What ClassTag’s 100 Most Connected Classrooms Can Teach You About Parent Engagement
At ClassTag, we believe in the power of technology to revolutionize education and lead the new generation towards academic success. We also know that tools don’t work on their own — any software or application has to be applied and used consistently. In the past year, we’ve seen impressive results achieved by teachers who took the leap and committed to our parent engagement system. Today, we are looking at our top teacher innovators and most switched on classrooms with an ambitious goal in mind: decoding the blueprint for successful parent engagement using technology.
What We’ve Learned About ClassTag’s 100 Power Users
Reaching all the parents in your community
The most successful teachers connect with over 96% of parents invited to the system. A staggering majority of our classrooms have at least one parent connection in every single child’s family.
This in itself is a huge success, comparing the the average results — according to our prior research, teachers estimated that more than half of their students’ parents (56%) were not fully engaged in classroom activities and progress.
Why is this important? There is countless research proving that family engagement has a positive impact on student’s well-being and academic performance. As pointed out by an education policy specialist Matthew Weyer, “one fundamental element of family engagement is the quality of the teacher-parent relationship, centered on shared values. Positive and trusting relationships between educators and parents help to improve the success of the child in school.”
Engaged Teacher’s Tip: “ClassTag has given me the tool to reach all parents simultaneously. It did take work to reach 100% engagement. I made phone calls, was persistent, and resent invitations, but it paid off.”
Visual communication is key
Happy snapping! Our top shutterbugs share as many as 10 photos per week! ClassTag’s creative innovators seem to never run out of photo opportunities. Engaged parents have been enjoying updates from the first day of school, classroom competitions, meeting the school mascot. Some teachers even use quick photo updates to introduce parents to a new academic topic and share the learning process.
Engaged Teacher’s Tip: “I share photos frequently to create an instant photo diary of our year. Not all parents can volunteer in the classroom, but this is a great way for them to be a part of the events happening at school with their child. ”
Don’t be afraid to ask parents for help
In our top engaged classrooms, teachers aren’t afraid to assign some “homework” to parents! Switched on teachers use requests and volunteering functionality on a weekly basis, reaching out to parents and caregivers with various requests — from recruiting a driver for a field trip to securing some popcorn for a movie night. In our top connected classrooms, parents respond to 94% of volunteering requests.
“Volunteering at school helps parents learn about the curriculum, and enables them to provide better guidance at home”
– says Work & Family Columnist at Wall Street Journal, Sue Shellenbarger. For older students, the results are particularly striking. Research by educator Sophia Catsambislinked parental volunteering in middle school to students taking more demanding courses and showing more motivation in high school.
Engaged Teacher’s Tip: “I learned to ask for support from parents. I just type in that I need a few drivers for a field trip and they sign up. No follow up emails from me because the app does it all.”
Regular communication creates a culture of parent engagement
In our most engaged classrooms, teachers share at least one announcement every week. Announcements help parents support their children and help them achieve.
Additionally, we shouldn’t forget that keeping in contact doesn’t only positively impact parents and children — it also has a power to positively influence teachers’ experiences as educators. Positive parent-teacher interactions have been found to positively affect teachers’ self-perception and job satisfaction in multiple studies.
Bridging the gap between home and school with fun events
In our community, parents and teachers connect through monthly events. Fun events bridge the gap between home & school, giving parents the perfect opportunity to get involved. Our teachers know how to mix educating and entertaining, sharing events such as Cowboy Cowgirl Day, Back to School Bash, Book Fair, Student Success Night and more.
Engaged Teacher’s Tip: “We used the standard notes home to the parents, but they didn’t always check their child’s folder. We also used a Facebook page. But with our school having 3 different sites, with each site doing different events on different days, parents often got confused with the different dates and events. Keeping all information within one system has made a huge difference.”
Our top connected classrooms cracked the code of effective communication, but how can other teachers follow suit?
