According to the 2013 MetLife Survey of the American Teacher, educational leaders nationwide say that engaging families is one of the top challenges they face. Research can help educators address the need to connect with families.

Knowing Your Families: Transformers, Helpers and Help-Seekers

The 2011 Public Agenda parental involvement survey identified three distinct groups of parents:

  • Transformers—Parents who are comfortable serving on committees, advocating for improvements and participating in policy development.
  • School Helpers—Parents who are eager to be involved in more traditional ways, including volunteering, attending meetings and helping out directly in the classroom.
  • Help-Seekers—Parents who are concerned about their child’s learning and are looking for guidance and support.

Consider the differing needs and goals of these groups when communicating with parents and soliciting their involvement.

Engaging Parents: One Size Doesn’t Fit All

To more effectively engage families, develop approaches that consider each family’s unique priorities, concerns and strengths. Findings from the MetLife survey suggest some practical recommendations:

  • Communicate clearly on academic expectations, program policies and resources.
  • Welcome parental perspectives. Address key parental concerns first to develop mutual trust and respect.
  • Approach families with a clear request. Nearly one-quarter of parents say they haven’t been asked to volunteer or get involved in their child’s education. If educators want help, they may need to ask for it directly!
  • Provide many and varied opportunities. When educators offer diverse opportunities for engagement, they will attract parents with a variety of backgrounds, skills and experiences to share.

To continue learning more, review Edutopia’s Home-to-School Connections Guide for relevant tools and resources.