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How-To: Work with Students' Families

Getting Parents to Show Up Carl Sannito

As I sit here thinking about my school this evening, I realize that parental involvement is something that we need to work on quite a bit. Oh sure, we have a few parents that are fixtures in the school. You know their first names and see them so often you think that they may be getting paid to show up. 

But how can we get more parents to come up to the school? Not even on a regular basis, how about just getting parents to show up on report card day? Wouldn't that be a great thing? 

Well, our school did something a little innovative, a little unorthodox, but I've got to tell you- it worked. We had a significant increase in the percentage of parents who showed up this fall to conference with their children's teachers.

What did we do? Well, I'm glad you asked. First, we talked it up a little more this year with the kids. The principal spoke the each class to encourage the children to work on getting their parent's to come up to the school. She also offered incentives to the classes that had the highest percentage of parents show up. 

But, that's not the trick. 

What she did that was so clever was that she raffled off grocery store gift certificates to parents that showed up. As they walked in the building, they immediately received a ticket. Then, every 20 minutes, she would pick a winner or two. It was extremely successful. We experienced our best turnout ever. We had parents who stayed late just to be part of another drawing (you had to be present to win). That was a nice change from, "Yeah, yeah, yeah, I gotta run. Just let me see their report card."

The gift certificates were only for $10 each, but it made a difference. 

Of course, there are lots of ways you can vary the theme. You could just offer one large gift certificate. You may raffle off something different. You could even ask community businesses to help out with the prizes. 

The task itself is too big for one teacher or one classroom alone to deal with, but even a small school can put a raffle together to encourage more parental involvement. 

Is it bribery? 

Does it get more parents in the school?

Do you have a comment or suggestion? You can e-mail Carl at carlsannito at yahoo dot com.


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