A packed house at Dayton School District's annual Pirate Night that showcases student work.

The research is clear: students with involved parents, no matter their income or background, are more likely to do well in school and go on to postsecondary education. However, finding ways to engage parents and share information can be challenging. Use these six successful strategies from GEAR UP schools:

1. Create welcoming traditions.

"On the first day of school as well as when we return from breaks, our staff makes a point of being out ready to greet everyone coming back to school. While the college and career center staff greet the students with hot chocolate, the admin team and school board members are greeting parents at drop off with coffee and pastries. I also create calendar cards with the upcoming events to be passed out as well. The feedback we have received from parents is that they not only feel more welcomed and enjoy the gesture, they really appreciate seeing the admin out interacting with everyone." Katarina Smith, Rogue River Junior/Senior High School

2. Find days, times and locations that work.

"The best responses we have had have been through personal contact. We have a bilingual home-school liaison who has been contacting parents by phone, followed up with a hand-delivered reminder letter. Making face-to-face contact has helped as we try to grow this outreach. Food and childcare have been provided at the events. We are doing follow-up phone and/or in person surveys to determine what factors are causing obstacles for parents not to be able to attend i.e. a different day of the week, time, or location." Dee Lorence, Umatilla High School

3. Showcase students.

"I put on parent nights in the spring to prepare upcoming 7th grade and 9th grade families for the next school transition (elementary to middle and middle to high). We do rotating groups to cover campus resources and the changes their students will face in this transition year. At this event, we host a dessert bar and raffle prizes for attendees. Of all the parent nights the college and career center host, these are our biggest turn out. We invite current grade level students to serve on a panel and let parents and students know that they will have the opportunity to ask questions of the panel and our staff speakers throughout the night. People tire of long lecture style presentations and pamphlets. So we are trying new ways to make it interactive and snappy. Keep it short, keep it simple, keep it fun." Katarina Smith, Rogue River Junior/Senior High School

4. Make personal phone calls.

"If we have an event where parents need to attend, we make personal calls to each parent inviting them. We also send a reminder robo call the morning of the event." Heather Harrison, Oakridge Junior/Senior High School

"The most success I have had is in calls home." Brent Caulley, McKenzie High School

5. Share information in a variety of ways.

"We post our updated GEAR UP newsletters on our middle school and high school websites. We inform parents about this option at the beginning of the school year or during any other registration process throughout the year. We also have a TV monitor in our high school commons area where the newsletters are shown (scrolled through with other college announcements and important school information). It saves us a lot of time and money from past practice of mailing them. We refer our parents/students to our websites for most of our communications across our school district, so this is a primary practice. [The academic advisor] also emails seniors and senior parents monthly about college/scholarship information, and she includes the link to the newsletter." Mariah Vierck, Bandon High School

6. Offer supports for specific populations.

"Having Juntos on campus...we are seeing marked gains from family involvement to student success with our Hispanic population." Brad Kudlac, Culver High School


Use our Parent Engagement Toolkit and additional resources for more strategies to involve parents.