5 Common Barriers to Parent Engagement

Rusty old fence outside a k12 school

Studies show that parent engagement is highly connected to K-12 student success. However, as educators, we are all aware that while many parents are extremely engaged throughout their child’s educational journey, many are not. Instead of simply expecting parents to engage, school districts must first understand the reasons why parents decide not to engage. From there, schools can identify the underlying issues, and subsequently try to prevent them. Here are 5 common barriers to parent engagement, with suggestions on how to better address them.

  1. Educational Jargon

Schools often make the mistake of using too much academic jargon. Although school leaders are familiar with academic terms, the majority of students and their parents are not. This leaves parents feeling confused and misunderstood, causing them to feel like an outsider in educational settings. In turn, they are less likely to engage. Keeping educational and academic explanations easy to understand is a simple change that works wonders with parent engagement

2. Inaccessibility

Most of the time, parents want to help their children with their classes and schoolwork. However, not every parent has the means to do so. For instance, some parents are extremely busy. Additionally, many parents don’t have the academic background to understand educational concepts. Furthermore, other parents don’t have the financial means to get their kids tutors. Overall, inaccessibility to resources is a large reason behind a lack of parent engagement. It is imperative that resources are made abundantly clear to students and their families. This could include anything from free or reduced academic tutoring and/or disability testing, all the way to local food banks and lists of after school programs.

3. Misunderstanding

Sometimes the reason for lack of parent engagement is simply that parents just don’t understand that their involvement is necessary for ultimate student success. Education has changed greatly since many parents were in school, so make sure it is made clear by the administration that parental involvement—even in small ways—is vital for prime student success.

4. Communication

Communication is key. However, too much, too little, or unclear/disorganized communication are all common mistakes schools make when approaching this topic. Communication must be kept simple yet effective so that parents don’t get frustrated. One innovative solution to better improve communication is through the mobile app Paywat. Paywat is a software that offers parents and schools a secure communication platform. Within the app, all communication and school payments are in one place, naturally increasing parent engagement.

5. Distrust

Oftentimes, parents are wary of educational institutions. Many parents had negative experiences with school themselves. Another popular reason for parent’s distrust is because of a lack of positive interactions with the administration. It is common for parents to only hear from teachers when their child is already in trouble, instead of when they are also doing well. Lastly, some parents don’t feel as though their input is valued. Schools must focus on regaining parent’s trust by improving on these things, and taking parent’s concerns into account.

Ultimately, frequent parental engagement is key to student success. By nipping barriers in the bud, schools will see higher levels of parent engagement from the start.

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