Parent Involvement: No More Faster Horses

If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” – Henry Ford

It’s time to think differently about how to enable more parent involvement in our children’s education.

Five decades of research confirms that engagement of families in their children’s education improves schools, academic outcomes, and graduation rates.

  • 30% –  increased success rate of a student with involved parents
  • 40% – higher test score growth of schools with high parent involvement
  • $1000 – funding per student offset by parent involvement

We know that “more” involvement can be difficult.  Parents work – and increasingly, given the economy — both parents.  There are language barriers, scheduling conflicts and distance challenges that prohibit parents from getting more involved at the school or volunteering.

The problem is a lot of the solutions for “involvement” are focused on driving greater physical engagement at the school level.  However, parent involvement doesn’t necessarily have to mean physically showing up and/or volunteering.   Sure, a parent who volunteers at the school frequently is likely to be very involved in their child’s education, but many times that is impossible given work schedules and other commitments.

Classroom Transparency and Awareness are Key

I believe the primary factor to solve for isn’t physical involvement at the school, but classroom transparency and awareness.  One begets the other.   If you can open a window into the classroom, you will invoke more engaged parents.  More engaged parents will be more involved physically.  Yet, today’s tools and technology driven at the district or school level are not positioned effectively to overcome some of the challenges of creating classroom awareness for parents regarding what is happening day-to-day in their children’s education – even though this is what parents care about the most.

Communication from the school or district via a website or email blast isn’t going to do it.  An email from the teacher with all of the reply all’s makes many parents want to DIS-engage.

We know teachers who better engage parents drive greater outcomes for the children.

One Study Tidbit: In schools where teachers reported high levels of outreach to parents, test scores grew at a rate 40 percent higher than in schools where teachers reported low levels of outreach to parents.

We can’t “try harder” anymore.  We need to think differently.  We need a connective fabric that opens up the classroom for parents in a private, safe, and elegant way.

No More Faster Horses

Imagine.  A system not constructed from a “school” perspective, but one from a “family/parent” context – with a connection to those leaders and organizations that develop our children.  A system that “connects” parents to those leaders (like teachers, etc.), and those organizations (like schools) who progress their children – but instead of visiting a bunch of websites and parsing a bunch of emails – the posts/conversations/relevant events just feed to you in the context of your child (or children).  Kind of like Facebook + Google Calendar combined, but organized PRIVATELY and SAFELY. Diagram

Because it’s private and safe and only the parents of the children inside that classroom can see what is shared or scheduled, the subtle daily learnings and activities (posts, files, photos, or other media) can be shared by teachers, or shared into the class by parents who might have gone on the field trip or signed up for read aloud.  Multi-lingual parent community?  Those parents can hit translate right from the conversation stream so they too have a seat at the window and equal awareness of what their children are learning about and what other parents in the class are doing at home.  Oh, and those sign up needs for parent/teacher conferences, read aloud, field trips, etc. – fully integrated. Communication from the school principal, PTA, or relevant school events to be aware of?  It all integrates into your conversation stream and integrated calendar from the web, iPhone, or Android. And yes, it integrates with Outlook, Apple Cal, and Google Calendar. This is what engaging the parents where they are in their busy family life looks like.

The Time Is Now

We need to focus on opening up the classroom to deepen parent involvement and educational output.

This is one of the key reasons why we started LivingTree.   Learn more at

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