Parent Engagement Spotlight: DC Schools and the Power of Home Visits
  • By admin
  • December 10, 2019

By @GraceCShelton

In their efforts to increase parent engagement, some districts struggle to bring parents to the school building, even after removing various barriers and seeking numerous communication pathways. The Washington Post reports that this has been the case for many DC schools. However, with the help of external partners, the District has found a new way to keep parents engaged: home visits. Home visits are on the rise in school districts across the country, as more and more teachers see the power and value in meeting students and families at their homes in order to connect on a more personal level. These visits are to allow the educator to learn more personal information about students and create plans to help students succeed. During a home visit, teachers never lecture parents, instead seeking parental input and providing resources that the parent might need to help their child at home. In one particular case mentioned in the article, a teacher learned that a young student’s fascination with princesses could be used to increase her willingness to read. That teacher began sending the student home with fantasy books and novels to read with her family. In another instance, an educator discovered her student’s entire family did not speak English, with the exception of one cousin. The family and teacher put their heads together and worked out a schedule for the cousin to help the young first grader with reading schoolbooks once a week. In this way, parents and educators formed a solution that all parties could agree on and uphold. 

The home visit initiative began with a partnership between the District and Flamboyan Foundation, a nonprofit focused on parental involvement, in 2011. In the past eight years, teachers have been trained and conducted more home visits than any school system in the country. Teachers are compensated $40 for these visits and find them worthwhile. In every meeting, teachers conclude with asking parents about their own hopes for their children. 

Home visits have been linked to a decline in chronic absenteeism in the past. In a Johns Hopkins study, home visits were associated with a reduction in chronic absenteeism and an increase in proficiency on reading exams. So far, DC is not seeing the same results, but the District reasons that not all their data from home visits is quantitative. The change in parental relationships is reason enough to continue the program.   

Engaging parents is not always easy. In the case of DC, parents found it easier to meet with teachers when teachers came to them—so the District made that happen. The investment in parent involvement is crucial, and the relationships formed from these home visits are important to students, families, and teachers alike.