Mobile Parent Resource Centers: A familiar sight in Syracuse, NY neighborhoods is
the school district's P.U.M.P. (Power Unit for Motivating Parents) bus that reaches out to
parents even in the evenings and weekends during non-winter months. Staffed by the
district's parent advocate and three parent liaisons, the bus “seeks
out parents where it can find them” in the community, whether at a Native
American festival, a community shopping area, or outside of city hall. As if they
were shopping in a bookstore, parents make choices for their children (infants-
12th grade) as well as themselves from a variety of free, new, and diverse books.
Home learning activities for different grade students and local agency information
are also available. The focus of the project is to support at-home learning. (Parent
Resource Outreach Mobile PROM).
First Day of School America: The goal of the First Day of School America program is
to involve families and build community support for education at the beginning of the
school year. Participating schools in this nationwide initiative invite families to a variety
of activities intended to welcome students and parents and build involvement. The
initiative is sponsored by the First Day of School Foundation. The First Day celebration
included not only the morning celebration at the park but also an evening event for
parents unable to participate in the morning at the high school. This event included a
book swap, a magic show, and “make your-own” ice cream sundaes.
Neighborhood Meetings: The neighborhood meetings, held monthly during the
evenings, were inviting to parents because the settings were more comfortable and less
intimidating than the school for many parents. Although most of the meetings are held
in the homes of volunteer host parents, they can also be held in neighborhood churches
and senior citizens centers. Following an introductory overview by team members, the
meeting facilitator offers everyone an opportunity to ask questions, on topics that ranged
from the district budget to class size to inclusion of students with disabilities in the
general education classroom. The host provides refreshments and there would be an
opportunity for informal conversations among parents and the school team members.
Technology Tools: A variety of technology tools may be utilized to effectively and
efficiently communicate with families. Many schools have developed and maintain
World Wide Web sites that include a wealth of information for families. Some districts
have developed Internet-based, home-school communication programs where families
can access student and school information such as daily grade reports, attendance
reports, individual class web pages, class newsletters and reports, and school
information and calendars. Including a special link to information of interest to parents
(family center hours, family involvement policy, upcoming workshops, volunteer
opportunities, homework hotline, etc.) is a family-friendly way to make information
readily available. Create a family-friendly school calendar on its web site, which may be
accessed by month, school, or category. This allows parents to access information about
district-wide events for the entire school year or to narrow their search, for example, to
upcoming family center events and school parent group activities in a particular school
during a given month of the year.
Teachers are also using e-mail messages and listservs to maintain two-way
communication with families. However, since not all families have Internet access,
teachers need to communicate with families in a variety of ways. Publicizing the
availability of school computer labs for family use during non-school hours is helpful for
families who do not have computers at home, as are computer lending libraries for
families. Many schools are now wiring classrooms for telephones at the same time that
they are wiring for Internet access, giving teachers telephones in their classrooms. The
introduction of this technology in the classroom, which many educators feel is long
overdue, represents yet another avenue for teachers to communicate with family
members, both directly and indirectly. Utilizing the “Transparent School” model, parents
can leave messages for teachers, and an autodialing system can broadcast messages to
multiple families to convey school information.
Homework hotlines where students and parents can access homework assignments on a
daily basis have also become increasingly popular. Some schools offer regular “parent
call-in” times for parents to discuss their questions or concerns with teachers or
Local cable channels and radio stations can also be effective communication vehicles for
school-family information. For non-English speaking parents, school events may be
publicized on radio stations/programs that broadcast in their language. Making sure that
school-home communication is conveyed in multiple ways and does not assume that all
families have access to technology will help all families in the school community stay
Fifth Grade Transition: During the spring of each year, sixth grade students who
have graduated return to the elementary school to discuss the culture of middle school
(backpacks, lockers, lunch choices, homework assignments, etc.) and share their
experiences with fifth graders and their parents. Following the student-parent activity,
graduating fifth grade students meet with the middle school students in a “kid-to-kid”
session while parents of the fifth and sixth grade students meet separately to discuss
mutual topics of interest such as schedules and supplies.
Family Leadership Hopes and Dreams: This is an intensive year long project that
helps families understand why they are important to the child’s education. The project
has three phases. Phase 1 is a 41 week parent education program for parents of children
aged birth through five. During Phase 2 the participants each taught one of the lessons.
Phase 3 enabled the same leadership group of parents to teach, volunteer and practice
their leadership skills within the school and to encourage other parents to join in.
International Family Nights: This project is focused on the multi-lingual families
and provides hour long theme-based meetings once a month at the high school level.
International Game Night: Families were assigned to a station based on their
country of origin. Families brought in crafts, stories, music, dances, instruments, art,
customs, games, samples of cuisine and traditional clothing.
International Night Out: Parents volunteer to represent their country of origin.
Dressed in native dress, the parents displayed crafts, stories, music, dances, instruments,
art, customs, games, and samples of cuisine.
Language Star Family Night: Specific activities designed for ELL students and
parents to facilitate their learning of English.
Beautification Day: Students, family and community landscaping, nurseries and
garden clubs made a attempt to clean up the school grounds. This project was especially
appealing to fathers.
Chili Nights Warm Up with Books: The project combines a chili cook-off with both
staff and families bringing the chili.
Clean-A-Thon: Students and families in grades 5 through 8 were assigned to teams
with specific neighborhood areas to clean up (pick up litter, rake leaves etc.) This project
includes front yards as well as parks and common areas.
Community Outreach Dinners: Families and educators meet for an Outreach
Dinner, during which the conversation centers on the parents’ views and concerns.
Fall Community Carnival: This project was produced in collaboration with the
community recreation center and provided games, activities, booths, food, crafts etc.
manned by the district’s teachers.
