A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Reaching All Families: Creating Family-Friendly Schools - August 1996

Personal Contacts

The best chance for teachers and other school staff to become acquainted with the families of students is through personal contacts. In face-to-face contacts people exchange a wide range of information: detailed views and concerns as well as observations of each other and the meeting surroundings. The parent-teacher conference is a common if brief form of personal contact which may be arranged for all families once or twice a year. Richer contacts are likely to occur in home visits because they demonstrate strong interest in students' families. Parent liaisons can also help schools respond to the needs and concerns of families. How to make the best use of these strategies is explored in this section.

Parent-Teacher Conferences

Regular parent-teacher conferences for all families are an essential building block of home-school communication. Parents provide important perspectives and information that can be extremely valuable. Teachers need the help of parents to do the best possible job of educating every child and can help parents play an active role in education at home. Conferences are a time for listening and sharing. They can reinforce the idea of working as a team.

Conferences also provide an opportunity for teachers to explain the criteria and grades used on report cards. In fact, many schools schedule conferences right after a reporting period. Some use the conference itself as the means to distribute report cards.

Conferences are successful when teachers and the school system create a climate that invites collaboration with parents. Creating this climate involves planning and effort. The following suggestions indicate ways teachers, principals, and school systems can maximize the effectiveness of parent-teacher conferences.

Before The Conference

Principals and District Officials--Principals and district officials play a critical role by coordinating activities and providing encouragement to teachers. Some organizing principles are suggested.

Prepare Teachers for Conferences

Allocate Resources Involve Parents Well in Advance Teachers--The role of teachers in arranging conferences involves planning and preparation. Some tips on preparation include

During The Conference

Establish Rapport With Parents--Develop a relationship with parents by asking them about their work or about an interest you may know they have.

Accept Parents as Advocates--Provide parents with opportunities to speak about their children. Do not interpret a parent's advocacy as belligerence or as a criticism.

Emphasize the Positive--Indicate appreciation of the unique qualities of the child.

Establish Priorities--Pick one or two areas for growth and improvement so that parents are not overwhelmed.

Learn From the Parents--Together, parents and teachers make a great team for student learning.

Action Steps--Close the conference with some action steps.

After the Conference

Home Visits

A home visiting program can show that the teachers, principal, and school staff are willing to "go more than halfway" to involve all parents in their children's education. Home visits help teachers demonstrate their interest in students' families and understand their students better by seeing them in their home environment.

These visits should not replace parent-teacher conferences or be used to discuss children's progress. When done early before any school problems can arise, they avoid putting any parents on the defensive and signal that teachers are eager to work with all parents. Teachers who have made home visits say they build stronger relationships with parents and their children, and improve attendance and achievement.


Administrators and teachers must agree to participate in the program and be involved in planning it.

These programs are successful when

Strategies For Successful Home Visits

Who does the visiting?--Wherever possible, teachers should visit homes of children in their classes. If this is not possible, the principal should ensure that every home that requests a visit receives one.

If teachers do not speak the parents' language, a translator needs to accompany them.

Scheduling--These suggestions may be helpful:

Making parents feel comfortable--Here are some useful tips:

Parent Liaisons

Parent liaisons are members of the community who work with teachers, administrators, and parents to coordinate and advocate for family involvement to help students learn to high standards. Parent liaisons are often hired on a full or part time basis to provide continuity for the school's parent involvement initiatives.

Parent liaisons are the primary contact people who respond to the needs and concerns of particular parents and families. They may work especially to involve "hard to reach" parents. And they create ongoing mechanisms for parents to play various roles at the school and at home.

In these capacities parent liaisons can:

Parent liaisons can provide the leadership and resource coordination for many of the outreach strategies presented in this booklet. They are a legitimate use of Title I funds under the federal Improving America's Schools Act.

For school systems with limited funds, the position can be filled by members of an organized volunteer program. In small systems, the parent liaison functions and position can be systemwide rather than building based. In large schools, several parent liaisons might handle different grade levels.


[Introducing School Policies and Programs] [Table of Contents] [Ongoing Communications]

This page was last updated January 8, 2002 (jca)