Beyond literacy and math nights – the importance of engaging families of SWD for overall improvement

Our topic this month is Parent/Family Engagement in schools. We know that families who are involved in their child’s education at home or at school achieve at higher levels. So what does or can this look like? It can look different for everyone.

As I reflected on this topic, being a single mother, working full time, it came in many forms throughout my son’s life; communicating with him about his day, sending in the cupcakes, regular emails with teachers, checking homework, listening to how he was feeling about school, volunteering for an activity (when I could), attending evening activities. For other families it may be one or all or these or look entirely different.

As educators we must realize that all families participate in their child’s education the best way they know how and are able to. We must meet them where they are. We must be willing to think outside the box. We must be open to changing what we do in the school environment to foster increased engagement. Parent-teacher conferences and literacy nights are not enough anymore.

Mahatma Ghandi believed that to make change in this world we must alter our personal nature. We must approach things with a new perspective. Below we give you some ideas and links to provoke thought and possibly alter your approach to engaging families.

The Ohio Department of Education dedicated a webpage to family engagement and involvement.  The webpage describes these best practices for engaging parents:

  • Create a welcoming school climate.
  • Provide families information related to child development and creating supportive learning environments.
  • Establish effective school-to-home and home-to-school communication
  • Strengthen families’ knowledge and skills to support and extend their children’s learning at home and in the community
  • Engage families in school planning, leadership and meaningful volunteer opportunities.
  • Connect students and families to community resources that strengthen and support students’ learning and well-being

These best practices are recommended for all families including the families of students with disabilities.

Additionally, schools should:

  • Offer flexible scheduling for meetings (ex. Mornings and evenings) where possible.
  • Provide parents with timely information, description and explanation of the curriculum including the academic assessments used to monitor student progress.
  • Share opportunities for participation in building academic decision-making.
  • Explicitly describe ways in which each parent can support their children’s learning by:
    • Monitoring attendance, homework completion, television watching, and screen time.
    • Volunteering at school with instructions on how to sign up for volunteering.
    • Supporting positive two-way conversations with teachers and staff.

Families are our biggest allies in educating children!

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