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Family Engagement in School

Want to Help Your Child Succeed in School? Be Involved!

All parents want their children to do well in school. One way to help children succeed is to be involved in their education. You can do many things to help your child do well in school. Try these tips!

Support School Achievement

Skills and scores: Tests and grades matter for student success. Teachers work with children on skills (such as reading and math) and then score their knowledge at school. Here are some ideas how you can help your child with skills and test scores outside of school.

Homework helps children learn more and be more successful when they grow up. To help your child with homework skills:

  • Encourage your child’s efforts to complete homework
  • Create a quiet space or room for doing homework
  • Make sure your child can find help with homework if needed

Learn about how report cards are graded and go to school conferences. You and your child’s teacher can celebrate successes and talk about any problems when they are still new.

If your child needs help in skills and scores, make a plan with the teacher for extra help. Many resources are available.

Attitudes and behaviors: Students’ feelings about and approaches to schoolwork also affect success. You help your child succeed when you:

  • Believe in his or her ability to do well
  • Teach him or her that learning is important
  • Help your child enjoy learning and take pride in completing his or her work

Through your own interactions with the teacher, show your child ways to respectfully and clearly state needs and questions. Help your child practice these same skills.

How You Can Help Your Child Succeed

Here are five techniques that work:

  1. Encourage
    • Let your child know you believe education is important.
    • Volunteer at your child’s school if you are able to do it.
  2. Model
    • Let your child see you learn.
    • Stick with and complete your own difficult tasks.
  3. Reinforce
    • Praise your child for learning and working hard.
    • Ask your child how school is every day. Talk about any positive examples or concerns.
  4. Instruct
    • Work with your child on homework.
    • Model “life lessons,” such as completing a tough job, learning from mistakes, and meeting requirements. Discuss how these skills apply to school.
  5. Celebrate your child’s success
    • Serve your child’s favorite food for dinner.
    • Let your child choose a special movie for the family to watch.
    • Share your child’s success with friends and family. Let your child hear you do this.
    • Display school work on the refrigerator or bulletin board at home.

When parents participate, children achieve. Students learn more, have higher grades, and have better school attendance.

Learn About Your Child’s School District

Research shows that family engagement in a child’s education can boost their school success. You can better engage in your child’s education when you know your school district. These tips provide you with ways to learn about your school district and be engaged. You can learn even more from the school district’s website or by calling or visiting the school district office. Speaking to your child’s teacher, guidance counselor, or school principal can also be helpful.

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Policies and procedures

School districts have many policies that may affect your child. Knowing about these policies helps you advocate for your child when concerns or questions arise. District policies are often published in the student handbook and on district websites. Some of these policies may include:

  • Transportation
  • Bullying and harassment
  • School discipline
  • School choice
  • Attendance
  • Absentee and tardiness
  • School year calendar
  • Attendance area boundaries
  • Deadlines for enrollment
  • Extracurricular activities
  • Dress code
  • Graduation requirements

Course offerings and special programs

All public school districts teach the basic subjects (reading, writing, math, social studies, science, fine arts, and physical education), and some districts may offer special academic programs or courses. Some examples of these programs include:

  • IB Programmes (K–12 International Baccalaureate curriculum)
  • Magnet schools (special focus on an educational theme). Examples include STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and math), foreign language and culture, gifted learners, or environmental education.
  • Title 1 services (also called targeted services – academic help for specific groups of children)
  • AVID courses (Advancement Via Individual Determination – college and career readiness skills and classes for students in grades 7–12)
  • Advanced or Honors level classes
  • AP courses (Advanced Placement – classes that may offer college credit)
  • Job certifications for EMT (Emergency Medical Tech) or CNA (Certified Nursing Assistant)
  • CTE programs (Career and Technical Education – programs that teach skills for high demand careers)
  • Programs that offer both high school and college credits at no cost to families:
    • Concurrent Enrollment (classes taught in high schools)
    • PSEO (Post-Secondary Educational Options – classes taught at a college)

To learn if your child’s school district offers any specialized programs, check the district website, or speak to your child’s teacher, guidance counselor, or principal.


Every public school district conducts state and/or district tests like the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) of all children in grades K–12. It is important to know what tests your child’s district uses, when they are given, and what the results mean. Discuss test results with your child’s teacher and ask if the district has any special programs (such as academic help or advanced classes) for your child. For more information about testing, refer to PACER’s handout A Parents’ Guide to School Testing: What You Need to Know.

