By Fellow Angelique Kwabenah
A lack of parent engagement is one the greatest challenges to student achievement. Research shows that students perform much better in school and in life when their families are engaged in the school that the student attends. A strong body of evidence points to the fact that from birth through adolescence family engagement contributes to a range of positive student outcomes.
Parent engagement looks different in every school, but one of the ways that I have found to be most effective is home visits. Home visits can be a valuable way to engage parents in their child’s education, but they sometimes present challenges as well. Keeping a simple “ABC Framework” will help teachers to engage parents more effectively and move students to greater levels of academic proficiency.
The “A” in the framework stands for “Accommodate.” Being accommodating to the schedules and needs of parents is critical to fostering a cohesive partnership. When I schedule home visits, I ask parents whether they want to meet in their home or a community location, such as the public library. I also ask them if they would prefer a home visits, a phone conference, or a Facetime meeting. Giving parents options that can be mutually agreed upon helps to establish a relationship that is productive as opposed to adversarial, because parents feel that they are being included in the decision-making process.
Next up, the “B” stands for “Break down”. It is critical that teachers and schools break down any perceived barriers that will discourage parents from becoming more engaged. Parents have perceptions about us as educators, and we may have our own personal views about the parents. This could negatively impact our interactions if they are not openly and transparently addressed. Get any preconceived notions out in the open and “clear and confirm the air” so that parameters and expectations have been set for both sides. This will help to ensure positive and productive interactions.
Last, but certainly not least, “C” stands for “Collaborate.” Many times, we as educators feel that we must control the direction of the relationships that we foster with parents. No marriage would ever work if one partner always manage to take control of each situation. Likewise in our partnerships with parents, collaborating helps to encourage cultural awareness and a mutual respect. I have found throughout my career that parents are always appreciative when teachers take the time to collaborate with them and help to better enable their child to succeed. Asking opinions, listening to suggestions and then agreeing on a middle ground solution that suits both parties goes a long way with parents and makes them feel like their input is valued. Parents want their voices heard and they are encouraged to become more engaged in the life of the school when we make them an integral part of the planning process.
Although there are always barriers and challenges when trying to increase parent engagement, the “ABC Framework” can help to encourage teachers and schools to look at the obstacles through a different lens. One that shows them that obstacles are just opportunities for new options.
Angelique Kwabenah is a certified Reading Specialist from Hyattsville, Maryland. She is a former DCPS Teacher of Excellence, an America Achieves Fellow, and the Scholastic Read 180 Stage C National Teacher of the Year. Follow her on Twitter: @AngeliqueKwaben