Unfortunately for educators, there is no official manual on engaging
hard to reach parents and community members. And, for all the emphasis
on parent and community involvement, few colleges of education offer
courses to future teachers, principals and superintendents on Community
Engagement 101. This means its up to districts and schools
to help staff members understand, design and implement parent and
community engagement strategies.
This work typically begins by working with staff members to craft
a common definition of public engagement by examining the schools
goals, brainstorming how involving parents and community help meet
those goals and exploring the obstacles that may get in the way
of these efforts. Integral to this work is staff understanding of
the importance of family and community involvement in the daily
life of a school.
Provide all stafffrom teachers to custodians to cafeteria
workerswith opportunities to learn more about the cultural
and language barriers that hinder parent engagement. Invite different
cultural expertscommunity leaders, business owners
and parentsto discuss at staff meetings how different cultural
perspectives may influence a parents role in their childs
education. Share tips and strategies. Identify what additional training
or help staff might need. From these conversations, develop an overall
community engagement plan for your school with the help and direction
of all staff members.
Here are some subjects to explore:
Understanding your communitys culture and attitudes about
Developing a parent and community outreach plan
Collaborating with parents to understand how their child learns
Involving parents and community members in the daily life of
Just as training is important for educators, so too are workshops
and resources for families. Traditionally, parents and community
members served as audience members at a school play or fans at a
sports event. Training that helps families and communities better
understand the deeper role they can play in schools and how to perform
this role lays the groundwork for successful schools. Think about
holding an informal workshop or providing resource materials that
deepen understanding about the issues parents and community members
care about most.
These topics are a good place to start:
What a good school looks like
The nuts and bolts of our public school: the budget, curriculum,
student learning and other issues
How the school system works
Creating a home learning environment for your child
What it takes to be a school volunteer
Other helpful areas to explore focus on the nuts and bolts of running
a school: budgets, curriculum, reform efforts. Explore ways to deepen
parents understanding about these issues and others so they
can make informed decisions about whats best for the school.
You may also want to provide families and community members with
volunteer training in different areas including tutoring, student
supervision and front office duties. Be sure to give some thought
to where and when youll hold these workshops or training sessions.
Key to this effort is making them as accessible to as many parents
Here are some ideas:
Create a family resource center in your school that is devoted
to informal gatherings, workshops or meetings with parents and
community members. Keep schedules flexible so parents can attend
sessions at night, during the day or on weekends.
Consider repeating the same workshop more than once to accommodate
as many participants as possible. Provide transportation if
Hold workshops in neighborhood churches, community centers,
restaurants and other locations that are close and comfortable
for community members.
As you work with colleagues to define public
engagement in your school, consider these questions:
What is our schools mission?
What are our goals over the next year?
In what ways did our school engage families
and the community in setting these goals?
Is our community united with us on these
What role will parents and community members
play in helping us meet our goals and overall mission?
How will we measure results?
In what ways will we report back to the
community and families about those results?