Re-imagining Parent Engagement

  • 4 Min Read

Introducing Brightspace for Parents

Children with parents who are involved in their schooling have fewer behavioral issues, demonstrate better academic performance and are more likely to complete high school as compared to peers with uninvolved parents.[1]

There are many traditional means of parental involvement. A mother might volunteer in her son’s class two days a week. Dad might accompany his daughter on a school trip, or on a classroom outing to a skating rink. There are meet the teacher and parent teacher nights, where issues and accomplishments can be discussed. And there are conversations over the dinner table — if you can get your teen to talk, that is.

Staying in tune with a child’s schooling does become more difficult the older the child. Parents are most likely to attend school meetings and events or to volunteer in their child’s school when their children are in primary school. In 2012, more than 90 percent of students in kindergarten through fifth grade had a parent who attended a meeting with their teachers, compared with 87 percent of middle-school students, and 79 percent of ninth- through twelfth-grade students[2].

This reality presents its own difficulties and challenges for parents and teachers. While transparency into a child’s academic performance is wonderful in the elementary years, it is almost essential in the high school years to help students juggle increasing workloads, manage social and academic stresses and prepare for higher education.

About a year ago, we pulled together teachers, teaching experts and parents for a frank and insightful discussion around the role and purpose of parental engagement. Using motorboat analogy, we conducted two workshops to explore the “motors” that propel teacher/parent relationships in school today, the “anchors” holding us back, and the “destinations” (islands) that we are trying to reach as teachers communicate with parents.

We wanted to understand how we might set out to purposefully design and re-imagine a way to get parents more involved and engaged in their children’s learning and as a result, improve student outcomes. The key was to create a vehicle for involvement that didn’t overwhelm or confuse, but rather offered a simple way for parents to gain answers to two, really important questions.

  1. First and foremost, “Is my kid doing ok?”
  2. Then, “How can I help them manage their schooling better?”

For teachers, the answer was even more simple. They didn’t particularly care how it happened. They just wanted — and would welcome — engaged parents.

Out of these important discussions emerged Brightspace for Parents, a new easy to use solution that allows parents to grab a virtual seat in their child’s classroom.

To be able to deeply engage in their child’s learning, parents need to be able to ask relevant and insightful questions about what’s happening in school. To do that, they need better access to information. Brightspace for Parents offers parents a real-time window into news and events happening in the classroom, access to their child’s portfolio showcasing completed work, a schedule of upcoming assignments, and alerts on overdue assignments.

At the elementary level, Brightspace for Parents offers parents visibility into their child’s classroom activities and projects, so they can ask in-context questions about projects and assignments and better support their learning. For instance, if little Sally is studying the solar system, the family might plan a weekend trip to the planetarium.

At the high school level, Brightspace for Parents allows mum and dad to move beyond the “How was school today?” narrative, to ask specific questions of their teen, such has “How did your math test go today?” or “Can I read over your essay on Hamlet?” Better insight also allows parents to help their kids manage schoolwork and other obligations such as sports team commitments, part time work schedules, and the oh-so-important teenage social time.

Access is easy. If the Brightspace platform is used in a child’s classroom, parents can simply log in through the parent portal and access Brightspace for Parents on any device (such as a smartphone, or from their laptop or desktop computer). With better insight in hand thanks to Brightspace, parents are more prepared and ready to have better conversations with their kids about their academic future.

Talk to us about using Brightspace for Parents at your school.

[1] https://www.childtrends.org/indicators/parental-involvement-in-schools/

[2] IBID

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