Monday, October 18, 2010

Put Out the Welcome Mat

More than a decade ago, experts took a look at the reasons why parents become involved—or not—in their children’s education. Researchers Kathleen Hoover-Dempsey and Howard Sandler narrowed their focus to these three key factors:

  • · How parents view their “job description,” including their responsibility for their children’s learning
  • · How confident parents feel about their ability to help their kids
  • · Whether parents feel invited and welcome at school.

That third factor is the one that educators have the greatest opportunity to influence. How welcoming does your school feel to parents? (Have you ever asked them?) When you communicate with families, do you tend to pass along announcements and due dates, or invite parents to be real partners in their children’s education?

I had a chance to discover some of the creative ways schools are connecting with families while researching new publication for Edutopia. Home-to-School Connections Guide: Tips, Tech Tools, and Strategies for Improving Family-to-School Communication is just out, and you can download a free copy here.

Many of the tips you’ll find here come from colleagues and other Edutopia community members who responded to my inquiries with a host of good ideas in blogs, online discussion groups, and on Twitter. (Tip #10 includes a nifty idea from Jane Krauss about how to connect parents with their kids’ learning.)

Clearly, schools are getting more creative about connecting with parents. The guide includes examples of how they’re using Facebook and other social media to open conversations with families. Some tips offer new takes on old-fashioned ideas, such as making reading a family affair. And, of course, many ideas come from the reporting that Edutopia has done about what works in public education.

How do you forge stronger partnerships with your parents? Please share your ideas, and we’ll keep growing this conversation.

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