By: American Federation of Teachers
Effective communication is essential for building school-family partnerships. It constitutes the foundation for all other forms of family involvement in education.
Positive parent-school communications benefit parents. The manner in which schools communicate and interact with parents affects the extent and quality of parents' home involvement with their children's learning. For example, schools that communicate bad news about student performance more often than recognizing students' excellence will discourage parent involvement by making parents feel they cannot effectively help their children.
Parents also benefit from being involved in their children's education by getting ideas from school on how to help and support their children, and by learning more about the school's academic program and how it works. Perhaps most important, parents benefit by becoming more confident about the value of their school involvement. Parents develop a greater appreciation for the important role they play in their children's education.
When communicating with parents, consider your remarks in relation to the three categories that influence how parents participate. For example, are you communicating about: Classroom learning activities?
The child's accomplishments?
How the parents can help at home with their child's learning? Student Benefits
Substantial evidence exists showing that parent involvement benefits students, including raising their academic achievement. There are other advantages for children when parents become involved — namely, increased motivation for learning, improved behavior, more regular attendance, and a more positive attitude about homework and school in general.
Research shows that parental involvement can free teachers to focus more on the task of teaching children. Also, by having more contact with parents, teachers learn more about students' needs and home environment, which is information they can apply toward better meeting those needs. Parents who are involved tend to have a more positive view of teachers, which results in improved teacher morale.
Good Two-Way Communication
Good two-way communication between families and schools is necessary for your students' success. Not surprisingly, research shows that the more parents and teachers share relevant information with each other about a student, the better equipped both will be to help that student achieve academically.
Opportunities for two-way communication include:
Parent-teacher organizations or school community councils
Weekly or monthly folders of student work sent home for parent review and comment Phone calls
E-mail or school website
Personal contact, including conferences, home visits, telephone calls, and curriculum nights or open houses, seems to be the most effective form of communication and may be among the most familiar. However, the establishment of effective school-home communication has grown more complex as society has changed. The great diversity among families means that it is not possible to rely on a single method of communication that will reach all homes with a given message. It is essential that a variety of strategies, adapted to the needs of particular families and their schedules, be incorporated into an overall plan. Some strategies to consider include: Parent newsletters
Annual open houses
Home visits (where applicable)
Annual school calendars
Inserts in local newspapers
Annual grandparents or "special persons" days
Board of Education spokesperson or communications officer at PTA meetings Homework hotlines
Annual field days
Notices and handouts in local markets, clinics, churches, mosques, temples, or other gathering sites Website for the school
Workshops for parents
Communications that are focused on fathers as...