For the past year, a group of local representatives, non-profit organizations, schools, district leaders, and higher education experts, have been meeting together each month to discuss how they can make sure that all students in South Salt Lake graduate high school and go on to college. The strategy this group meets specifically around is parent engagement.
It’s intuitive for most educators that a parent’s role in supporting their child’s education is vital for not only academic success, but success in life. It is difficult to find a parent who does not care deeply about their child’s well-being; however, many families in high-need areas such as South Salt Lake, face barriers that make intentional and consistent parent engagement very challenging. From language and cultural barriers of immigrant and refugees families, to the demands of bills, food, and housing for low-income families, to single-parent parent households — it is difficult for many parents to find time to sit down for a meal with their children, let alone read with them for 15 minutes every day. Therefore, it’s important that whatever action items this group supports will reach all families and parents, no matter their circumstance.
Last week, this group rallied around a specific message they feel will be able to do just that. The consistent message that schools, community organizations, district leaders, and others will reinforce through various outreach is asking parents to ask their student about something they learned that day at school and/or what they are working on.
The message is simple, accessible, and will connect with other important parent engagement tools, such as a demonstrating to their child that they care about their learning, even if they can’t speak the language or understand the Math homework their student is working on. This message allows parents to follow-up with their student every day and create a “school-going” culture in their home, which will translate into their school work.
If parents, teachers, and community partners can work together around this common message, students will begin to understand that their homes, schools, and communities are connected around their individual academic success and will allow them to gain confidence in their own abilities, as well as understand the value of their education.
This seems like a small step, but the key to this message is to strategize how parents can keep “school” conversations going in their home, even if they work evenings or struggle to pay rent.
Below is a video of a student named Muna, a refugee from Sudan, who talks about how her parent’s example and encouragement has increased her confidence and value in her own education.
We will continue to work hard to make sure all parents are engaged in their student’s academic success!