In an engaged school community, there’s open and efficient communication between all community members. They feel comfortable giving honest feedback and assured that they will be listened to. There are many benefits for all stakeholders, from students to district leaders, brought on by an engaged school community, but not all community leaders know how to incite engagement.
In this two-part series, we’ll outline the main reasons why school community leaders should seek proactive engagement from their communities. We’ll then give you our top tips on how to achieve this as a continuous process and how to get the most out of the data you collect.
Why engage your school community?
For school community engagement to be most effective, there needs to be cooperation from all stakeholders in the district. Each of these members must fully understand why they’re being encouraged to engage with their school community. In fact, stakeholders understanding why working cohesively and proactively within their school community is truly necessary for success. Read more about the importance of sharing the why here. Below, we explain the reasons for three of the main community stakeholders - students, parents, and school leaders - so everyone can be encouraged to engage in their school community.
Clarity, honesty, and responsiveness are at the heart of every engaged school community, and whilst everyone wins in this type of environment, it’s the students who benefit the most. Great community engagement can boost student achievements, improve student attendance, and help young people grow into strong communicators. When students learn “to be citizens, rather than tourists in the school… they realize they have an opportunity to participate in shaping the education process” (Freiberg, 1998). This mentality, when grasped at a young age, will follow students throughout their development into adulthood, and as a result, become proactive members of society.
Encouraging feedback within the community also helps improve the school culture and climate. A survey from YouthTruth showed that only 1 in 3 students rated their school climate positively. By encouraging students to give honest feedback and speak up about any issues they may have with their school, community leaders can help make students feel safer, happier, and more engaged with their learning environment. As a result, happier students mean schools will enjoy a boost in student attendance, effort, and, ultimately, achievements.
Great community engagement can boost student achievements, improve student attendance, and help young people grow into strong communicators.
Do happier students equal happier parents? It’s possible! Parents who are proactive in their child’s learning and development are likely to be more involved with the school community or at least want to be. And for those wanting to highlight areas for improvement, give compliments, or just relay general feedback, surveys can be their primordial way of doing this. Feedback forms and surveys also help to make parents feel included, in touch with their children and listened to. Suppose parents can communicate with the school directly. In that case, they are less likely to feel the need to pass on messages via their children - this will reduce the negative impact on student mental health by removing them from any potential tense situations they needn’t be in. This is likely to even improve the parent-student relationship as a result. So, students and leaders alike will benefit more from parents who are engaged in the most effective ways. In fact, studies show that when parents are involved in school communities, students earn higher grades, boost their social skills, and receive higher test scores (Hendersen et al., 2007). This research also suggests that the more involved parents are in their school communities, the more respected they are likely to be by school leaders. As a result, parent-school relationships are also improved.
For school leaders
School leaders can enjoy numerous benefits when leading an engaged school community. For example, by encouraging parents to give regular feedback, school leaders are helping build a trusting, honest relationship with the parents of the students in their school. It can also serve to give parents a better opinion of the school community leaders since they feel respected and their concerns are dealt with before they escalate into insurmountable problems. The sooner queries are dealt with, the less likely they are to snowball into larger problems and escalate tense relationships with parents and other stakeholders. This gives school leaders time to solve problems before any upcoming board meetings, and not during them which can cause further friction.
Additionally, upon receiving feedback from parents and students, school leaders are aware of any critical issues in their schools. They can then take action and start the necessary steps to solve these problems based on the information they receive from surveys. This then allows school leaders to focus on the changes that really need to be made, ensuring staff satisfaction and retention rates are high.
There’s power in Your Voice
Encouraging all school community members to use their voices, speak up about their concerns, and work together in a proactive manner will ultimately improve the quality of school communities. District leaders must ensure this is as easy and accessible as possible in order to gather actionable feedback from their community members. One effective way to do this is through our Your Voice tool which works by embedding an intuitive feedback system into the district homepage. When students, parents, and staff can easily raise concerns, ask questions, propose suggestions, and even give compliments, they build trust in their district and become more emotionally invested in community success.
Freiberg, H. J. (1998). Measuring school climate: Let me count the ways. Educational Leadership, 56(1), 22-26.
Henderson, A.T., Mapp, K.L, Johnson, V.R., & D. Davies. (2007). Beyond the bake sale: An essential guide to family-school partnerships. New York, NY: Perseus Distribution.