Fulfill Your Promise on Parent Engagement for 2017-2018

"Fulfill your promise on parent engagement in 2017-2018" text in front of a very old, large tree

By Jessica Vician

It’s time to start planning your school’s budget for the 2017-2018 school year, which means it’s time to make due on that promise you made to yourself, your teachers and staff, or maybe even a few parents—fit parent engagement into the budget.

It’s not as difficult as it may seem. Teacher trainings can qualify for staff development. School leadership training can support administrator workshops and parent leadership training workshops.

No matter how big or small your budget is, you can work parent engagement into it. Start small with a Parent Workshop to teach parents how to support college and career readiness at home. If your budget allows it, host a Training Workshop so that your staff can learn the YOU Program and then host your own parent workshops. The latter approach is the most cost-effective, as you are starting to build a sustainable parent engagement program at your school that you can expand each year.  Continue reading

The YOU Program and Head Start: A Great Match

By Jessica Vician

For many people, it’s easy to become a parent. It’s more difficult to become a good parent who knows how to nurture each of their child’s needs to help him or her succeed. It’s even harder when the parent lacks the financial means to enlist quality support.

Early Head Start and Head Start programs provide that support to help these parents and their children receive quality education and services that give them the opportunities to succeed.

Head Start is a program that has helped over 32 million children and families prepare for school and life, according to the National Head Start Association (NHSA). The program provides children—regardless of their financial circumstances at birth—with education, health, parent involvement, and social services to help them and their families prepare for school and life.

Similarly, the YOU Program is dedicated to providing parents with the knowledge and tools needed to nurture a child’s four core developmental areas—physical health, social well-being, emotional well-being, and academic achievement—in order to succeed in school and in life.

The commitment of both programs to a child’s overall wellness and success ensures a unique and strong partnership that aids Early Head Start and Head Start centers in reaching their family engagement outcomes and in meeting the new Head Start Performance Standards.  Continue reading

4 Ways to Enlist Parents with College Prep Help

4 Ways to Enlist Parents with College Prep Help

By Jessica Vician

While teachers, administration, and school staff are very aware that sophomores and juniors should be studying for their PSATs, SATs, and ACTs, respectively and preparing to take them soon, the students’ parents might not know how to help. For a better chance to succeed, students should be receiving support at school and at home. You can help by giving parents a checklist of things they can do to support their child’s entry exam prep.  Continue reading

How to Address Parental Complaints

How to Address Parental Complaints | Two parents speak with their child.

By Jessica Vician

One may not think of customer service as part of a school’s role, but when it comes to creating and maintaining a partnership between the school and parents, customer service plays a critical role.

Think about parental complaints. Parents might submit a complaint to the principal about a teacher’s disciplinary methods, or to a teacher about how much homework the child receives. Do you have a formal process to address parental complaints? If so, does every member of your staff know that process and follow it?

Use basic customer service principals in addressing parent complaints: thank the parent for bringing the complaint to your attention, acknowledge the complaint and make sure you understand exactly what it is, offer solutions to address it.  Continue reading

How to Celebrate Parents During Parent Engagement Month

How to Celebrate Parents During Parent Engagement Month
By Jessica Vician

During Parent Engagement Month, it’s important to teach parents how to be more engaged in their children’s education and celebrate what they are doing now. There are many ways to do both in one event. Which celebration will your school try?

Host a celebratory parent meeting.
Incorporate treats or raffles at your next parent meeting to say thank you to the parents who attend. Parent meetings might already be a regular occurrence at your school, which is a great way to keep them engaged in their children’s education, so reward those who are coming and entice those who haven’t attended yet with appetizers, snacks, or desserts to make this meeting special. Ask local businesses to donate products or services that you can raffle off at the meeting for further enticement.  Continue reading

How to Talk to Parents About Bullying

A girl looks sadly at the camera while being bullied by her classmates.

