Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication

Laurie James’ Exhibit 3: Community Involvement: Parent Communication (Exhibit type B: Community Involvement Identifies at least two school improvement goals and designs a plan that includes multiple effective community involvement strategies needed to directly improve student learning).

CONTEXT: In support of our district’s statement that “Professional Learning Communities will be a focus of our district for the 2011-12 school year” as well as Kingston High School’s #1 School Improvement Goal: “KHS students graduate college ready (including 2 year and technical schools)”, our special education department’s PLC is choosing to include a renewed focus this year on improving parent communication. Even though it was celebrated at yesterday’s staff meeting that out of the ten high schools which comprise the Olympic League, Kingston High School ranks number one in terms of our High School Proficiency Exam (HSPE) and End-Of-Course (EOC) scores for 2011, as well as our number one ranking with regard to scoring and increasing number of students taking AP courses, district records note that a significant number of parents do not access their student’s information via our online Skyward data system. Additionally, due to budget cuts, the traditional practice of mailing home progress reports, newsletters, etc. is being replaced with electronic communication—with the provision of mailing hard copies to families who specifically request the continuation of mailings.

PLANNING, ENGAGEMENT, ANALYSIS: Although teacher and parent communication is an inherent part of the very nature of the IEP process for every student in special education, our PLC team’s collective belief is that it is far better to err on the side of “too much” versus “to little” communication with parents. Our shared experience reveals that the oversight of seemingly small details—can lead to surprisingly large and negative ramifications. Therefore, to promote increased communication, we composed a letter to parents that describes the overview of the special education services at Kingston High School (Artifact #1) and mailed this in early September. This letter includes a request for parents to sign and return the back page and to provide updated contact information.

In terms of research specifically focused on parent involvement, an article entitled, Motivation of Parent Involvement in Secondary-Level Schooling, offers some interesting insights:

“To enhance parent involvement at home, school administrators and teachers should work mainly with adolescents. To improve parent involvement at school, the results suggest the importance of sensitizing parents to their duties and responsibilities and of regarding the role of the school and the teachers when motivating parents to become involved”.

In essence, the results of this study found that having secondary students ask their parents for input, assistance (even minor), support at home, was more effective than having teachers make the request for the parent to help their child at home. Conversely, having teachers personally invite parents to be involved at school, was more effective that having students make the same requests.

With this thought in mind, this year, our department purchased and provided each student with a planner (Artifact #2). As teachers, we require it as an assignment–built into our grading systems, and encourage students to voluntarily use this tool to communicate and discuss school information with their parents.

As another method of communication with parents, our PLC team has decided to list “Study Strategies” on each IEP student’s schedule as a “0” period—regardless of whether the student is enrolled in all general education classes (inclusion) or has one or more special education classes within their day. While this “section” is not graded or listed on regular progress reports, this “earmarking” allows me to use features of the Skyward grading system to maintain records noting student participation related to “self-advocacy”. For each of the 75 IEP students, I record whether or not they complete the weekly/quarterly self-assessments, the dates of their weekly appointments, as well as record specific self-assessment scores (which are then analyzed by our PLC team—allowing for informed, individual, interventions and student goal-setting). With regard to class grades, periods 1-6,  the parent access side of Skyward, while noting specific assignments and corresponding scores, only shows the overall letter grade for each class, whereas my teacher access allows me to view both the letter grade, as well as the current percentage. In terms of data collection, this is an important distinction. While parents can only see an “F” grade in Skyward, I can see the value of that “F”—whether it is 3% or 58%. This specificity is important when working with students and measuring what is sometimes “incremental” progress. I chart this data, week after week, and our team reviews, analyzes, and reflects on the patterns that emerge, and provides interventions as warranted.

At the end of each term, following the regular electronic posting of grades, Secondary Special Education Progress Report (Artifact #3) will be mailed to parents. In addition to this legally required action, additional information included in the mailing will be: Regular secondary progress report (now primarily provided electronically), specific term grades (both letter and percentage), and a “Study Strategies” printout (Artifact #4) reflecting student response and communication throughout term.

