The current toolbox for growing the school/family partnership is broken. It is a system built on old communication methods, inequitable access, and ineffective gatherings. This leaves the support and synergy between home and school less than optimal in most situations. The old open house, parent conference, and PTO model leaves all parties disappointed around an essential partnership needed to support students through the growing complexities of school and life. Instead of doing the same things marginally better, schools and districts should look to these seven ways to restructure their commitment to robust partnerships with families.
1. Acknowledge that old mental models exist
Schools need to acknowledge that there are a variety of old mental models of learning and traditional schooling that parents bring to the table. Some parents remember their success, but others remember the negative adults and failure from their school career. Both of these mental models can make it difficult for parents to understand the modern classroom and the complexity of today’s schools. As leaders, it is important to explicitly talk about the lenses that parents bring with them in support of their child. Doing so allows for a sense of connection and understanding from the beginning.
2. Unearth a dynamic set of barriers impacting deeper partnership
All schools struggle to deepen their partnerships with families. These barriers can include time, language, and modes of communication. Schools looking to rewrite their partnership playbook need to examine every possible barrier and consider which families are impacted by the barrier and what solutions exists for each. Growing in this area also requires meaningful conversations with a full range of parents to unearth barriers that are hard to recognize.
3. Be intentional about giving families access to all support services
As schools develop more robust systems to care for students’ mental health and emotional needs, the availability of the programs can get lost in correspondence. Counselors, social workers, support groups, and outside partnerships have an opportunity to impact the entire school culture. It is important that leaders are marketing, branding, and building a communications plan to continually amplify the availability of these support services.