Community engagement in the plans and goals of a school plays a major role in student success. Principals should devote significant time and energy to building strong relationships with their students’ neighborhoods and families. When these partnerships are effective, stakeholders work together to build a culture of collaboration and unity between school life and home life.
Why Community Engagement Is Important to a School’s Success
There are undeniable benefits to fostering strong collaborative networks among principals, teachers, parents and community members. A MiddleWeb article presents this finding: “When parents are involved both at home and at school, students do better in school and stay in school longer. When a parent and a teacher work together to help a student in a specific subject area, such as reading, students typically improve in that area.”
Increased engagement between community partners and school personnel gives all parties equal ownership of the educational experience, leading to benefits like these:
- Parents are empowered to advocate for their children, as well as promote continued learning at home.
- Teachers and parents develop a relationship built on trust and mutual understanding.
- Parents feel more connected to the school and its academic goals.
- Teachers develop a more personalized approach to parent interaction while overcoming potentially harmful stereotypes.
- Parents are able to overcome language or cultural barriers.
4 Key Strategies for Increasing Community Engagement
Before principals can foster positive collaborations with community stakeholders, they must have a plan for building those relationships. Here are four strategies for principals to practice as they establish a culture of success and build lasting, collaborative community relationships:
- Embrace Technology
Community members should have easy and unlimited access to announcements, information and stories about the school. A well-designed and produced YouTube channel can be used to share inspiring stories, recognize students who have overcome challenges or surpassed their academic goals and spotlight teachers who have gone above and beyond in their attempts to help students succeed.
Social media platforms are affordable and convenient online tools that can be effective for increasing community engagement. Forward-thinking principals might use the Facebook Live or Group functions to communicate with parents, share the school’s core values or highlight goals for the academic year. Whatever emerging technology they choose to use, administrators should always keep communication encouraging and upbeat so that positivity is the hallmark of every interaction with community partners.
- Incorporate Inclusive Programming
Effective principals understand that their schools should reflect the cultural diversity of their communities and work to build learning environments that extend beyond school walls. By promoting a culture of inclusion, principals engage students and families that may not be familiar with a school’s traditions, expectations and values. It is important to create safe spaces for parents to become involved with the school and their students’ academic progress.
This is especially true for parents of students who are learning English. It also applies to students with disabilities and those with diverse cultural backgrounds. By focusing on inclusivity, administrators can help increase student success across the board.
- Make Communication a Priority
Poor and inconsistent communication can have detrimental effects for everyone involved. Principals who model an open, honest and frequent message policy can eliminate confusion and hesitation on the part of parent and community partners. Emphasizing face-to-face communication whenever possible is an excellent strategy for improving clarity, as well as making parents feel more comfortable participating in school functions.
When administrators have important information to share with parents, the National School Public Relations Associations (NSPRA) offers “A Principal’s Top 10 list for Successful Communications,” which suggests that a message must be clearly and consistently delivered “7 to 9 times in 7 to 9 different ways” in order for it to resonate with the community.
- Share Leadership
Principals have a tremendous amount of responsibility, so it is important for them to share some of their leadership duties. Involving teachers, staff, parents and community stakeholders in the leadership and decision-making processes will improve the overall culture of a school and give students more opportunities to achieve greater success.
The Master of Science in Education in Educational Administration with a Specialization in Principal Preparation online program at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville (SIUE) offers the following coursework that will help aspiring administrators better serve their schools and their communities:
- Introduction to School Leadership
- Data-Driven School Improvement and Accountability: Theory and Research
- School Law
SIUE’s online MSEd program offers affordable tuition, and students can complete coursework in as few as 12 months.