You know your students benefit from having parents involved in education. Both common sense and research support the relationship between student success and parental involvement, but are the parents of your student body really getting involved in a proactive way?
Classrooms and teaching methods can be quite different from the experience parents had in their school days. New standards and teaching methods can seem foreign to families, so getting involved may be intimidating for them. However; their involvement is critical. So how can private schools increase parent engagement in the education of their children?
The answer seems to be creeping into many aspects of our lives. Schools can connect with parents and encourage their involvement using technology. Schools can use a Student Information System (SIS) that will inform parents about events and student databases that have parent portals where parents can log in and see the information they need to truly stay connected.
An SIS can be used for many aspects of educational management, including student data management, and is comparable to an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system that a corporate company would use. The main characteristic of an SIS that benefits schools are improved communication: among various departments, between faculty and administration, between schools and parents, and so on. Information is aggregated when an SIS is properly implemented, thus allowing custom reports to be timely generated. This makes it easier to ensure students are meeting standards and teacher instruction is targeted. Also, parents can see that teachers are helping their children, schools can better allocate resources, and the government can see how schools are doing.
There are many features an SIS can include to improve your school’s operations and communication. Even if you use an SIS, you may not be using it to its fullest potential. An SIS, for example, can include the following software features and benefits:
- Information management: Facilitates interdepartmental communication.
- IEP creation
- Cloud-based software: Improves security of data, provides universal access, and immediate technical support.
- Admissions management: Virtually automates the registration process.
- Billing and payment: Bills can be paid via the system.
- Student and parent portals: Facilitates communication (between parents and schools, students and teachers, teachers and schools, etc.).
- Registration and scheduling
- Gradebooks and transcripts: More timely information for parents, students, and others to view.
Clearly an SIS is a valuable tool, and this is not even an exhaustive list.
In addition to using an SIS, there are many other creative ways to develop a more involved parent body. Here are a few methods of informing parents and, more importantly, encouraging them to be a part of their children’s education:
The majority of families have some kind of access to the internet, and many parents are using social media in some capacity. Creating a group on social media for sharing classroom activities and photos with parents can be an effective way to keep parents aware of what their children are doing.
We all remember the question “how was school today?” How often was the response a one-word answer? Now, parents can see what is happening in class and the conversations following the age-old question can be engaging and meaningful.
Websites or Blogs
It is easier than ever to create a website and there are plenty of free options. Teachers can create a website or blog and use it to keep parents up-to-date with what’s going on in the classroom. These websites can easily feature a calendar of events and assignment due dates for parents and students to see. Students can even help write the posts.
Students can maintain a digital portfolio of their work to show parents. Teachers could post student work and parents and students could upload content from home. Gone are the days of needing a parent to sign off on assignments.
These portfolios can be maintained throughout the student’s time at the school. At higher levels, the portfolio can even be useful in showcasing major projects.
One of the most important things for parents is information. These methods focus on ensuring parents get the information they want and excite students about getting this information to their parents.
While technology is a powerful tool for increasing parental involvement, we cannot discard face-to-face interaction. Parent-teacher conferences have been a tried-and-true method for involving parents for a long time and it is still a great practice. Not only do parents learn about their child’s performance, but they also build a relationship with the teacher.
Open house events are another great way to involve parents. These types of events are effective because they provide a more laid-back setting where parents don’t have to worry about the pressure of a formal meeting. This further builds parent-teacher relationships and gives parents a better idea of the day-to-day operations of the school.
Volunteering has always been a great way to get people involved in any organization, including schools. As technology improves, it is easier to encourage parents to volunteer. More interactive websites can allow parents to sign up to volunteer online; blogs, event calendars, and advice videos effectively inform parents of events and opportunities to volunteer; and videos and pictures of past events can encourage more parents to attend future events.
If student success is a goal (and it should be!), improving parent involvement is critical. Many of the longstanding methods for communicating with and involving parents are still effective. Now, technology has introduced new and creative ways to do this as well improve on the old forms of communication. Schools should consider leveraging the technology available to boost parental involvement and better set their students up for success.
For more information about this topic, please contact:
Shari Diamond, CIA
Shari has been with Cerini & Associates, LLP since 2008 where she works primarily with the firm’s school district clients providing internal audit and claims audit services. She has over twenty years’ experience performing internal audits, risk assessments, and compliance reviews, as well as recommending processes to strengthen the internal controls environment while increasing efficiencies. Her prior experience at PWC and Northrop Grumman included performing Information Technology audits.