Encourage Parental Involvement


Parent Role in School Improvement 

Did you know...Federal No Child Left Behind Act requires parent involvement at many schools.

1.  State statutes require SAC election procedures; does your district provide election procedures?
2.  Parent Elections for SAC Positions - various methods and how to's...
3. 40+  Ideas to Promote Parent/Community Participation in SAC 
4. Common & Easy ways to discourage Parental and/or Community Involvement
5. More reasons for parent involvement...teens are less likely to drop out if parents are involved...

Ideas to Promote Parent/Community Participation in SAC

ROAD Blocks and Solutions
Ways of retaining your SAC members
Attracting BEFORE meetings
Making SAC Important  - raising consciousness of  SAC
Getting members to meetings - transportation
Unusual & Fun Attractors to Meetings
Communication in other languages & education terminology barriers
Meeting Strategies
Tearing Down Language Barriers
Other resources for ideas for Parent Involvement

ways of retaining your SAC members

1. *** Make sure the parents on SAC have something meaningful to do once they get there! They should be involved in making substantive decisions about the school, and should NOT be a rubber stamp group. People resent wasting their time. (submitted by Kathy Mizereck., Leon Co.)

"No one will stick around if they don't feel their input is wanted, needed, nor appreciated. (submitted by Sharon Danaher, Hillsborough Co.)  

"It has been my experience that parents get involved when they are made to feel welcome in the decision-making and when they are given meaningful opportunities for participation and when they see tangible results of their participation.  This appears to hold true no matter what the economic or cultural backgrounds might be. Schools who operate from the assumption that parents are vital partners in the process of education seem to be most successful in this regard." (submitted by Andrea Willett, Leon Co.)   

"Give them something worthy to do" - taken from "Training the trainer" DOE workshop    
2. Listen to their suggestions/advice and if possible use them...When a suggestion is attacked, torn apart, belittled, chances are you will never see that parent again and not only that, they will spread the word about the bad school... They may have a valuable insight that school personal would not have realized.
3. Try to give everyone a named position. Everyone on a SAC should contribute. Everyone is valuable and has something to offer. When one is counted upon for something they do, they often will live up to the expectation. One person could be the chairman of Communications (Phone /E-mail Reminders) or a chairman of hospitality (the principal or PTA can donate funds for drink and snacks for each SAC meeting. Here in Pinellas Co., school improvement funds cannot be used for food items.)  Parliamentarian, timekeeper.....Besides, these named positions sound important. I call it "Bragging Points"    
4. Get feedback from them every meeting in the form of a few written words as to how they think the meetings are going.


Attracting BEFORE meetings


Parent Information Centers:  Create a bulletin board in the school (perhaps the office) that minutes, agenda, meeting dates, times are posted.  Parents will know where to go to get that information and will know the various organizations that they may participate in - like PTA or various school improvement teams, SIP teams, etc...


Reminder phone calls (the volunteer coordinator does this at Northeast High, which is wonderful!)


Reminder E-mail (easy to do; one email can be sent to virtually every parent in the school.... our parents prefer this method over more traditional communications)

4. Personally invite the parent/community person either by phone or in person.  Very effective that personal one on one invitation (especially from a principal!). JUST ASK!
5. Change or vary the location - do you bus in students from neighboring areas for diversity?  Maybe a meeting or two can be held at a local church, recreation center or school.          
6. Use the marquee at the school to advertise the meeting. Make the meeting days and times in advance and post them in newsletters and etc...so that people can plan in advance.
7. Use flyers, poster boards, automated phone systems that call homes of parent with information. Use local or neighborhood newspapers.


Meeting Strategies


Snacks, coffee or soda - this gives the feeling of welcome 


Hospitality or short social time (10 minutes before meeting perhaps....)


Babysitting:  Offer or at least survey parents to see if babysitting would help them attend meetings        

4. Do not use acronyms that confuse the parents - usually they will not say one word but will walk away totally bewildered and probably never come back!  Perhaps a SAC can make a game of it where when an acronym is used, if a member guesses it's correct meaning they get a door prize or a different game of when an acronym is used without it's interpretation, the person donates 50 cents for refreshments...you get the idea!
5. Survey the community/parents...maybe you need to change the day or time....
6. From literature from the county, they emphasis keeping a meeting to a reasonable time. That is true, but, if a meeting is being run on a hurried and has a long agenda, people will not speak up about issues that they felt was important because of "this meeting must end at 8 sharp...we must hurry, hurry, hurry."  This is a turn off.


"I also make sure that the negative people get to hold responsible positions on subcommittees so that they can learn more about the school and, I hope, become more positive. (submitted by Sharon Danaher, Hillsborough Co.)