By Jessica Vician

Bullying has been a prevalent topic in recent years, as the number of youth suicides have increased. NPR reports that the suicide rate has tripled in girls between the ages of 10 and 14 in the last 15 years. Now cyberbullying has taken the behavior out of school hallways—where staff can monitor it—and moved it online, where neither school staff nor parents can see it.

With those sobering statistics, it’s critical that your school take advantage of National Bullying Prevention Month to engage parents in addressing the social and emotional problem of bullying.

Why parents?
Your students’ parents influence and monitor their children’s behavior outside of school, so you must include them in any anti-bullying efforts and/or programs. Parents can steer identified bullies away from that behavior and can help bullying victims learn to stand up to the bully and report the inappropriate behavior.  Continue reading

Why should teachers and principals invest in parent engagement?

Why should teachers and principals invest in parent engagement? | A high school student gives a thumbs up after receiving an A+ on a paper.

By Jessica Vician

Parent engagement programs, like the YOU Program, have the potential to decrease per-pupil spending, boost student achievement and graduation rates, and build better student-teacher relationships. With numerous research, studies, and analyses reporting these positive correlations, schools should invest in parent engagement programs right away to reap these benefits.

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5 Ways to Engage Parents This Year

5 Ways to Engage Parents This Year | A group of parents sits in a room, listening to a speaker.
By Jessica Vician

One of the first communications you send to parents this school year should focus on your dedication to their children’s education. That’s the primary message parents need and want to hear. But the secondary message you should convey is that you need their help for their children to succeed.

Each parent-facing employee or volunteer at the school should have a plan to engage parents from the beginning of the school year, including teachers, coaches, administrative staff, principals, and superintendents. Here are five ideas with examples of how to communicate for better parent engagement. Continue reading

How to Start the School Year Successfully with Teachers and Parents

How to Start the School Year Successfully with Teachers and Parents | A teacher and parent meet and shake hands while the student looks on.
By Jessica Vician

The beginning of the school year is a time when everyone is motivated to do his or her best. Teachers are rested and eager to learn about their new students, the students are excited to see old friends and use new supplies, and parents are happy that their kids are back in school.

Take advantage of the renewed energy and motivation by starting a parent engagement initiative at your school this August and September. If you invest in the right program, you can sustainably build it by allowing parent leaders to drive your parent engagement efforts. Continue reading

4 Budget-friendly Parent Engagement Tips

4 Budget-Friendly Parent Engagement Tips

By Jessica Vician

School funding. It’s a term that causes many to shake their heads, as we know how critical quality education is to the future of our country and society, yet states continue to cut it. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, at least 31 states provided less school funding in 2014 than they did in 2008.

But there is more pressure on schools to bring in and retain strong teachers, expand programs, and improve student test scores. With decreased funding from both state and local governments, how can schools invest in programs that will help teachers and boost student achievement, like parent engagement programs?

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Summer Homework for Parents

Summer Homework for Parents text sits on a transparent image of an open book in a library.

By Jessica Vician

What homework can teachers assign to parents to prevent the summer slide and keep them engaged with their kids over the summer?

Before the school year ends, make a pact with other teachers in your school to teach parents about the summer slide and offer tips to prevent it. If every teacher encourages parents to maintain the skills and knowledge their children learned this year, teachers could jump right into the 2016-17 school year instead of playing catch-up.

Start with these four approaches and ask your principal to post tips on the school website and send out an e-newsletter to help reach parents and guardians. Continue reading

Who are diverse learners and how can we bring normalcy to them?

Who are diverse learners? How can we bring normalcy to them? Three children put a puzzle together in the image.

By Lynn Samartino

Every year that I teach special education, I think about the word normalcy more and more. As teachers, we are highly impacted by differences and when something veers from the norm. Some of us look at the difference as a burden or extra work, when instead we should see it as a time to evolve and learn how we can improve our daily regimens.

