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

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

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

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

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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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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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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Now Talk to Them: Reaching Non-English Speaking Parents

Imagine a parent moving to a country where they don't know anyone, can't speak the language, and are unfamiliar with the education system. Now talk to them. YOU: Your Child's First Teacher


As educators, it can be disheartening when we try to reach out to parents, but don’t get much–if any–response back from them. In fact, at some point we may even think they don’t care to talk to us.

Spend one minute thinking about the possibility that the parent may have come from another country and is facing major obstacles in order to be a fully engaged parent in the United States. Think about how would feel if you made that same type of life change.

Now talk to them. See how your communication approach changes. Find out what resources are available in your school, district, and community to help you reach that parent and establish a more meaningful and effective partnership.

At YOU: Your Child’s First Teacher, we understand that teachers can be working with students from very diverse backgrounds and experiences. These are the kinds of conversations and strategies we have with educators in our YOU Program training workshops. We know that effective parent engagement leads to student achievement and we want to work with your school and district to show you how.

If you found this topic helpful, please share it on social media with the hashtag #NowTalkToThem. It might help other educators, too.  

How to Foster Positive Conversations About Your District on Social Media

On the keys of a keyboard, it says "Foster Positive Communication on Social Media"

By Jessica Vician

We recently implemented a YOU Program training workshop at a school district in the Midwest that has four elementary schools, one middle school, and one high school. Before the workshop, an administrator identified an issue she wanted us to address with the workshop attendees.

There is a parent-focused private Facebook group that was initially started by a mom in the district who wanted to provide a place for other parents to discuss successes and concerns in relation to their children’s education.

Unfortunately, a small group of parents have turned a well-intentioned online community into a forum for unconstructive complaints. They leave negative comments about teachers and administrators but don’t offer solutions, and the page has turned into a sour environment where other parents no longer want to participate.

This district’s problem, while unfortunate, is not unique. Online communities can quickly turn into forums of negative comments and complaints. Many people feel safe sharing opinions online that they would never say to someone in person, because the guise of being behind a computer screen and speaking with a keyboard brings courage to some.

But online communities, especially those focused on improving their children’s education experience, need not suffer just because of a few bad apples who lack the desire or ability to proactively and constructively address concerns directly with educators and/or administrators. It is possible for this Facebook group moderator to return the group to a place for positive and constructive discussion without banning the people bringing in unnecessary negativity.

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A Holistic Approach for Child Success

The comic strip image shows the success wheel, then a girl in a car. One of the tires goes flat, and the girl can't finish the race. Each tire represents one of the four core needs for child success. If one need isn't met, the child won't succeed.

By Ana Vela

We get a lot of questions from educators and parents about our YOU Program approach. In this holistic approach to child development and parenting, there are four areas for parents to address with their child: physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being, and academic success.

The YOU Program promotes helping a child with all four areas in a balanced manner. As educators, you might notice that parents tend to be great in one or two areas, but may not know how to help in the others. It’s important that all four areas are nurtured in order to contribute to a student’s academic success.

As you can see in the above illustration, if a student’s parents are not effectively nurturing one of those four areas, it will be more difficult for the student to succeed in school. That’s why it’s critical for educators and parents to learn how to work together to help each student succeed.

Boost Student Achievement Through These 5 Parental Involvement Tips

Success for every child means addressing four core needs for success: academic achievement, physical health, emotional well-being, social well-being. This is the holistic parent engagement approach of the YOU Your Child's First Teacher program.

By Jessica Vician

One of the requirements of a parent engagement program funded through Title I is to build capacity for involvement by teaching students’ parents how to help their children academically at home.

Our founder Sunny P. Chico has said that in over 35 years in the education industry, she has never met a parent who didn’t want to be a better parent. Some parents just need direction on how to help their children succeed. As an educator, you can teach them how to support their children’s classroom learning at home with these five tips.

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Talk to Them

Think about what a parent had to go through to get their child to school on time today. Now talk to them. YOU: Your Child's First Teacher Parent Engagement Program

As educators, we have a lot to juggle in a day. So much so that we may not take the time to plan effective communication with a student’s parent.

Spend one minute thinking about what that parent had to go through to get their child to school on time. Remind yourself of your own struggles this morning.

Now talk to them. See how your communication approach changes. Your continued patience and understanding can lead to a more meaningful and effective partnership with that parent. And a better partnership means better students.

These are the kinds of conversations and strategies we have with educators in our YOU Program Training Workshop. We know that effective parent engagement leads to student achievement and we want to work with your school and district to show you how.