Making SAC Important  - raising consciousness of  SAC   

1. Give SAC parents a "special spot" on stage in graduation and if a child graduates, let the parent give them their diploma.
2. "The A team" -- A school creatively formed the "A team" which consisted of children of SAC parents.  The A team would meet with the principal 1x a month for lunch or discussion.  Very Special.  Very effective! 
3. SAC recognition - A parent in Sarasota (L. Benson) has a polo shirt with the school logo embroidered on the shirt with the addition of the acronym SAC on the bottom of the logo indicating she was a member of that school's SAC.  It looked great, it showed team spirit and pride, and was a great way to promote SAC in that school.
4. Give descriptions of what SAC does, the duties, the responsibilities, the ability to decide on school improvement funds in newsletters and other communications from school to the home.
5. Businesses that participate get free ad space in the yearbook or monthly newsletter.


When parents complain, have administrator and teachers invite the people to the next meeting. Often they won't attend but feel better that there could be another avenue for resolution of their complaint. We had a guy who was sent home for wearing a girl's prom gown to school. "It was disruptive,"  he was told. (It did comply with dress codes...though) He thought that was ridiculous. He came to the meeting, voiced very well his complaint and asked us for help. We did not but we sure praised him! He was taking the right steps in a grownup manner...       


Unusual & Fun Attractors to Meetings

1. Create Parent-Partners.  A "strong" parent or teacher could "mentor" or partner a parent that may not participate otherwise.  One may, as a partner:   Remind the parent of meetings, share rides, call and chat with the parent, answer questions or explain SAC, the mission and goals, make the parent feel like they are not alone, that they have a friend to sit with...you get the idea!.         

Give parents a homework pass for their child to use during that month (they give the pass instead of the homework) Children can often persuade parents like no one else....    


Offer a stipend for a teacher to do a " homework help time" for students while the parents attend the meeting

3. At our school when there is a parent meeting (i.e. PTO) the principal makes it a rule that teachers cannot assign homework

Scholarships:  In Pinellas County, there is a "Doorways Scholarship" program by the Education Foundation.  Students with good grades and behavior are awarded college scholarships.  Part of the contract includes parental participation in SAC if asked.  This could be expanded in other counties with partnerships with businesses or county education foundations.


Maybe some of the teachers will come and meet the parents during this time...like one month first grade teachers or English teachers will be attending the SAC meeting. Many parents want to meet the teachers but cannot come to open house....I know that you cannot make the teacher give more of their time...but maybe many will realize the value of this. When you have parent support, that can really make a difference with a student.


How about door prizes - maybe a partner business could donate a dozen lottery tickets...I know this is a point of bribery but if we can get them in, perhaps they will "buy-in" and keep attending...


A contest (class with most parent participation has "pizza party" ) Students bring parents receive....award, prize, pass, etc....


How about a short 10-15 minute presentation by a grade, class, or project or award. For elementary school, maybe a couple of songs by the kindergarteners, or at high & middle school an award to the "turn around" kids...There is much to cover in a SAC meeting so keeping it short is important. But the children will be bringing their parents, maybe grandparents...We must celebrate the success of the students and teachers as well as guide, develop, evaluate, and increase achievement (success) of the students. Besides, this WILL bring in the involvement and perhaps they will continue to come to meetings...at least they will know that there is a SAC!


Getting members to meetings - transportation


Transportation:  With the School Improvement funds, how about paying for a taxi for a low income or parent who does not have transportation. We tried a bus one time, but upon a dismal result - 0 parents of the targeted group, I think that sending a school bus down to an area looks "poor" or second class. I, personally would be embarrassed. I think that perhaps a business partnership with a taxi firm may enable a discount or even a free ride. Would you be embarrassed to take a school bus to a SAC meeting - or would you feel that would label you? (this question is particularly enlightening in the fact that the SAC must represent all students (race, socio-economics.....) 

2. "We have used a bus, driven our cars, etc. and the turnout was still disappointing. But one more person is better than none!" (submitted by Sharon Danaher, Hillsborough Co.)      
3. "Other parents or teachers can arrange to pick up the parents who need rides; or perhaps the state can give tax credits to the taxi companies who provide the service if they document the times used, etc. " (submitted by Merri Mann, Miami Co.)
4. Buddy System - one SAC member will share rides with the other "buddy" SAC member -- this if also effective for language barriers (one may interpret for another) or just to bring in new members - every SAC member will have the job of sponsoring one "buddy" SAC member.


Other Resources for Parent Involvement Ideas

Partner with PTA - http://PTA.org or the PTA parent involvement page:
http://pta.org/ or PTA National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs -  http://pta.org/programs/invstand.htm 
Space for Your Idea!  ...click here to submit

More reasons for parent involvement...teens are less likely to drop out if parents are involved...

Parent involvement in their children's education is always important.  It is especially important if the parent feels there is at risk for dropping out.  Here's what happens when parents are involved:
Student dropout rates go down.
Student achievement tends to rise.
Student attendance improves.
Students complete more homework.
Student attitudes and behavior improve.



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