How to engage parents online more effectively

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has teamed up with North Carolina’s Guilford County Schools to make its digital content and interactive learning tools accessible at home as well as at school.

Parenting is the toughest and most important role most adults will ever have. Yet, far too many feel ill equipped to handle the job. Others are simply too busy making ends meet, or so overwhelmed by life that parenting simply takes a back seat to more pressing concerns.

As someone raised in a “survival of the fittest” family, with few rules, multiple crises, and modest expectations, I can relate to other parents who feel inept when confronted by the litany of things educators expect parents to know and do.

It’s as if teachers and other suspiciously together parents have a secret codebook that tells them how to handle every situation and explains educational mysteries. Surely all parents are not born knowing why it’s important to read to infants, even though they are clearly not interested in books—or that teenagers who seem to hate your very presence really covet more time with caring, competent adults.

Telling parents like me that we need to “support the educational process at home,” or that you want to “partner with me” in addressing school concerns about my beloved child, is like waving a red flag in front of a bull. I might not know what to do with my child, but I sure recognize condescension when I hear it.

To help parents feel more confident in interacting with school personnel, and to bridge the knowing-doing gap, organizations like GreatSchools Inc. and companies like Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (HMH) are teaming up with schools and districts to offer free, online learning opportunities for their families.

For more information about parent engagement, see:

Engaging Your Community with Effective Communication

GreatSchools (, a national nonprofit headquartered in San Francisco, is partnering with Miami Dade Public Schools, Hillsborough County, Fla., Public Schools, Denver Public Schools, and Los Angeles Unified School District, among others, in leveraging digital media for parents as part of its College Bound online learning program.

Easy to log onto and use, College Bound helps unpack the middle-class codebook for families, starting in kindergarten and continuing through fifth grade. The goal is to build parent knowledge and skills that foster greater student success.

Designed with low-income families in mind but suitable for all parents, the program combines short lessons with an online community and personalized coaching—all in English or Spanish.

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