Effective outreach to families can happen in Title I and other schools. But, the goals and the processes must be qualitative and come from a different point of view than what is commonly voiced by many school personnel.
The most powerful approach is labor intensive but ultimately reaches the most families. In this approach, direct connections are made with families in school, at home, and through phone conversations and home visits; connecting with families as they drop off and pick up their children; and extending conversations with them at any point that they come to school for any reason. Outreach workers look for parents who are interested in contacting other families and communicating with their peers. Parent leaders (those who will engage other parents) are nurtured through direct and persistent communication. These parent leaders are coached to, in turn, identify other parents like themselves and to nurture those emerging leaders. This process might seem slow and time consuming at first, but it is preferable to focusing on print and media campaigns, written messages sent home, and recorded messages sent by phone from the principal’s office to all homes.
Title I parent involvement requires informing and engaging families about the academic achievement of their children. The spirit of the law can be met by setting up a family network through an effective process of direct communication, leader identification and coaching, and having meetings that are participatory and encourage dialogue. Then your school-community is enlivened, dynamic and supportive of schools that work for all children.
“Create parent and family networks of mutual support for student achievement, training other parents to be advocates, resources and decision-makers, and surveying families and using data to create further organizations, support and leadership.”
– Raising the Bar on Parent Engagement: Can Curriculum and Standards Meet It?, IDRA Newsletter, April 2007
“A parent does not need to know the content, the language of instruction or effective teaching pedagogy to judge whether children are learning and succeeding.”
– This We Know: All of Our Children are Learning. A Brief Rumination on Parent’s Qualifications for Judging the Quality of the Teaching Their Children are Receiving, IDRA Newsletter, April 2007
Framing the conversation with the spirit of Title I in NCLB necessitates words such as value, belief, hope and vision: ‘Every child can graduate,’ ‘Every child is college material,’ ‘Every family wants their children to learn.’
– Telling the Truth: Framing It as We See It or Being Framed, IDRA Newsletter, August 2007
“Engagement assumes intelligence, creativity and dynamism. Engagement motivates and demonstrates motivation. Engagement is not the fascination or enjoyment by an audience of an interesting or stirring lecture. No matter how wonderful a dog-and-pony show may be, it pales in comparison to the sparks, sounds and movement of a group of humans, young or old, deliberating, interacting, presenting issues, debating, collaborating to solve problems, and just being the creative thinkers they are.”
– Engagement Sounds, Sparks and Movements – Intersections of Interest for Students and Families. IDRA Newsletter, March 2007
“Though required for families whose children are in the elementary grades, parent-teacher conferences are highly recommended for all students. It is a key nexus to demonstrate the ideals of equal partners, the parents’ capacity to understand and support what a child needs to succeed and be happy in school and to provide expert insight into each child.”
– NCLB Parent Involvement Requirements, IDRA Newsletter, September 2007
“The Old Paradigm: Volunteers and free labor for an understaffed, under funded and overextended school; Participants in hobbies and enjoyable activities such as crocheting, decoupage and aerobics; and Course attendees for self-improvement, such as English as a second language, citizenship class and driver’s license preparation…
The locus is the family and, therefore, requires personal outreach, home visits, multiple settings for meetings and seeking creative ways to inform families who, because of work and other circumstances, are not able to attend an evening meeting on campus.
As stated by López, et al.: ‘A home-school relationship should be a co-constructed reciprocal activity in which both the agency and sense of efficacy of parents, and the involvement opportunities provided by schools and other institutions that work with children are important’ (2005).”
– Getting 30 Warm Bodies to the Meeting? Parent Engagement is More than This!, IDRA Newsletter, November -December 2007
Listen to our PIRC podcast on this topic: Effective Parent Outreach (Classnotes podcast episode #38)
Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via e-mail at email@example.com.
[©2008, IDRA. The following article originally appeared in the August 2008 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]