Parent engagement is critical to student success, and if your products or services can help parents become more invested in their child’s progress or feel more emotionally connected to their child’s school, then this should be an important focus of your marketing efforts.
But what does “parent engagement” really mean, and what are the key factors that lead to stronger parent engagement in schools? A recent Gallup poll provides some clarity around these questions, and the answers could help you frame your marketing message.
Last spring, Gallup surveyed more than 3,000 U.S. adults with a child in school. The poll revealed a sharp difference between parent involvement, in which parents actively participate in their child’s education, and parent engagement, in which they have an emotional connection to their child’s school.
“More than 70 studies have explored the relationship between parent involvement and increased student achievement, and this research suggests that parent involvement is good,” wrote researchers Daniela Yu and Tim Hodges. “But Gallup has found that parent engagement, which goes far beyond involvement and participation, could have an even more significant impact.”
Providing opportunities for parents to participate doesn’t necessarily lead to engagement, Gallup found. Only 20 percent of parents in the study were fully engaged with their child’s school. Fifty-seven percent of parents were indifferent, and 23 percent were actively disengaged with their child’s school.
Although those figures might seem discouraging, the poll revealed that parent engagement is not something that is fixed; instead, it can be continuously improved over time. Here’s what the poll showed are the five biggest drivers of parent engagement in schools.
Leadership. “Parents appreciate when principals and other school leaders are in touch with the needs of the students and community and respond appropriately to those needs as they arise,” wrote Yu and Hodges. “They are looking for leaders who create a respectful, open, and trusting environment. Parents are more likely to be engaged when the school is led in a way that makes them excited about the future.”
Academic standards. “Parents are seeking schools that are committed to high academic standards. They … appreciate when the school provides opportunities for each student to achieve success in a way that fits how he or she learns best.”
School environment. “Schools should be (safe) places where students are always treated with respect and where appropriate discipline is in place. Parents also seek a welcoming school environment. Fully engaged parents believe that schools should be a place where their child looks forward to spending his or her days.”
Personalized learning. “Parents are looking for an environment where teachers and staff know their child’s individual strengths and needs. They want their child to have the opportunity to do what he or she does best every day in an environment that identifies and appreciates student strengths.”
Communication and involvement. “In too many schools, communication with parents consists of a newsletter and the occasional urgent message alerting parents to a security issue or weather delay. Engaged parents want meaningful communication that goes beyond this. … Great schools build a culture that encourages open communication and that invites parents to become involved.”
When parents are very satisfied with at least one of these five drivers, Yu and Hodges wrote, 58 percent are fully engaged. But if parents are very satisfied with all five drivers, that figure jumps to 84 percent—and “none are actively disengaged.”
What does this mean for companies selling to education? Look for areas of alignment between these drivers and your own products and services, and focus your marketing on what the research says about forging stronger parent engagement—and how you can support these keys to success.