Updated: Mar 29
What is the most accurate predictor of a students' academic success? Is it their socio-economic status, or perhaps how prestigious their school is? According to the book Building Successful Partnerships: A Guide for Developing Parent and Family Involvement Programs, written by the National Parent Teacher Association, the best predictor of academic achievement for a student is their parents' involvement in their education.
For teachers and school administrators, improving and maintaining parental involvement in the educational process has always been a challenge. If we measure parent involvement through their attendance at general meetings and parent-teacher conferences, parent involvement has increased. Based on data from Child Trends, parent attendance at general meetings has significantly increased from 77% in 1996 to 89% in 2016. Parent attendance at parent-teacher conferences also rose from 72% in 1996 to 78% in 2016. In addition to parental attendance, the frequency of parent-teacher conferences and general meetings only really occur once per semester.
Regardless of this increase, the ideal attendance of parents for school functions would be around 100%, and their ideal frequency should be at least three times per semester, depending on the students' progress. Of course, not all parents have the resources to be as involved in their child's education, as most factors keeping parents from getting more involved are external. These factors can include inflexible work hours for parents, lack of child-care resources or even parents simply being absent from the home.
One step that schools and educators can do, though, is to establish communication strategies that will help make students' education more accessible to their parents. This is where EdTech comes in. For many years, schools have used EdTech to improve the quality and efficiency of their education. With its success in this regard, EdTech has a lot of potentials to encourage more parents to participate in their child's education, as well as increase the frequency of school functions that give parents the opportunity to communicate.
Here are some communication strategies that can strengthen parent engagement using EdTech tools.
1. Establish Back and Forth Communication
Two-way communication where parents can listen and receive information, as well as speak and be heard, ensures a healthy exchange of ideas that welcomes parents as partners in their child's education. Traditionally, this has only been done through emails and phone calls, but with parents becoming more tech-savvy, IM tools are much more efficient. Emails will hold their role as a professional mode of communication, but many messaging apps are a much faster and more direct way of communicating with parents. Additionally, many apps have group chat features, giving teachers and parents the opportunity to build a community amongst themselves.
2. Foster Community Building among Parents
Having a greater sense of community among parents encourages parents to become more involved in their child's education. After all, this is the foundation of why PTAs (Parent Teacher Associations) were created. Other than having a group chat, as mentioned above, an even more ambitious step to create a parent community is to set up a class blog or messaging board exclusive to parents. Parents can exchange ideas and express shared concerns over their children's education and can even share parenting tips to help foster a home environment that encourages learning.
3. Promote Accessible Parent-Teacher Conferences
Parent-teacher conferences have traditionally been a less consistent form of communication, usually occurring once a semester. Their purpose though, is vital, allowing parents and teachers to meet directly face-to-face to discuss a student's work and future goals. Fortunately, this face-to-face communication can be recreated with the use of videoconferencing. With the onslaught of the pandemic, videoconferencing became the go-to tool to conduct online classes among students and teachers and can also replace in-person parent-teacher conferences. Schools can organize these online gatherings at any time with teachers and parents attending from the comfort of their home or anywhere else in the world, allowing the potential to increase the frequency of parent-teacher conferences and help parents feel more engaged in their children's academic progress.
4. Give Parents Instant Insight on Student Progress
Like parent-teacher conferences, academic progress has traditionally only been communicated to parents once a semester with the distribution of report cards. Now,
Many schools have an online LMS (learning management system) that keeps track of all student grades and academic reports. Involving parents into a school's LMS is a simple step to make by using an LMS platform that provides accounts for parents. Besides being an additional stream of direct contact with teachers, parent LMS accounts provide parents quick and anytime-access to insights into the grades and academic progress of their children.
5. Have a User-Friendly Platform for Parents to Use
As with all EdTech tools, parents will only be able to get utility from them if they do not require a large learning curve to use. A quick, efficient fix to serve as a solution for all of the aforementioned EdTech tools would be implementing a fully integrated online learning ecosystem, as mentioned in a previous article. This would combine video conferencing, instant messaging, LMS, and more EdTech tools to use on one platform. With a user-friendly interface, parents would only need to create one account to access all the EdTech tools available on this type of platform.
Parental involvement in their children’s academics is vital to their success. As is the challenge with parenting as well as teaching, there is never one definite correct answer on what you are supposed to do. Parents and teachers must always straddle the line of being involved enough to help students develop study habits while not being too involved to not allow students to develop these habits on their own.
Though issues of overly-involved parents are much harder to answer on an EdTech blog, what we can offer are solutions to help boost the logistically more difficult issue of a lack of parent engagement. With the use of these strategies in conjunction with different EdTech tools, schools can increase communication with parents for the sake of their children’s education.