Parent Engagement

Families are critical to students' academic success. The following information and parent handouts discuss the importance of teachers and parents working together on behalf of kids.

Engaging Parents to Support Academic Achievement

Academic achievement is a strong predictor of high school graduation and is critical to long-term success in college, work, and life. A sixth grader who fails math or English, has unsatisfactory behavior, or poor attendance has a 75% likelihood of dropping out. Freshmen in Chicago public schools who earn a B average or better have an 80% chance of finishing high school with at least a 3.0 GPA.

Why should we focus on academic achievement?

Parents play a critical role in helping their child to make satisfactory progress. Students especially depend upon their parents for ensuring their learning needs are met in and out of school and for monitoring their homework.

What schools can do

  • Inform parents about what children are expected to learn and do at every grade level through school orientations as well as school newsletters.
  • Hold parent/teacher conferences to identify strengths and strategies for improving student success in school.
  • Identify non-traditional ways to connect with parents unable to attend regularly scheduled parent/teacher conferences.
  • Communicate regularly about children's progress, not just when problems arise.
  • Send home homework or learning assignments.
  • Hold family math and literacy workshops aimed at helping parents learn about what they can do at home to help children advance their skills.

What community agencies can do

  • Partner with schools to help parents understand what to expect in a high-quality educational program and how to determine the best match for their child.
  • Help to identify positive solutions when conflicts arise between school staff and parents about how to promote a child’s academic achievement.
  • Assist parents in identifying when their child might be at risk because of an undetected learning disability and/or they are disengaging from school.
  • Partner with schools to offer workshops on family math and literacy as well as other relevant parenting topics.
  • Use home visitors who reflect the cultural and linguistic background of families to help parents acquire skills to assist their children at home.
  • Create lending libraries offering families access to learning materials that they can use at home.

What parents can do

  • Think about the kind of educational program your child needs to learn and thrive, and seek placement in those schools which meet his or her needs.
  • Know your child's teachers. Let teachers know that you want to be contacted immediately about any concerns.
  • Attend parent-teacher conferences and regularly seek out information about your child's progress.
  • Request a developmental assessment if a learning disability is suspected.
  • Watch for signs that your child might be at risk.
  • Use activities at home to develop their knowledge and skills, and utilize community resources (museums, libraries, youth centers) to create additional opportunities for learning.

Handouts for parents

Engaging Parents to Support Academic Attainment Over Time

Chances for success are improved when adults offer children, starting at a young age, positive expectations and aspirations about what they can do and achieve. Learn ways to help parents support students' long-term success in school, career, and life.

Why should we focus on Academic Attainment over time?

Students and their parents need to have shared beliefs and understanding about long-term guaranteed success and what it takes. In many middle schools, students already face the challenge of tracking to vocational or college bound courses. High school students and their parents especially need a strong understanding of career options and what’s required to pursue them.

What schools can do

  • Help families understand and prepare for transitions into elementary, middle, high school, and beyond.
  • Maintain high expectations for children and convey them to parents and students.
  • Give parents an opportunity, especially with middle and high school students, to be a part of selecting their children’s courses.
  • Help parents and students connect course selection to educational and career aspirations and future hopes.
  • Organize college and career exploration activities for students and their families.

What community agencies can do

  • Inspire families to set high aspirations for their children by introducing them to successful role models possibly through interactions with parents and community members with successful careers.
  • Help parents and students understand available living wage career options and the pathways for gaining the necessary skills.
  • Provide counseling about applying to college and obtaining financial aid, especially when parents did not graduate from college.

What parents can do

  • Talk regularly to your child about the value of education and its importance to their future.
  • Set and maintain high expectations for your children's achievement while keeping abreast of what is involved in reaching those aspirations.
  • Reach out for help and advice from parents, schools and community agencies about how to apply for college or ensure your child enrolls in an appropriate vocational education program.
  • Seek out and take advantage of programs that expose your child to educational and career opportunities in the community.

Handouts for parents

Engaging Parents to Support Good School Attendance

Poor school attendance is a strong predictor of school dropout. Children can’t learn if they aren’t present in school, so attendance is a must. Parents are best positioned to ensure children attend school and to build the expectation around attendance.

Why should we focus on attendance?

Children can’t learn if they aren’t present in school, so attendance is a must. By 6th grade, missing 20% (or two months of school) is a critical warning sign of school drop-out. By 9th grade, missing 20% of school can be a better predictor of drop-out than 8th grade test scores.

We can influence attendance and poor attendance can be prevented. Parents are best positioned to ensure children attend school and to build the expectation around attendance.

What Schools Can Do

  • Educate families about the adverse impact of poor attendance on school achievement.
  • Inform parents about the positive incentives students receive for good attendance; consider recognizing parents as well for their role in their child’s attendance.
  • Notify parents that their child’s absence was noticed either through a call home or, if feasible, an email.
  • Reach out to families to find out what is happening if children begin to miss school regularly. Where appropriate, refer families to available resources in the community.

What community agencies can do

  • Teach parents about the importance of regular attendance starting in kindergarten.
  • Help parents of older students understand that excessive absence is a critical warning sign for dropping out.
  • Partner with schools to provide social work and case management supports to families of children with extended absences.
  • Address barriers to attendance by offering services (economic supports, social services, etc.) at schools and referring families to other available resources in the community.

What parents can do

  • Help your child get into the habit and learn the value of regular routines.
  • Teach your child that attending school is nonnegotiable unless they are truly sick.
  • Build relationships with other families and discuss how you can help each other out (e.g., drop off or pick up children, babysit, translation assistance) in times of need or emergencies.
  • Identify non-academic activities (drama, art, music, etc.) that can help motivate your child’s interest in school and learning and seek out schools that can offer those experiences.

Handouts for parents

Additional Resources

Sources: America's Promise Alliance and