Constantino (2008) observed that "Schools are masterful at one-way communication" (p. 74). Parents and family members receive a lot of information from schools that they may not be able to access and understand. Schools need to ensure that parents and families have regular access to clear, concise, and easily readable information about their children's school and classroom. What can schools do to make this happen?
Be READY to improve communication with parents and families by:
  Asking parents/families - How would they prefer to receive communication from school? What works for them: a paper copy that a student brings home or that comes in the mail, a telephone call, a fax, an email, a text?  Are there other forms of technology that would be helpful (videos)? (Constantino, 2008) "When you ask parents and families how to best communicate with them, you are sending a clear message that you value them, their children and their time." (Constantino, 2008, p. 75)
SET the stage for communicating more effectively with families by:









Accommodating- Keep in mind that families have a variety of work schedules, language and cultural differences.  Communicate straightforwardly and simply, avoid educational "jargon."
  • Using Text Messaging To Strengthen Family-School Relationships, Colorado Department of Education (CDE »)
  • Sharing Video Documentation with Families (CDE »)
  • Videos from Parents-Enhancing Family Engagement
    (CDE »)




Checking in - Did parents/families receive your correspondence? Is the current form of communication working successfully for them? Do you need
to try another method?






Assuring Understanding - Was the correspondence that you sent clear, concise, and easily readable? Did the parents/families answer or provide information that you needed? Is there a process to double check that in the message was understood? Welcome clarifying questions from parents and families.
For additional information and resources about communicating with families,  GO to:  
  Your TTAC libraryand check out:
    • Two-Way Communication Between School and Home (Domain 2) in 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement by Steven M. Constantino, Ed.D. Also available from »

    • I Hear You Knocking - But You Can't Come In: A Framework for Creating a Welcoming Environment in Schools (Pocket Guide for Administrators) Also available from »

    • Packed with tips from principals and teachers, checklists, and an invaluable resource section, Beyond the Bake Saleby Anne T. Henderson (editor), reveals how to build strong collaborative relationships and offers practical advice for improving interactions between parents and teachers.

  • School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action, 3rd edition (by Joyce Epstein and associates) notes research supports that when families and community members participate in school wide Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) teams in decision making, planning, implementation and evaluation processes, school climate and academic outcomes improve. School and community organizations such as PTA/PTO, school councils, committees, action teams, and other family support resources and family liaisons, must be reflective of school's ethnicity and culture. Also available from »
  Harvard Family Research Project:
Constantino, S. M. (2008) 101 Ways to Create Real Family Engagement. Galax, VA: ENGAGE! Press.

Henderson, A. T., Mapp, K. L., Johnson, V.R. & Davies, D. (2007) Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family/school Partnerships. NY: The New Press.


This news brief is a collaborative effort of the Virginia Department of Education Training and Technical Assistance Centers at George Mason University and James Madison University. This issue was prepared by the staff of the VDOE TTAC at George Mason University. For questions about content, please contact Clare Talbert at  , Kay Klein at or Nancy Anderson at or call 703.993.4496.
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