Policy decisions

You do not have to be an education expert to ask good questions: families have an important role in helping make policy decisions at their child’s school and district. They can help identify issues, make decisions, and improve school programs. Becoming involved in advisory councils and district-wide committees gives families the opportunity to move from advocating for their own child to advocating for all children in the district. Family involvement on committees also works to increase achievement for all students. District-wide committees may include:

  • Advisory committees on:
    • Curriculum
    • Space and facilities
    • Budget
    • District level work
  • Parent advisory committees for:
    • American Indian Education
    • Title 1 Services (also called targeted services)
    • Gifted and Talented learners
  • Special Education Advisory Council (SEAC): Each school district must have one, and at least 50 percent of the members must be parents/families of children receiving special education services.


There may be times when issues come up (such as budget cuts, bus routes, or staffing) that affect your child, all children in a particular program, or all students in the school district. Whatever the issue, families have the right to take an active role and to advocate for all children involved.

The school board is the best place to take your concerns. You can do this by contacting the school board members or attending a school board meeting. To do this, you will need to know the following information:

  • Names of the school board members and their contact information
  • Dates and times of school board meetings
  • Location of the school board meetings
  • The process to follow to be put on the agenda or to comment
  • What matters are excluded from public discussion

You can find information about the school board on your district’s website or by calling the school district office. Many local newspapers also publish information on school board meeting dates, times, and locations.

Reporting requirements

Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), a federal law, has reporting requirements for public school districts. Each year, a “School Report Card” is issued for every school and school district. Reading this is a good place for you to learn about your child’s school district. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, reporting requirements may temporarily change for the 2020-21 and 2021-22 school years.

To access these report cards, go to the Minnesota Department of Education website. You can search by district or school name. Some of the information includes:

  • Contact information for the district office
  • Student population and demographics
  • Attendance rates
  • Graduation rates
  • Report on Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP)
  • The district ranking for the MCA (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment) tests and the Basic Skills Tests

Learning about your child’s school district may take some time and patience on your part, but the positive results of supporting your child in their education is worth the investment.

Learn About Your Child’s School

Before the school year begins, visit the school your child will attend. Obtain a copy of the school’s family engagement plan, if available.

Before your child begins school, ask the teacher or the principal:

  • What subjects are taught in this grade?
  • How much time is spent teaching children reading and math each day?
  • What tests do the school use to measure children’s progress?
  • Can I attend school orientation with my child?
  • Is there a family center at the school?
  • Is the school meeting the academic and learning goals set by the state?

Ask the principal for a district or school report card to see if students are making progress. You also can visit for specific information about your school.

Communicate With School Staff

School staff are your partners in helping your child grow. They should be helpful and willing to meet with you.

What to tell teachers and principals:

  • Explain your child’s needs so staff better understand and are able to help meet them.
  • Share any problems at home which may affect your child’s school performance, such as divorce or illness.
  • If English is not your first language, ask the school to arrange an interpreter to help you and the school communicate when you meet with staff.
  • Have the school provide materials in your native language.

It is your responsibility to be actively involved in your child’s education; the more you are involved at school, the more likely your child will succeed.

Support Your Child in Elementary School

Here are some ideas of things you can do to support your child’s progress.

What you can do at home to help your child learn:

  • Read together with your child. Also let your child see you reading for pleasure.
  • Use the local library and the Internet (if you have access) as sources for reading activities, homework support, and opportunities to develop outside interests.
  • Make sure your child does his or her homework. Give your child the chance to be responsible and to work on his or her own. Encourage those efforts.
  • Pay attention to how much your child watches TV, uses the computer, or plays video games. The American Academy of Pediatrics has ideas to help parents do this. American Academy of Pediatrics – Family Media Use Plan
  • Listen carefully to what your child says and talk with him or her often. Research shows that children who talk with the adults in their lives are not only more successful students, but also healthier, happier people.

What you can do with the school to help your child learn:

  • Contact your child’s teachers throughout the school year. Show them you are interested in your child’s education, and set up a way to communicate with them. Teachers will appreciate your interest.
  • Find out what goals the teachers have for your child. Goals will change with each grade level.
  • Contact the teacher immediately if you notice a negative change in your child’s behavior or school performance.
  • Communicate with the teacher if your child has a problem cooperating and playing with other children. This allows you to identify and address problems at school before they become worse.
  • Be persistent; if you do not receive an adequate response, you may want to consider meeting with your child’s teachers, the school counselor, and the principal together.
  • Contact teachers if your child regularly doesn’t understand homework or needs extra help, or feels uncomfortable with any situation.
  • Attend scheduled parent-teacher conferences; be prepared to listen and talk. You may find it helpful to write out questions beforehand. The teachers should be very specific about your child’s work and progress. Think about what the teachers tell you and check back with them to see how things are going as the year progresses.