Getting More Families Engaged in Middle and High Schools

Posted on January 30, 2019
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Categories: Featured FACEs

A full-house for a SAC Meeting at Furness High School in South Philadelphia. (Photo credit: @FurnessHigh on Twitter)

The FACE Office receives many questions about boosting family engagement but getting more middle and high school families involved tops the list. It’s a tough one; family engagement at ALL grade levels can be challenging work, but family engagement looks a bit different in middle and high school than in elementary school. Students are older and may want to be more self-sufficient, they may carry more responsibility for themselves in these grades, and may attend school on the other side of the city, making it challenging for their families to physically get to the school. All of these points are perfectly understandable, so we wanted to identify a few strategies that we’ve compiled from family engagement and educational sources throughout the country to help you out.

Take a look at these five tips for increasing family engagement at the high school level:

  1. Take the first step in reaching out and building trust. It’s possible that some middle and high school families may not want to be as involved in their student’s secondary education, but it’s also possible that they may not know how. Administrators and teachers alike could consider setting the tone at the beginning of the school year by offering an invitation of collaboration, how they can support their student and teachers, and ways they can become involved in the school community if they’d like.
  2. Create projects or homework assignments where students need to interact with their parents, family members, or the community. This suggestion allows for families and the community to engage directly in student’s academics, even becoming a part of the process. Students will have the opportunity to gain valuable research and communication skills while learning about the experiences of the people around them, while families and community members will gain insight into what students are learning and how they can possibly support them.
  3. Register for a Parent and Family Portal account. Although families should feel welcome to come into the school building to participate in family engagement opportunities, many families likely have job, transportation, or other restrictions that don’t allow them to come into the school on a regular basis. By registering for a Parent and Family Portal account, families can stay connected to things like their child’s test scores and attendance from their smart phone or computer, creating a more open line of understanding of what’s going on in their education. Learn more here!
  4. Provide workshops and information for families that directly relate to their child’s future. At the middle school level, this may look like workshops on the high school application process, which can be a daunting and confusing process for families and students alike. At the high school level, families may be interested to learn about career options after high school, how to apply for FAFSA, or how to support their child in applying for college. This is both helpful for students and provides families with opportunities to support their child’s future.
  5. Partner with feeder schools to engage families early on. Family engagement is often strongest at the elementary school level, so by reaching out to the elementary schools that feed into your school or the schools where you know a large portion of students come from may help bridge the connection between the family engagement habits formed early on by families into their child’s secondary education.

While these are just a few many ideas, we hope these tips get middle and high school family engagement practitioners some food for thought. Need assistance from your Family Engagement Liaison in boosting family engagement? Click here to find out who supports your school. Do you have other tips or suggestions for getting middle and high school families involved? Let us know on Twitter or Facebook @sdpFACE!