As I consider the above described school improvement goals and exhibit, I relate most readily to the section in Zepeda’s Chapter 8, entitled, Getting Down to Brass Tacks. Zepeda reminds us that although many different approaches can be used for evaluating educational programs as well as professional development, “….there are some generally accepted evaluation processes that are particularly applicable to educational programs: selecting a focus, establishing an evaluation agreement, collecting data, organizing and analyzing the data, and reporting the results to stakeholders” (p. 48). Clearly, the issues involved in fully implementing student IEPs, including tracking of progress, use of accommodations and modifications, and communication to all required parties of the IEP team, relate to the above outlined processes. Additionally, I see correlation between legally required IEP processes and the information presented in Figure 2.10:

What Evaluation Reports Can Do (p. 56): 1) Demonstrate accountability 2) Convince 3) Educate 4) Explore and investigate 5) Document 6) Involve 7) Gain support 8) Promote understanding and 9) Promote public relations.


September 2011               Mailed parent letter to all IEP students with explanation of “Study Strategies Program”, with request to return signed acknowledgement and contact information.

October 25-26, 2011        Parent Conferences

Throughout 2011-12       Contact from case managers to parents regarding IEP, ITP, reevaluation meetings and ongoing follow-up to specific situations, as needed.

November 2011                Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Term 1 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

February 2012                   Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Semester 1 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

March 2012                         Parent Conferences (and possible parent survey).

April 2012                            Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Term 3 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

June 2012                            Mailing of Secondary Special Education Progress Report for Semester 2 –along with Gen Ed Progress Report, percentage grades, and additional “Study Strategies” information as noted above.

RESOURCES: Additional time outside the school date is required for the extensive data compilation for each term as well as postage for additional mailings.


Attachment 1 –Parent Letter from KHS Special Education Team explaining Study Strategies Program KHS Parent Letter SE Study Strategies

Attachment 2 –Sample of Planner Artifact #2 Student Planner sample

Attachment 3 –Secondary Progress Report (Part 2—with emphasis on IEP goals, comments, and grade percentages). Exhibit 3, Artifact 3 — KHS Secondary Progress Report (Part 2)

Attachment 4 –Sample of Study Strategies printout. (Unable to post at this time–due to student name on printout)


Deslandes, R. and Bertrand, R. (2005). Motivation of Parent Involvement in Secondary-Level Schooling. The Journal of Educational Research, 98(3), 164-175.

Zepeda, S. (2008). Professional Development: What Works. New York: Eye on Education.


6 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Helene Hatch on November 28, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Good job outlining what we do. Special Education parents can be exceptionally reclusive and hard to involve in the education process.


  2. Posted by Yun Cheng on November 28, 2011 at 4:23 pm

    The high school students are often expected to be “independent” and “responsible” for their studies. This is a problem which caused many students to fail and not reaching their full potential. Laurie’s plan and effort to involve parents in student learning, and to provide an “accountability” system, has and will continue to improve the student’s academic success. I believe the planners and weekly self-evaluation will help the students develop good study habits, work ethnic, and responsibility. The involvement from parents will provide needed support, reinforcement, and consistency between school and home. The special education department at KHS and students have greatly benefited from Laurie’s planning, developing, and implementing these strategies.


  3. Posted by Bill Kettenring on December 1, 2011 at 2:48 pm

    This was a cool read, Laurie. I’m impressed with your thoughtful efforts at bridging the communications gap and with your samples. You make it look easy, though I know it’s not. I hope that other districts and departments will catch on like this, too.

    You gave me several take-away ideas for my own job. I’m piqued by the content in your first parent letter, the study behind it, and your data compilation content and regimen. Perhaps you can give us another insight or two on these items in your spare time?!!


    • Thank you so much for your comments, Bill~ I appreciate your perspective, as well as all the help and support you have given to me throughout the years. Remember the old “Mac Plus”, and the “Filemaker” systems we collaborated on for our respective jobs–trying to streamline the data-collection and record-keeping process? You are well-acquainted with the “behind-the-scenes” work it takes to keep systems running! Thanks again! Laurie~


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