School to Home Communication

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Communication is the cornerstone of a strong and enduring school to home relationship. So, it should be no surprise that schools that work well with families often have improved staff morale and higher staff ratings by the families. Like all forms of communication, school to home communication (and vice versa) is most successful when a two-way, consistent, valid exchange of information occurs.

Considerations

The following six steps from the National PTA's Web site outline a process for initiating and maintaining momentum toward effective and ongoing communication:

  1. Create an action team.
  2. Parents, educators, etc., must be represented and committed to reaching common goals.
  3. Examine current practices.
  4. Review the current status of family and community involvement. Survey staff and parents to ensure a clear understanding.
  5. Develop a written family involvement policy.
  6. A written family involvement policy establishes the vision, common mission and foundation for future plans.
  7. Secure support.
  8. Keep those responsible for implementation, those who will be affected, and those outside the school and program aware of the plan. In addition, remember to solicit their ongoing support.
  9. Provide professional development for school and program staff.
  10. The best models for training are those that provide a staff with several opportunities to interact with the issues, work together, as well as monitor and evaluate progress.
  11. Evaluate and revise the plan.
  12. Family involvement is not a one-time goal, it merits a process of continual improvement and a commitment to long-term success.

Types of Communication:

  • Written. Sending or receiving correspondence is an excellent way to facilitate two-way communication and keep a running record of issues.
  • Phone. Phone conversations should be brief. If more time is needed, aconference should be scheduled to thoroughly review the issue or concern.
  • E-mail. Providing educators with e-mail addresses allows for fast, convenient contact that is also in writing.
  • In person. When a conference is necessary, schedule the time and topic in advance so everyone is prepared.
  • School publications. Handbooks, newsletters, newspapers, flyers, etc., keep families and communities informed, which can facilitate both understanding and involvement.
  • Web site. Creating and updating an effective school and class Web site can promote a connection that reaches far beyond your community.

Online Resources:

  • Partnership for Family Involvement in Education
    http://pfie.ed.gov
    The U.S. Department of Education administers this partnership, which offers resources, ideas, funding and conferences relevant to family involvement in education.
  • Building Community Partnerships for Learning
    http://eric-web.tc.columbia.edu/families/strong
    This site includes research on the importance of family involvement, examples of successful efforts and suggestions for partnerships.
  • National Standards for Parent/Family Involvement Programs
    www.pta.org/parentinvolvement/standards/index.asp
    This site was developed by the National PTA in cooperation with professionals through the National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education.
  • National Coalition for Parent Involvement in Education
    www.ncpie.org/DevelopingPartnerships
    The coalition advocates the relationship between home, school and community to enhance education.

Judith B. Rajala, M.A., president and founder of EduHound.com, is an independent education technology instructor and former K-12 educator. She is also a consultant to several Connecticut-based state technology organizations. Visit EduHound online at www.eduhound.com or e-mail: EduHoundExtra@thejournal.com.

This article originally appeared in the 10/01/2002 issue of THE Journal.

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