the entire school staff, and students will share the responsibility for improved student academic achievement.” The school must also “ensure that information related to school and parent programs, meetings, and other activities is sent to the parents of participating children in a format and, to the extent practicable, in a language the parents can understand.”
In Denver Public Schools, parent satisfaction is a key indicator on the School Performance Framework (SPF) in determining the overall rating of a particular school. Parent satisfaction surveys are distributed annually and then analyzed along with student satisfaction surveys to determine a score in that category. Schools must not only mail surveys to each family, but they must also have a communication system in place to notify parents that the surveys are coming and must be returned without assistance from the school. The percentage of parents who actually return the survey is also taken into account when rating this category. Many DPS schools have implemented great systems for communicating with parents and simple efforts of notifying and reminding are often reflected in their SPF ratings.
In a district like DPS, these SPF ratings matter a lot for community perception during school choice season. DPS allows families to opt out of their neighborhood school and “choice in” to another school in the district. Families participating in the choice system will often look at the SPF ratings in determining which school to select. Academic achievement and growth is certainly a factor here, but a school that has positive relationships with its parents and families is more likely to have a higher rating. Of the 20 “Distinguished” schools in DPS in 2017, 18 of those schools met or exceeded expectations in the Family and Student Engagement and Satisfaction category. They are also more likely to have a good reputation in the surrounding community, which is another powerful tool for school choice.
How does your school measure up when it comes to parent and family engagement? Do you have an effective communication plan in place to keep parents informed and to offer them opportunities to be engaged? Are you able to share information in all languages represented in your school? If there is room for improved parent communication, consider taking a simple first step and trying out our free School Lite platform. Get connected to parents and invite them to be an active participant in their child’s education.