Principals play perhaps the most critical role in advancing parent involvement within our schools.
Principals set the tone for the school, provide an atmosphere for collaboration between partners, and help both teachers and parents gain the skills to work together effectively for student success.
Here are Dr. Epstein’s research-based strategies to unite families, schools and communities to work together for student success.Each sphere has an area of specialty, but the influence on a child’s development overlaps. Dr. Epstein contends that the three groups can improve the chances for student success by collaborating through a series of practical research-based strategies. These are often referenced and sometimes broken into six or eight types of involvement.
- Communicating, ie. improve communications. Good communications provide the foundation for effective collaboration. With an awareness of what is happening and what is needed comes an understanding of how parents or teachers or community members might be able to better support the development of a child. One topic of communications might be to encourage families to attend various school events or special events including concerts, sporting events or assemblies with their children.
- Learning at home. Enable parents to help children learn at home. Parents can support student learning at home by supporting homework completion, good course selections, good choices in after-school activities and in many other ways. However, parents sometimes need information, coaching and support to enable them to help their children at home. Homework seminars, course selection nights, and clear homework expectations are just three examples.
- Parenting. Help parents build parenting skills. Schools and community groups can both play a role in helping parents to understand and deal with the various phases of growth and development that children go through, and be prepared to deal with some of the tougher issues like bullying, drugs and peer pressure.
- Volunteering. Encourage volunteerism and manage volunteers well. This includes designing meaningful roles for volunteers, providing training and feedback. This also includes fundraising for a purpose, and managing the frequency of fundraising initiatives to avoid contributor burn-out.
- Participating in decision-making. Encourage and develop leadership through school councils or volunteer boards designed to help children succeed. Develop goals, decision-making processes to enable people with diverse backgrounds to collaborate to help children succeed.
- Collaborating with community. Enable community groups to collaborate with schools and families to provide extended learning opportunities and activities for children.
- Research from here in Ontario validates two additional strategies for engaging parents successfully:
- Fundraising, and
- Attending school events.