Chapter 1 – Vision for engaging parents

School districts and school staff need to connect and build positive relationships with parents before they can effectively engage parents in improving school programs and activities. First, it is essential for school staff, parents, and community partners to recognize the advantages of working together to guide children’s health and learning. This can be accomplished by having a shared school vision for engaging parents in their children’s education and communicating that vision to everyone in the school community. The school's vision for parent engagement can set the tone for a positive relationship with parents and the expectations parents have for being involved in school health and academic activities.

Furthermore, school staff should be prepared to work with parents. School administrators can enhance staff knowledge, ability, and confidence to engage parents by ensuring ample opportunities for professional development on effective parent engagement strategies. For example, teachers can learn how to involve parents in students' education homework, how to encourage parents’ visits to school and participation at formal and informal school activities or how to reach out to uninvolved parents. Schools might invite community partners to provide professional development in these areas and make staff aware of existing parent engagement resources. In addition, school staff can be given dedicated time to plan and organize parent-friendly activities and events.

Finally, school administrators and school staff should ensure that all parents feel welcomed in the school and should provide a variety of opportunities for them to be involved in school health/gardening/cooking activities. School administrators might use a survey to assess the needs and interests of parents related to academics and health/gardening/cooking. The results from such an assessment can inform school administrators about the best ways to communicate with parents and help administrators prioritize the types of activities to implement throughout the school year to increase parental participation.

Examples of ways school staff can connect with parents

  • Ensure the school or school district has a clear vision for parent engagement that includes engaging parents in school activities.
  • Does the school mission reflect the importance of parent engagement and establish a foundation for parent engagement in school activities?
  • Does the school have a well-planned program for parent engagement?
  • Are policies and procedures in place to maximize parent engagement in the school’s health/gardening/cooking activities, services, and programs?
  • Does the school have a friendly, welcoming environment for parents?
  • Does the school welcome parents to participate in and contribute to the school’s health/gardening/cooking activities, services, and programs?
  • Ensure that school staff members can connect with parents and support parent engagement in school health/gardening/cooking activities.
  • Does the school have a dedicated committee of teachers, administrators, and parents that help the school plan, implement, evaluate, and continually improve its outreach to parents and the quality of parent engagement activities?
  • Are there school health/gardening/cooking activities that address the interests of parents, such as healthy eating/cooking seminars?
  • Are school staff members provided with opportunities to learn how to increase parent engagement in school?