How can we best meet the needs of our diverse learning students?
We must embrace a collective sensitivity to diverse learners by evolving education to bring a sense of normalcy to our classrooms and our students’ lives.

Diverse learners are born with or develop a disability. While they might have some life difficulties, we can provide them with a high quality education that includes accommodations and modifications to make life and learning easier. Bringing comfort and a sensitive nature to these students’ education plans can also alleviate some of the social stigmas surrounding the special education student.

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How to Prioritize Parent Engagement in Your 2016-2017 Budget

How to prioritize parent engagement for the 2016-2017 school year. Text sits over a blurred image of an empty classroom with colorful chairs.

By Jessica Vician

Parent engagement is critical to student success. You know it, we know it, and the research supports it. But in today’s education space, there are so many requirements, reports, needs, and wants that it seems impossible to add another thing to the list, regardless of how beneficial it may be.

So let’s make it easy. From the research to the budget to the implementation, here’s why you need to prioritize parent engagement in your 2016-2017 budget.

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Talk to Parents About These 2 Things for Winter Break

By Jessica Vician

It’s the last day of school for the calendar year and kids are getting antsy to go home and start their break. The break is a great time for them to relax, recharge, and spend time with family. But sometimes, kids succumb to the same pressures adults do over the holidays, with presents overwhelming their thoughts and holiday stress affecting them.

Talk to their parents in person or via email about curbing these patterns to have a healthy, happy break.

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Parents Pulling Students from School Early? Share These 3 Tips with Them.

Parents Pulling Students from School Early? Share These 3 Tips with Them. | A mother puts a seatbelt on her son before they leave for the holidays.

By Ana Vela

When we think of the holidays, we think about being with family. Well, what if your family is in a different country? You then travel hundreds, even thousands of miles to be with your loved ones. That’s what paisanos, about 2 million people, do every year. Paisanos (countrymen) are Mexican citizens who live and work in the United States and travel to Mexico to visit family. For paisanos, this migration can start as early as one week prior to Thanksgiving, returning to the U.S. after New Year’s.

When I was growing up, we were considered paisanos, as my father would drive us from our home in Virginia to spend the holidays in Mexico. I recall other paisano families leaving before the school holiday break to get a head start on the long drive to Mexico and to spend as much time with family as possible. While it’s wonderful to spend an extended amount of time with their families, taking children out of school before the designated break can have a serious impact on them as students.

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Why Parent Engagement Month Matters

Why Parent Engagement Month Matters

By Sunny P. Chico

I love that the entire month of November is dedicated to parent engagement. It brings awareness to the critical role of parents in our homes. Every day should be Parent Engagement Day, because each day a child is learning and growing. Parents need to be present and aware of what’s happening and nurture positive development.

But what does this engagement look like? Many times parents focus on what’s happening in the classroom and rely on the school to take care of the child’s needs. Parent Engagement Month reminds us that it’s not just about academic needs.

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The Security of Routines in the Classroom

The Security of Classroom Routines | A row of children sitting in desks raise their hands.

By Sandra Braceful-Quarles

Your alarm clock goes off and you hit the snooze button. At least that’s what you meant to do. 30 minutes later, you’re off to a late start. There’s no time to pick up coffee or eat breakfast. You at least want to make it to work on time. There you can attempt to readjust and resume the remaining part of your schedule.

At the end of the day, you can reboot and get back to your regular routine, which you welcome because it helps you navigate and creates a sense of security that you need to survive the day.

Now imagine students in your class who may or may not have a regular routine to follow outside of school. The importance and impact of a regular routine in the classroom are now magnified exponentially since your students are likely too young to have the skills to make the adjustments that you did on their own.

The National Education Association (NEA) knows that well-taught routines provide smooth, uninterrupted class operation, which saves large amounts of time and puts the focus back on learning. If you think about it, you’re bestowing much more than a procedure for your students to follow. You’re teaching them navigation skills, developing a sense of security and trust, and extending the routines they have at home.

