Friday, October 14, 2011

Increasing Parent Involvement

Working in a large, low socioeconomic status, urban district, we have very low parent participation at my building, both at CSE meetings and at other school functions. What's a super psychologist to do? We know (or hope) that parents care about their kids and how they're being educated, but what can we do to get parents involved in our school community?

Parent involvement in our CSE process is poor. I think it's for a number of reasons: lack of understanding of special education, apathy about the educational system, and general involvement. We constantly come up against disconnected phones, wrong addresses/transient families, and have to fight to get consents signed to do evaluations. Our social worker makes many home visits to obtain signatures and social history reports. Most parents do not attend our CSE meetings (though we had FOUR parents attend this week, I think it was a record!). In order to meet their needs and hopefully get them to school, we will try and schedule a meeting time according to what the parent wants (i.e. an afternoon meeting for the parent that works mornings). We've had our guidance counselor pick up parents and bring them to school if they do not have a means of transportation. We also do phone conferences if the parent can take a longer phone call while at work. Otherwise, we go ahead with CSE meetings without the parent, notes that in our meeting minutes, then call them afterwards to go over the results and committee decision. Our social worker has also made home visits to go over meeting findings. 

Two brothers at our math & literacy night last year.
In terms of other school functions, I can recommend two things whole-heartedly that will get parents to school: food and gifts! We ALWAYS feed our families when they come to school for functions. For a lot of inner city families, having a meal served is really important for them, plus the school gets the added bonus of having parents in. Last year, we had a spaghetti dinner during our math & literacy night, we served pizza and cupcakes at parent/teacher conference night last year, and to start this school year, we had a BBQ in our courtyard. We also offer incentives for if parents decide to come to school functions, like educational games (Monopoly, Uno, Checkers, Chess, Sorry, Battleship, etc), books, and door prizes. We also usually have a bounce house set up in our gym, which is a big hit. I usually have to stop myself from kicking off my leopard print shoes and jumping in.

How do you involve parents in your building? What strategies work for you to help parents get invested in your school community? What suggestions do you have to schools that struggle with parent involvement?

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  1. Aimee,

    You may have already heard of it/it may be a little basic for you, but the Iris Center has a zillion resources for educators. In one of my SPED classes we went over a module that specifically addressed parental involvement. It had a nifty little chart (I love nifty charts; don't you?) broken into 6 different involvement categories with examples for each. You can find it at I think this chart is a good spring board for more specific ideas. The categories are diverse enough to serve a diverse parent population.

    Of course, like you mention, it's difficult to increase parental involvement in a low SES district because the parents likely have a lot on their plate. What I would give to be able to remove some of those obstacles!! I think you are making strides in the right direction, and hey, free stuff is always an effective incentive, especially PIZZA. ;)


    P.S. When I saw you commented on my blog I just about died. A minute later: on the phone with the ol' boyfriend, making high pitched noises. Thank you!

  2. Hi Monica, thanks for the great chart (yes, love charts)! I haven't heard of the Iris Center before, but will definitely be checking out the website over my Cheerios this morning. In looking at the pdf, I was surprised by how much of their suggestions we actually do (parent workshops, PTO, home visits, providing info on community resources). Hopefully, we can find ways to make what we already do more effective, and find new ways to get parents into school, too.

    PS: You're very welcome, and thank YOU for the link to my blog in your post! There were similar squealings to Fiance when I saw it. ;)


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