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How to Engage and Support Students’ Parents

how to support students' parentsIt drives me crazy when I hear people talk about “parents who don’t care.” I’ve been in this business for more than twenty-five years, and I have never met a single parent who didn’t care. Not one. All parents, rich or poor, love their children. But have I met parents who didn’t know how to support their children or who lacked important resources? Yes. And this is where, instead of being judgmental, we can be of use.

Parents of incoming kindergartners, in particular, need to know what their children should know and be able to do before walking through the front door when school opens. Ideally school leaders would set up an orientation program to provide information (such as the binder of helpful materials) and training about how to use the materials. PS: Though it can be logistically challenging, it is also useful to conduct pretests at this point to gain a sense of where students are likely to come in, particularly in terms of letter, word, and number recognition.

For parents of students of all ages, it can also be fruitful to conduct home visits. Recently the Flamboyan Foundation has collaborated with district and charter schools in Washington, D.C., to develop a family engagement program that has shown significant results in participating schools. Here is an overview of the program:

A Family Engagement Initiative That Is Working

When done well, family engagement enables teachers to partner with families to co-construct goals and provide information and data so families can monitor and support learning. Yet schools often lack the knowledge and capacity to engage family effectively, and teachers typically receive little or no training or support in this area. Furthermore, schools tend to focus on parent participation in events, fundraising, or parent satisfaction rather than using family engagement as a core instructional strategy.

In response to these challenges in district and charter schools in the District of Columbia, the Flamboyan Foundation has invested in partners and strategies to foster purposeful, effective family engagement practices. Within a year of launching this collaborative work, students’ reading scores increased by 7 percent. This ongoing effort focuses on

  • Teachers, including in-service and pre-service training in family engagement, home visit training and support, and leadership opportunities for teachers who consistently go above and beyond in their family engagement efforts
  • Principals, including pre-service and in-service professional development to lead family engagement effectively
  • Schoolwide support, providing funds and guidance to district and charter schools to help them build trusting relationships between teachers and families, create welcoming school environments, and engage families as partners in their students’ academic success
  • District-level support, to influence how districts understand and approach family engagement
  • Influencing the field, including sharing information and collaborating with service providers, funders, and policymaking communities to increase investments and build infrastructure for effective family engagement.

For more information, check out http://www.FlamboyanFoundation.org

Whether your school has the capacity to conduct home visits or not, you might also consider designing parent training sessions based on the TLC “For Parents” page, which offers tips and links to free online resources about how parents can support their children. Here is a quick overview of the tips:

  1. Talk to your child more frequently.
  2. Read aloud to your child.
  3. Use Websites that encourage self-directed learning.
  4. Help your child find “just right” books.
  5. Ask your child open-ended questions.
  6. Poke around on the TLC Website (http://www.literacycook.com)


The text is excerpted from:

Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action by Sarah Tantillo; ISBN: 978-1-118-83905-8. Reprinted with permission of Wiley.

Literacy and the Common Core: Recipes for Action offers K–12 teachers clear guidance on how to design units, lessons, and objectives to meet the Common Core State Standards in English Language Arts. The book includes practical tools, templates, and rubrics ready to be downloaded and customized to meet your needs. To learn more teaching strategies and techniques, go here.

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