Pyramid of Professionals: This project is based on structures that empower teachers,
parents, and administrators to share leadership and work together to make important
decisions about the educational experiences of Bennett’s students. The goal is to make
sure that the school culture, values, and practices benefit all stakeholders—students,
educators, and families. Within the Pyramid of Professionals model, the primary
responsibility of parents and teachers was to accept the premise that they form a “team”
of professionals working together to increase students’ success. Parents were expected to
read school newsletters, check their students’ grades and attendance at Parent Portal,
listen to messages sent through Parent Link, reply to e-mails sent by teachers, initiate
correspondence (e-mail, notes, phone calls) when needed, and stay in touch with their
children’s academic and social progress by participating in school conferences. Teachers
and other school staff developed these resources and were expected to sustain good, clear
communications with parents.
Tuesday Mornings: Parents of PreK, K, and 1st grade students drop their children off
on Tuesdays then head to the school cafeteria for some learning of their own. With their
younger children safely occupied with various games, activities, and snacks, the parents
enjoyed light refreshments and discussed a wide variety of issues with Guilford staff and
community volunteers. The topics ranged from school orientation to report cards to
preventing bullying. Organizers drew the initial set of topics on school improvement and
student development suggested by faculty, staff, community members, and parents.
When the first list was covered, the parents in attendance submitted other topics to learn
more about. The school calendar also added subjects for some sessions.
Parent Involvement Annual Report: Compile the data from the year’s activities
around parent involvement, including statistics on academic achievement of students
with parent involvement and those without. Describe the programs and propose any
refinements for the next school year.
Daily Family Phone Messages: Teachers can record a one-minute message to
inform family members about what is happening in their classroom each day. Family
members can leave a message if they want to. Examples of teacher messages are excerpts
from the class singing, requests for supplies or notices of field trips.
Family Support Teams: This team assists teaches and families when they have
problems related to children’s behavior or learning. The team communicates
to the family what the school is doing to address the problem and works to involve the
support of the family at home. This promotes consistency between what is happening at
home and at school. The team also helps to “identify and resolve” home situations that
may be affecting children’s success at school. The team, which meets weekly, includes the
school principal, Title I coordinator, and school nurse.
The Center Without Walls (CWW) program helps parents of children with disabilities
or other special needs connect with programs and services for their children and
themselves. A bilingual, mobile access team takes information, training, and advocacy
services to community-based organizations serving immigrant, minority, and at-risk
families in New York City. CWW provides on-the-spot information about schools,
educational and related services, family and community resources, and respite programs.
Parents can use CWW’s traveling library to access the program’s comprehensive
database of programs and services. The Center Without Walls’ multilingual Access Team
provides training and helps parents with language issues.
Reading At Home: Reading at Home is a course taught by parents to parents of K-3
students. The course helps parents encourage children to develop a lifelong love of
reading. Parents who take the course attend three weekly, 90-minue sessions that are
taught in groups of ten and led by parents trained as group leaders. Parents learn
activities and exercises to do with their children and then share experiences with the
group. Many of the activities require no previous planning or extra supplies. In several
schools where students speak more than one language, parent volunteers can
translate the course into multiple languages.
Parent Training Sessions: Informal training sessions for new families can include:
What a good school looks like
Nuts and bolts of the public schools
How the school; system works
Creating a home learning environment
What it takes to be a school volunteer
Parent and Teacher Expectations for Homework
Parent and Teacher Communication
Fostering a Love for reading in our children
Developing self-confidence and self-respect in our children
Behavioral issues: how parent behavior effects children’s behavior; how
children’s behavior effects parents’ behavior
Multilingual Promising Practices
Cultural Focus Groups: Conduct informal groups with parents and school staff about
their beliefs about how children learn and what role families and schools play in
Cable TV: Tape workshops, meetings, focus groups and put them on the local cable TV
School Cultural Resources Binder: collect information such as who can translate
and for what languages; what are the cultural characteristics for the cultures represented
in the building; what kinds of culturally responsive parental involvement practices have
teachers tried; what practices worked; what do community organizations have to offer
and how can they be contacted; what are different cuisines/restaurants; what about
places of worship?
Volunteer opportunities at school:
• Constructing and maintaining playground equipment
• Planting flowers, trees, shrubs, etc.
• Assisting in coordination of service learning projects in the community
• Conducting parent trainings
• Facilitating parent support meetings
• Mentoring/tutoring students
• Reading stories to students or listening to students read
• Assisting with teacher appreciation activities
• Decorating bulletin boards
• Greeting and welcoming visitors
• Staffing the family center
• Assisting in coordinating a resource lending library
• Offering language translation services
• Accompanying students on field trips
• Acting as “Teacher for a Day” to share a special interest or expertise with
• Working in after-school programs
• Serving on decision-making and advisory committees
Volunteer opportunities at home:
• Assisting with writing, design, and publication of school notices, newsletters, and
• Writing letters/thank you notes
• Making telephone calls to other parents
• Recruiting/coordinating volunteers
• Designing and/or making costumes
• Constructing instructional games
• Providing child care
• Hosting parent meetings
• Serving as peer mentors for new parents
• Designing web sites
• Repairing equipment
• Translating school information into families’ native languages
Take Your Parent to School Day
Professional Development for Teachers and School Staff:
Journey of Parent Education (biases, influences, awareness
Cultural Perspectives on Parenting
Parenting with Special Challenges
Exploring Child Rearing Strategies
Facilitating Parent Learning in Small Groups
Understanding parent and Child Development
Feeding Children and Physical Activities for Families
Guiding, Nurturing and Motivating Children
Family Financial Stability
Measuring Program Outcomes
Professionalism and Building Support for Yourself
Adapted from Partnering with Parents training, Iowa State University Extension