How to Increase Parental Engagement in Urban Education, Part 2
Guest Blogger: Dr. Anthony L. Moore
In Part 1 of his two-part blog, Dr. Moore identified the posture of heart educators should have when addressing the problem of low parental engagement in urban schools. He also established a clear difference between parental involvement and parental engagement. Here in Part 2, he presents tangible strategies to promote parental engagement—and ultimately student success.
Addressing Urban Parents' Uniqueness: Innovative Collaboration
Some urban parents face unique issues that inform their worldview. Often the media highlights the demise of urban areas without fairly revealing external barriers that are embedded within institutionalized discrimination and stereotypes that restrict growth.
Understanding and respecting diverse worldviews provide unlimited opportunities for educators to develop innovative collaborative efforts that make parents feel welcome. These avenues open doors and create new bridges to reach parents who are unengaged in their children's education for various reasons. Thus, within this process, everyone is accountable to inform change and make parents feel welcome, useful, respected, and not judged.
Creating a Welcoming and Collaborative Environment
Many parents in urban communities do not become engaged in their child's education because the school has not invited them to be involved or has failed to create a welcoming environment. Schools must perceive and treat parents as valued customers in the same way retail centers do.
The school staff and administration must intentionally create an environment that screams to parents, "You're welcome here and we want you to visit and become engaged because this is your school!" Often times, the only invitation or phone calls parents get from the school are to attend parent-teacher conferences or to inform them that their child has been misbehaving.
When I was a teacher, I called all of my parents before the school year started to personally introduce myself, give them my contact information, welcome them to my classroom, express that I was glad to be their child's teacher, and invite them to our open house/back-to-school night. These phone calls lasted about one minute in length, but went a long way in communicating to my parents, "You and your child are important and valued customers to our school."
Considering that most parents in the urban core may be ethnically and socioeconomically different from most educators in urban schools, it is even more so important to intentionally create a welcoming environment.
It is critical that the initial communication between school and home be positive. When parents physically show up at the school, the red carpet should be rolled out and they treated in the most professional and courteous fashion. Considering that some parents may hardly ever be able to attend school during the time when school is in session, it is critical that parents be invited to get engaged by serving on committees, focus groups, completing surveys, volunteering for events and activities, chaperoning field trips, and more.
When I was a teacher I sent home a weekly progress report that parents had to sign and return to school. This report kept parents updated on what I was teaching, what their children were learning, school activities, and their children's academic progress. If the progress report wasn't returned, that parent would receive a telephone call from me that evening or next day.
Although there are a plethora of things schools can do to welcome and invite parents to become engaged in their children's education, time will not allow me to discuss them all. Now I'd like to share some things parents in urban communities can do to support their children's schools.
Dr. Moore's Top 10 Ways Urban Parents Can Support Schools
Students' first teachers are their parents. Thus, all parents, especially those in urban educational settings, must build confidence and promote success in their children from kindergarten through graduation. Here are "Dr. Moore's Top 10" things urban parents can do to support school and help their child be successful there:
- Make school a priority and insist on perfect attendance and punctuality.
- Trust the school, model respect for teachers and staff, and work cooperatively with the school.
- Ask your child what they learned at school every day.
- Read with your child or have him or her read to you every day and talk about what you've read.
- Create a study routine. Set a time and quiet place for your child to work every day. Go over homework together and insist that it gets completed before television, internet or games.
- Make sure your child gets plenty of sleep each school night.
- Model good character because your child learns from you. Speak positively about education and never talk negatively about the school or teachers in the presence of your child.
- Encourage independence, allow your children to make mistakes, and accept responsibility for their choices.
- Attend parent-teacher conferences and school events when possible. Communicate consistently with your child's teacher via Skype, telephone, email, notes, etc.
- Build success and confidence by affirming and expecting effective effort from your child. Tell your child, "You're smart! You can do it! You can achieve!" Tell your child every day, "Work hard, believe you can, and you'll get smarter!"
I am not blaming parents in urban school settings or making generalizations that urban parents care less than those in suburban settings. However, schools cannot do the job of parents, which is to send their children to school every day and require them to pay attention, work hard, and obey their teachers. As a principal, I promised my parents, if you do your job, we [educators] will be able to do our job, which will result in significantly increasing the probability that your child will learn more.
DR. ANTHONY L. MOORE is the Assistant Superintendent for elementary education with the Raytown Quality Schools in Kansas City, Missouri. Moore has nearly 30 years of experience in urban education as a principal, district leader, university professor, chief diversity officer, and educational consultant. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and followed on Twitter @aanmoore22.