CORAdvantage Blog Classroom Tips

Family Engagement for Head Start

By Janice Hill | September 23, 2019

Originally published in HighScope’s Journal for Early Educators: The Active Learner.

Head Start’s new standards focus on giving programs flexibility to better meet the needs of the families they serve. For example, the revised standards still stress parent engagement but no longer require programs to establish parent committees if they haven’t been effective. Here are five tips to help your program strengthen its partnership with families.

  1. Create a welcoming atmosphere: Pay attention to traffic patterns at pickup and drop-off times, and put your sign-in/sign-out sheets in a place that encourages easy communication between teachers and family members. Place a parent bulletin board in a visible location, and provide program and relevant community information on that board in the language(s) spoken by your families.
  2. Offer a variety of ways to participate: Provide parents with lots of options to get involved. They can volunteer for field trips, donate materials, share a talent, help build the playground, and prepare special snacks. Think about what your program needs, who your families are, and be creative with volunteer opportunities!
  3. Know how to connect with families: Use the communication tools that work best for your families, whether that is email, texts, phone calls, newsletters, or social media. If your program uses COR Advantage, take advantage of the family engagement features so parents can monitor their child’s progress via work samples, photos, videos, and anecdotes.
  4. Plan home visits well in advance: The Head Start Program Performance Standards state that teachers must conduct at least two home visits per family each year. Reduce anxiety about these visits by communicating with parents — well before the home visits — on what they can expect.
  5. Design Parent Workshops with your families in mind: What do you see as most important to the families you serve? Keep that in mind when planning workshops to ensure maximum attendance. Depending on your families’ needs and interests, workshop topics may include an introduction to the curriculum, power struggles (and how to avoid them), reading with children, and preschoolers as scientists. Be sure to consider the schedules of your families, and alternate the days and times of the workshops to accommodate them. If feasible, offer child care and provide food to encourage attendance.

Originally published by: Hill, Janice  “Family Engagement for Head Start” The Active Learner. 1.1 (2017): 34.

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Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter

In partnership with HighScope Educational Research Foundation, the Exploring Early Childhood Newsletter is a twice a month collection of topical research articles, tips for educators, and unique ways COR Advantage can support the documentation and communication of child development.

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About COR Advantage

COR Advantage is HighScope’s flagship observation-based assessment. COR Advantage is the leading research-backed assessment for all children from birth to kindergarten. From comprehensive planning tools to dynamic family engagement, COR Advantage offers a complete picture of child growth for schools and families.

About Janice Hill

Janice Hill is an Early Childhood Field Consultant with HighScope and director of the Bussey Center for Early Childhood Education in Southfield, Michigan. It houses both a Head Start and Great Start program and is a part of the Southfield Public School district.