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8 Approaches to Planning a Strong Parent-Teacher Conference

How to prepare for a strong parent-teacher conference. Parents sit in the classroom at desks.
By Maureen Powers

The first parent-teacher conference of the year is a critical time for engaging your students’ parents. Not only do you set the tone for educational expectations and progress, you can ask the parents for their help at home and encourage parent engagement.

When planning the parent-teacher conference, first address the attendance and preparation needs. Then think of creative approaches to the meeting to make it more effective and memorable.

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Reverse the Summer Slide: Validate. Inform. Empower.

Reverse the Summer Slide: Validate. Inform. Empower. Three students line up at the teacher's desk, as one looks frustrated at a test score.
By Sandra Braceful-Quarles

Summer break is winding down and the chatter of final vacations, backpacks filled with school supplies, and the start of a new school year are almost upon us. Teachers are organizing their classrooms and preparing for another successful year. But while we encouraged our students to read, practice, and discover during this time to avoid the dreaded summer slide, there’s no guarantee that any learning took place during this time. It’s even more likely that the students who really struggle didn’t read at all.

In education, we’re in a new era where teacher evaluations are tied to student growth. How can you get the most out of your struggling students as you continue to challenge the others? While focusing on best practices, remember that you have the YOU Program in your toolbox. It has many components that work in conjunction with best teaching practices.

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Now Talk To Them: Foreign Education Differences

Imagine being raised in a country where the school system discourages parents from talking to teachers. What if that was your student's parent? Now talk to them. YOU: Your Child's First Teacher parent engagement program.

As you prepare for the 2015-2016 school year, think about your students’ parents. If any of them immigrated to the U.S., they might have a different idea than you do about how involved they should be in their children’s education.

According to a 2014 article published in The Hechinger Report:

Latino immigrants particularly tend to trust the public school system to provide their children with the education they need, beginning in kindergarten, according to advocates and studies. Their role is to keep their babies safe, clean, well-fed and loved –– an attitude that can lead to children being nurtured but starting school irreparably behind.

Use the beginning of the school year as an opportunity to talk with your students’ parents and align your goals, regardless of their cultural background.

Speak with school administrators about hosting a parent workshop before school starts or at the beginning of the year. The YOU Program offers parent workshops in Spanish and English and will teach parents the importance of parent engagement so that you start the school year on the same page.

Your students’ parents will know what is expected of them and learn how to take a more active role in their children’s education, which will help the students come to school prepared to learn and boost their chances of success.

Join the conversation about what we should be communicating to our students’ parents by using the #NowTalkToThem hashtag on Twitter.

Motivate Students with a Team Approach

Motivate Students with a Team Approach to Learning. Enlist their peers, parents, and former teachers to find out what best motivates your students. | The image shows four high school students discussing a paper.
By Lynn Samartino

As a middle school teacher, I’ve encountered many types of students. Some start the school year eager to learn, while others would rather be outside the classroom hanging with their friends. Some are distracted by added responsibilities, like taking care of siblings, chores, or working to bring income to the family. It’s difficult to reach those students who aren’t very motivated to learn and need direction, but I’ve developed some strategies to help them learn the value of their education.

During the first month of school (and even before then), I review data to drive my instruction and observe my new students to understand their work habits, individual needs, and learning styles. Usually, students do well with the initial activities and events until the curriculum is implemented: participating in class, completing lesson activities or projects, and homework assignments.

The rigorous work is difficult for them, which is a positive thing. I want to challenge my students to increase their cognitive abilities. Through these challenges, I can identify students who don’t want to work because the work is “too hard,” are just doing the minimum or sometimes no work at all, by the lack of work turned in, lack of participation, excuses given for not completing work, or playing around in class. Once I identify those students, I try to awaken their desire to learn with a combination of these strategies.