5 Elements of Successful Parent Teacher Partnership
Analyzing the communication patterns of our 100 most engaged classrooms, as well as listening to the community and sharing experiences, we’ve been able to distinguish five elements of successful parent teacher partnership.
Because we understand how difficult it can be to make different pieces of the puzzle work, we categorized all the activities based on the strength of the relationships.
Dr. Karen Mapp, Harvard’s Senior Lecturer on Education, encourages educators to do a self-diagnostic.
“The first thing you have to ask yourself is what kind of relationships you have with families. Do families know you — the principals, the teachers — and have you built a solid relationship with them?”
If you’ve only just began building your relationships with parents and the community, start simple.
Dr. Mapp believes that families first contact with educator shouldn’t be “a flyer or notice about a parenting class”. The school staff needs to lay the groundwork of getting know the parents and make them feel respected first, drawing them into the school life. “Overtime, you can move towards building thriving partnerships through incorporating more techniques for connecting” — suggests dr. Mapp.
Parent Teacher Relationships
Parent teacher relationship is surely the first thing that comes to mind then talking engagement. It starts with ensuring that baseline communication has been established and parents fulfill their basic commitments, such as attending the conferences. From there, teachers can continue to deepen the bond through pick up/ drop off exchanges, home visits and spontaneous sharing of student’s victories and challenges in a meaningful way.
Creating atmosphere which gives parents a voice and makes them comfortable sharing is a crucial element of a successful partnership. Keeping parents updated helps families understand and appreciate school-based learning and activities. This might include sharing pictures of what happens during the day, field trips, competitions — nothing is more motivating than seeing children learning and having fun. In a thriving partnership, families also feel comfortable sharing important information and updates affecting their child, including student’s preferences and struggles.
Support at Home
Is what’s happening at home completely out of teacher’s hands? Not necessarily. From helping parents encourage a consistent homework routine to running parent workshops that help them understand learning techniques and the curriculum, the engaged teacher has a multitude of tools at their disposal to work on student’s success at home together with parents.
Support at School
On the flipside, parents presence is also desperately needed at school. Chaperoning or donating needed materials are the obvious opportunities teachers often turn to. What’s even better is providing diverse opportunities based on parents’ availability and interests, time and skills, which make the experience more fulfilling. Parents need to be aware of opportunities to get involved not only at class level (field trips, chaperones) but also school level (school-wide Halloween party).
How is community building different from developing relationships with parents? Classroom is the basic unit of school community, but other community bonds matter, too. From school-wide events to families connecting and interacting, deepening these relationships contribute to a positive and friendly “school climate”. Not surprisingly, researchers believe that positive school climate has a significant impact on academics: happy school helps students succeed.
So what does a successful partnership look like?
Teachers and parents communicate often, with both sides feeling encouraged and comfortable with initiating the exchange. Teachers’ recommendations are valued and applied at home, while parents, in turn, are present and contributing at school. A strong classroom becomes a building block for a school and local community, with families and educators interconnecting and sharing.
The final lesson? Even in the most connected classrooms, it is impossible to satisfy everyone — parents’ communication preferences can vary dramatically. Our most engaged teachers found that by using ClassTag they can give each family the level of communication what they want. Giving parents options to customize the frequency and types of updates empowers them to participate in the communication on their terms, rather than end up feeling bombarded with notifications.
We are constantly learning and updating our knowledge about what strategies work, and success of these creative parent engagement pioneers brings us inspiration and ideas for new features.
What will you take away from the success of our top engagers? What is the next step you’ll take to improve engagement in your school community? Commit to three new techniques to implement in the next semester and share them with us!
Did you know that the National Parent Involvement Day is almost here(11/17)? We’re currently working on a great new tool that will help you evaluate the strength of your relationships with parents. After answering a few questions, you’ll get an assessment of your current engagement level, as well as actions and ideas you can use to improve, tailored to your score.
Can’t wait to take the quiz? Sign up to be the first to know when it’s ready.