Many states evaluate schools, administrators, and teachers on communication. Since the parent is the school’s customer, I agree with this evaluation criterion. More importantly, communication is the first step in partnering with parents to significantly improve student achievement. (John Hattie, 2009)
THE PARENTAL ENGAGEMENT PROBLEM
The problem is that many times we don’t really know what is going on in communication until the report card time and the teacher has to change the grade because he/she did not properly communicate. Maybe I’m the only one who had to deal with this as a leader or coach etc. If I’m not, then please leave your examples in the comments.
Furthermore, we think of parental communication as an afterthought or a nice to have. We have to change this mindset to one that parental engagement is essential to instructional leadership.
DID YOU KNOW? In 2012, 52% of parents in poverty did not get an email from a school and only 51% were very satisfied with their interactions with school staff.
A third part of the parental engagement problem is that we mistake one-way communication blasts as effective communication. Why not engage the parent as a partner in the learning process? What messages can we send home to increase student motivation and other desired student actions? Finally, what can we learn about the child from his parents?
So what would happen if teachers regularly communicated with parents?!
SCHOOL HOME COMMUNICATION
School leadership is only 3% of student achievement but that 3% is really a multiplier effect. The principal has the influence and power to ensure that communication occurs. Administrators can set a goal and then inspect what we expect. If we don’t do these two things then we are leaving school achievement points on the table. The right communication can:
- provide nudges to complete homework (.29 effect size),
- decrease failure rate by 40%,
- reduce student disruptions which increases time on task by 25%,
- increase attendance by 2.5 percentage points,
- and more.
Contacting parents is instructional support!
You may be asking, how do I not get as many points as possible. We have to first set a school communication goal. Then, we have to explain why communication is important. One reason is parent engagement is a part of our evaluations. Secondly, setting a challenging goal and providing feedback is a best practice that will help students and teachers.
Set High Expectations
So, how do we do this? We express verbally and in writing the teacher expectations. The expectation would require teachers to communicate with 25% of your parents weekly ensuring that 100% at the end of each month were spoken to. Quantity is just the beginning of the expectation. Quality is even more important to instruction. Announcements and blasts, for example, are not quality communications. We will discuss what quality communication is in a future blog. One study argued that many parents don’t receive a call or email. Schools need research-based messages that actually improve student achievement. In addition, school home communication can’t always be negative. Call parents with something positive, for example, shows that we care about the parent’s pride and joy.
Inspect What We Expect
As administrators, we then need to inspect this weekly to support and reward our teachers. Teachers complete parent communication or contact logs. This is not punitive. This is to help students and teachers. Parental communication according to board policy makes it easier to support a teacher’s grade. We can, then, issue appropriate consequences or supports because we used best practices. More importantly, we established a positive relationship with the parent by providing specific praise and next steps for the child to improve which increases student engagement.
By establishing a SMART goal, we quantify the teacher communication evaluation standard. Consequently, we can evaluate our efforts to increase parental engagement. You will have data to support teacher evaluation ratings. Additionally, we can measure the impact of our instructional support efforts. Setting a general goal is good, but a targeted one is even better. Consider, if you will, establishing a specific communication goal for students who are at risk of failing or poor attendance. A Harvard study demonstrated a 40% decline in failure rates.
High Expectations with Greater Support
Our teachers have a lot to do. We, therefore, can’t just set a goal and inspect it without giving the proper support. How can we ensure that teachers can and will do it? One principal mentee cancels a faculty meeting each month for teachers to contact parents. I added the communication goal to our teacher of the month and year criteria. Even further, I publicly praised those who did it. Another one of my former colleagues provided planning time above the state requirements to complete these tasks. What are some ways that you are supporting teachers to reach goals? By setting a goal, supporting it and inspecting it you are ensuring a proficient rating for yourself in leadership standards, as well.
Now you may be asking do I have to wait to the beginning of the year. No, you don’t. Like Harry Wong said any day can be the first day of school. Of course, do this within reason considering school culture, school year, and etc.