Meet families where they are; at their door, not your door. The phrase “hard-to-reach families” is a misnomer; there are no parents that are hard to reach. Rather, there are false assumptions about families that leads to assuming they are unreachable or don’t have the capacity to engage with their child’s learning. Do hard-to-reach parents really exist or it is a perception that educators hold? Rather, it behooves all of us to examine and alter our perceptions about how to capitalize on parents’ assets – the wealth of knowledge families have about their children and how to capture that knowledge to be able to work with families. How can educators be instrumental in gathering families to impact the education their children receive? It is essential that educators recognize and utilize families’ assets in creating family-school partnerships.
Family-school partnerships are important to the education of young children. Well-formed partnerships support children academically and socially in school, which increases school attendance, leading in turn to higher graduation rates. Families who engage with their children’s learning and schools realize important payoffs such as proficient reading and better math skills, higher grades and better-paid employment after high school. In one study on family engagement, higher levels of positive family-school partnerships significantly and positively predicted better student social skills and work habits. These attributes are the drivers that represent the foundation for academic and career readiness.
In order to have effective family-school partnership programs, understanding parents and teachers from their earliest educational experience is significant. In a recent study, the findings underscore the importance of understanding educational histories – the past affects how families have learned to work with schools. Vice versa, educational experiences impact how teachers think about working with families to develop and sustain partnerships. Additionally, educators’ own developmental years may influence how they expect families to engage with their child’s school. The phenomenon of how families and educators past educational histories influence behaviors of engagement is not well understood or researched.
What is known is the value of positive partnerships between families and schools. Partnerships that use bi-directional ongoing communication create an atmosphere of openness that foster each party’s ability to focus on what is best for the student. Families in the Greater Danbury area have multiple opportunities to build partnerships with their children’s schools. Have you recently attended a PTO meeting, a school activity or called your child’s teacher to see how you can help in the classroom? Schools offer many opportunities to visit schools and use electronic communication devices such as School DoJo or Remind to help parents learn about what is going on in their children’s classrooms. Schools and their teaching staff realize there are no “hard-to-reach parents”; we must just think differently how we meet you at the front door.
Anne E. Mead, Ed. D., is the administrator for the Early Childhood Education and Extended Learning Programs of the Danbury Public Schools. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact her at 203-830-6508 or firstname.lastname@example.org.