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Now Talk to Them: Low-Income Parents

Imagine being raised in a country where the school system discourages parents from talking to teachers. What if that was your student's parent? Now talk to them. You: Your Child's First Teacher Parent Engagement Program.

In a perfect world, students would arrive at school well rested with bellies full of nutritious food and ready to learn. But in many Title I schools, parents don’t earn enough money to put a nutritious breakfast on the table.

If a student is lucky enough to have breakfast, it might be an inexpensive, sugary cereal. Once he or she arrives in your classroom, the student is bouncing off the walls from a sugar high. If the student doesn’t have breakfast, he or she will arrive tired, hungry, and distracted. In either case, these students aren’t prepared to learn.

If these scenarios happen in your classroom, think about how to proactively speak to your students’ parents before the school year begins about ensuring each student has a nutritious breakfast before class.

  • Research local grocery stores that accept SNAP payments.
  • Provide a list of inexpensive, healthy breakfast foods.
  • Show the parents how a healthy breakfast helps their child learn more. The parents will prioritize breakfast more if they understand how important it is for their children’s learning.

Starting the conversation can make a difference. Educate your students’ parents on why nutrition is important for their kids to learn, and you will have more prepared students in the fall.

Reach Parents on Their Turf: Partner with Community Organizations

"Reach parents on their turf: partner with community organizations"

By Jessica Vician

Promoting parent engagement seems like a natural effort for school districts. After all, research suggests that when parent take an active role in their child’s education, schools see greater student performance, regular attendance, and the students develop strong social skills. Thanks to many district-sponsored parent engagement programs, these students have a better opportunity to achieve more in school and in life.

But some parents are weary of school efforts that step outside of the classroom and into the home. In these parents’ minds, the home is their “turf” and the school doesn’t have the right to tell them how to parent their children.

According to Dr. Becky Adams, a retired educator who is helping to revitalize the South Suburban Action Conference (SSAC) in Chicago’s south suburbs, it’s difficult to reach “parents who did not experience success in school…and therefore have little trust in the system.”

So how can schools reach these parents, who might need the help of a parent engagement program most of all? If parents don’t trust the school, they are unlikely to participate in any kind of school-sponsored program.

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Now Talk to Them: Summer Academics

What if your child lost two months of academic knowledge this summer? Summer activities can prevent that loss, but your student's parent doesn't know that. Now talk to them. You: Your Child's First Teacher parent engagement program

Many parents think that their children only develop academic skills at school. They don’t realize that if they don’t engage their children in summer learning activities, the kids will lose a significant amount of this year’s knowledge and go into the next school year at a disadvantage.

In fact, according to a 1996 study,

Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months. Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains.

Talk to your students’ parents before the end of the school year. Send them an email or host an informal end-of-year open house in your classroom. Encourage them to purchase a math workbook and rent books from the library for their children to use over the summer. Parents need to know that these small steps can keep the students’ skills sharp for the next academic year.

Join the conversation on Twitter by using the hashtag #NowTalkToThem.

YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher Book Distribution Roll-Out Plan

YOU: Your Child's First Teacher books on a black background

By Jessica Vician

Did you know that a child only spends eight percent of his or her time in school from birth through high school graduation?

The other 92 percent of the time, the child is either at home or doing parent-approved activities.

How time is spent from birth through high school: 92% is spent at home, 8% is spent at school. Because 92% of a child's time is spent at home, parent engagement is critical. It starts with YOU.

That’s all the more reason to ensure that your students’ parents know how to practice effective parent engagement with their children so that they will perform better in school.

Giving your students’ parents the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher book set is the first step in an effective parent engagement strategy for your school, but these parents must understand why they should read and implement the strategies presented in the books.

We recommend rolling out your parent engagement plan by presenting the books at a parent workshop, which teaches parents how to use the books, how to best communicate with the school, and how to care for their children in a way that helps them be successful in school and in life.

If you are unable to distribute the books at a parent workshop, consider these ideas to encourage parents to read and use the YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher books.

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