Strategies for Supporting Family Engagement in Schools: Reflect and Plan for Meaningful Engagement

Decades of research outline a clear need for parent involvement in a child’s educational experience. When families are engaged in school, their children are more likely to succeed.

Panorama Education

A strong family engagement plan consists of thoughtful, culturally-responsive, and equity-centered strategies that are grounded in feedback from both caregivers and educators.

  • Ground your district’s strategic planning in an evidence-based family engagement framework 
  • Invite families to share priorities, concerns, and feedback
  • Bring families into the decision-making process
  • Assess all family engagement initiatives through an equity lens
  • Offer flexibility and a variety of options for family involvement 
  • Leverage a variety of tools to facilitate meaningful, two-way communication

Ground your district’s strategic planning in an evidence-based family engagement framework

Invite families to share priorities, concerns, and feedback

Using family surveys, administrators can invite caregivers to document their perceptions of their child’s experience in school. The data gathered can help districts better understand the experience of all caregivers, delve into potential disparities occurring on demographic and socioeconomic lines, and institute policy and programmatic changes accordingly. 

Bring families into the decision-making process

Successful family engagement programs are built on a foundation of joint decision-making and goal setting. Inviting families to take part in this work can increase caregiver engagement and reinforce that their involvement will have a direct impact on their children’s education and well-being.  

Assess all family engagement initiatives through an equity lens

Your district’s family engagement initiatives must be responsive to the attitudes, behaviors, and beliefs of all families. No matter a family’s race, ethnicity, culture, or socioeconomic status, every family has both aspirations and concerns for their children’s success. Families are the foundation from which teachers build their students’ voice, agency, and academic development. Without this understanding, the most well-intentioned efforts can fall short of establishing authentic partnership with families.

Offer flexibility and a variety of options for family involvement

Flexibility is key. Not all parents have time to visit school in the middle of the day or to attend meetings on school nights. Although some parents may want to be involved in projects or committees, they may lack the time, resources, or social capital to engage.

  • Offer supplementary educational resources to support learning at home (both for academics and social-emotional learning) via a school newsletter, social media updates, or in-person workshops. 
  • Set up online and mobile event registration and/or host events for parents online to make it easier for parents to participate. Also consider recording these sessions to share with parents who could not attend live.
  • When asking for help with fundraising, event planning, or field trip coordination, always include multiple options for parent participation. For example, provide options for helping during and after school hours. 
  • Set up a parent-teacher home visit program. 
  • Launch a literacy-themed family teacher night.

Leverage a variety of tools to facilitate meaningful, two-way communication

When implemented effectively, parental engagement strategies employ consistent, two-way, meaningful communication to ensure parents are viewed as full partners in their children’s education and included (and truly heard) in decision-making processes that involve their school’s various education programs. 

  • Communication Tools: Apart from the main social media platforms, tools such as Remind and ClassDojo make it possible for teachers to virtually bring parents into the classroom.
  • Video Tools: In addition to connecting with families via Zoom, educators can share news about student work or create lessons for families to view online using platforms such as EducreationsFlipgrid, or Screencastify
  • Virtual Classroom Spaces: KidblogPadlet, and Edmodo are all popular tools that can create a classroom space in the form of a blog or a class website. The goal is to create a centralized location for families to bookmark and refer back to when they have questions or want to see updates from the school. 

Related Articles

Resources We Love (And Hope You Will Too!)

During our May Counterpart meetings, we asked folks to share what they have been engaging with recently. Below is a list of all the resources shared by our incredible community, offering a taste of the diverse and inspiring content they’re currently exploring. This list has something for everyone: from thought-provoking articles to captivating podcasts to must-watch documentaries. So, take a peek, pick your poison, and get ready to dive into something fantastic!

Case Study: Merced Union High School District

Through its work with Inflexion, MUHSD is seeing strong results in student outcomes and in closing the opportunity gap for underserved students. California School Dashboard data show College/Career Indicator scores for African American, Hispanic, English Learners, students with disabilities, students who are homeless, and students who are socioeconomically disadvantaged are 16 to 29 points higher than the state average.

Passion. Pride. Promise. Two Leaders Help Pave the Way for Their Students & Communities

Tucked away in the hills of rural western Oregon, the Vernonia and Gaston school districts defy many of the stereotypes most of us hold when we think of rural schools. Their communities face both common and unique challenges. Vernonia Elementary Principal, Michelle Eagleson, and Gaston Superintendent, Summer Catino, share how their small schools and communities achieve greatness.

Foster Community Engagement: 9 Steps to Establishing a District Family Engagement Team

There is growing recognition, grounded in research, that effective family engagement can contribute to improved student outcomes and to closing persistent achievement gaps among students of different racial and ethnic backgrounds and family income levels.

Experts advocate for family engagement as an essential strategy for building the pathway to college and career readiness for all students, as well as an essential component of a systems approach to school turnaround.

Practice Anti-Bias Education Through Family & Community Engagement: Support Teacher-Family Relationships Built on Respect

Strong communication between school staff and families is important in any school, and has special relevance for schools committed to anti-bias education. These suggestions complement a school’s anti-bias education program, and are great ideas for fostering a healthy community between all stakeholders, (staff, students, teachers, community, and families).