In 2008, our district leadership team had the wonderful opportunity to attend the HOPE Conference (Harnessing Optimism and Potential through Education) where we heard Alan Blankstein, who is the author of the book Failure Is Not an Option. We learned about the six principles that guide student achievement in high performing schools and how these principles work to build a system supporting school improvement. It was this experience that kickstarted our process of strengthening our professional learning community.
We developed goals at the school-level based on each of the 6 guiding principles & began the 2008-2009 school year refreshed, energized, and ready to create a school culture where failure is not an option for any student.
Specifically, one of our goals for Principle 5 (gaining active engagement for family & community) was to include more positive contact with our families. Active engagement, according to research, is when a child is motivated when their learning is valued by schools and families/communities working together in partnership…leading to greater achievement. Michael Fullan says, “The research is abundantly clear: Nothing motivates a child more than when learning is valued by schools and families/communities working together in partnership…These forms of involvement do not happen by accident or event by invitation. They happen by explicit strategic intervention.”
One of the goals we set was making 2 good news phone calls home, per week, per staff member. This goal ensured that, as a staff, we assumed a collective responsibility for all students; not just the ones in our classrooms. All students belonged to all staff members & good news should not only be shared by the child’s classroom teacher–but their specials teachers (Art, Music, PE), the librarian, the administration, the office staff, the cafeteria staff, etc. This goal was a wonderful way for our staff to build stronger relationships with our parents. It also gave our families a nice feeling to know that when the school phone number came through on their caller ID, there was a very high probability that it was a good news phone call home.
When I became principal in 2009, I built upon this goal and called it “5 by Friday”. I wanted our students to feel a sense of pride when something came in the mail at their home from school…something positive! Phone calls are great, but who doesn’t like mail?! I ordered positive postcards from Vistaprint & always kept them heavily stocked in the office. The expectation was that all staff members would make 5 positive connections with families by the end of each week (whether it be phone calls or positive postcards).
**Most recently on Twitter, I saw someone share the idea of adding a QR code to the postcard for parents to scan & view a sample of their child’s work, or a video their child created! I love this idea & plan on sharing it with staff 🙂
There is a question I am always sure to include on parent/teacher conference surveys each year:
**My challenge to the staff at the start of this year is to ensure 100% of our families will have experienced communication with their child’s teacher prior to parent/teacher conferences in November, as studies show that creating home-school partnerships based on two-way communication enhances the parental involvement critical to children’s overall success.
How does your school promote communication between home & school?