4 Keys to Family Engagement Reporting - ParentPowered®

Unlock Family Engagement Reporting as a Compass for Successful Family-School Partnerships

Want to unlock the power of family engagement reporting? Read our recent blog post for four strategies to family input collection and analysis.

By Maren Madalyn, contributing writer

I am an education data nerd. I spent seven years of my career partnering with K12 educators to design, build, and utilize complex data analytics tools and dashboards for their student and school improvement efforts. During this time, I glommed onto every opportunity to collaborate with school leaders and district administrators who were trying to make sense of the vast swathes of educational data they had in front of them.

Most educators wanted to both see the forest through the trees, but they also wanted to dig into the minute details of every tree trunk, branch, or leaf they found along the path.

An adult hand holding a pen and pointing to graphs on family engagement reporting.

I distinctly remember being asked by administrators from across the country the same question in varying forms: 

Is there a fail-safe strategy for identifying, analyzing, and using all this data to impact student learning? 

This question arose whether it came from an attendance officer seeking to share the value of a targeted initiative to reduce absenteeism rates, or a family liaison who needed to build compelling family engagement reporting to secure funding for next year’s programs.

I empathize with this question. K12 and early childhood educators face a mountain of metrics from tools like their SIS, LMS, student social emotional learning surveys, teacher school climate questionnaires, family feedback surveys, behavior incident reports, interim assessments, summative assessments, PFCE data — and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It can feel daunting to find a path through the dense forest of information, one that ends with positive learning outcomes for students.

One subset of education data is notoriously tricky to pin down: family engagement data. Though research demonstrates the power of family engagement to impact student development, it isn’t always clear how to best measure strategies used to partner with families, let alone report on progress made. And triangulating this data against all the other metrics available? That gets complicated quickly.

The truth is, there isn’t a one-size-fits-all trail map for telling a school’s story of family and community involvement. Analysis and reporting in any area of education is as unique and diverse as the K12 organizations that use it. 

The good news is that certain practices and cycles of continuous improvement can greatly help educators craft their own journey with parent engagement data. For family engagement specialists, these tips act as a compass to point you on the right path toward stronger family-school partnerships.

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Family engagement: using data as a tool for trust

In any partnership, be it between people or organizations, you’ll find that trust is a critical component to its foundation. With trust, communication becomes more honest, respectful, and clear. With trust, collaboration towards a shared goal comes more fluidly. 

Family-school partnerships are no exception. That’s exactly why the most effective family engagement strategies for schools anchor on building trust between caregivers and school staff — even when it can be challenging to do so.

The benefits of family engagement are the ultimate reward for educators’ investments in cultivating positive family-school relationships. Everyone in the school community feels the impact, from improvements to student achievement like reading and math scores, to increased attendance rates, to teacher satisfaction and much more. For traditionally underserved families in particular, family engagement is a powerful mechanism to uplift their voices and wellbeing, creating opportunities for greater equity in education so every child can thrive. 

With strong relationships and mutual trust in place, educators can then find ways to incorporate the right data and analytics to further support the bridges connecting school to home and vice versa. 

Note, though, that it is essential for family trust come first — before educators involve data and family engagement reporting practices in home-school relationships. By gaining the confidence of caregiver communities, particularly those traditionally underserved by schools, educators are minimizing potential harm that data can and has historically caused to those very communities whose voices they wish to uplift. Such strategies for equitable family engagement pay dividends in ensuring all students can thrive!

In modern K12 classrooms and early childhood centers, there is no shortage of data that educators can put to use. Despite a proliferation of metrics available, schools may also face barriers with identifying, gathering, and analyzing data, including those used for measuring the success of parent involvement strategies. Some of the most common challenges include:

A young multiracial family taking a walk in their neighborhood with their toddler son.
  • Time: Educators are famously slim on excess time and benefit from easy-to-use tools that allow them to see or manipulate the data they need. 
  • Familiarity: Teachers and administrators aren’t data analysts, and that’s ok! It’s normal for educators to feel overwhelmed here, though it can affect how helpful data is for family engagement planning.
  • Uncertainty: In addition to navigating challenges with analysis itself, it can be tricky for educators to know which data to reference when seeking to answer a question or test a hypothesis about parent involvement methods.

Though these challenges exist, there are several tips and tricks available to educators that greatly help them take full advantage of the opportunities that family engagement reporting has to offer.

4 keys to successful family engagement reporting

ParentPowered has collaborated with hundreds of schools, districts, Head Start programs, and other community partners across the United States. Combined with our in-house expertise in designing products and assessing impact, we’ve put together four keys to unlocking successful family engagement reporting in your community.

Remember, each of these steps is most effective to implement when trust between families and schools is in place — so it’s ok to start slow and small with family engagement data! Building momentum in both areas will pay off in the end. 

1. Clarify what you and your audience need to know

Just as you would plan any roadtrip or hiking trek, the first step is to identify the destination. By understanding the outcomes you want to see, you can then determine what information you need and the resources to leverage that will give you that information. 

In turn, it helps to understand what your audience wants to know about family engagement, too. For instance, a school principal may want insights about families’ questions regarding a specific program on campus, while a state official may be more interested in higher level trends around parent communication.

What’s important may vary by school culture, role, and goals for family-school partnerships. That’s part of the beauty and challenge of defining the journey forward. 

A great place to start is by bringing the voices of multiple team members and stakeholders together. Collaboratively identifying the destination relies on engaging two of the five habits of effective family engagement in schools: reflection and active listening

Reflection may look like gathering your family and community engagement team with academic leadership or other adjacent staff to discuss guiding questions such as:

  • What do we need to know in order to make the decision in front of us? 
  • What student or school outcomes will communicate to our entire community to continue supporting and engaging this important work? (This is particularly helpful if you’re considering asking another team to give you the data or insights you need for a presentation or big decision.)
  • How many families are we supporting through our family engagement programming? Which families are we not engaging?
  • What family engagement activities are most useful to our caregivers?
  • How many community resources do my families have access to? Which are they  utilizing most frequently?
  • What questions does our primary audience for this reporting have about family engagement?

Active listening complements reflection efforts by opening space for additional considerations, ideas, questions, or concerns that fellow staff members or your caregiver community may have. Regular staff meetings, informal conversations with parents in the hallway, and administrator-teacher conferences are all excellent opportunities to use active listening to clarify your goals for family engagement reporting, as well as what specific audiences want to know. As an added incentive, practicing active listening skills on a regular basis also helps with improving school climate.

At ParentPowered, our team utilizes these habits with our K12 and community-based partners, learning what reporting requirements they may have around family and community involvement, as well as what questions matters most for them to answer. We use these insights to guide how we source parent input and present the information with the ParentPowered Dashboards.

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2. Equitably gather your data and insights

Once you establish clarity around your goals for family engagement reporting, you’ll naturally need to gather data to track progress towards accomplishing them! Because the type and nature of data measuring family involvement varies from organization to organization, I want to focus instead on best practices for collecting family feedback.

Family input surveys are a popular tool for educators to solicit feedback and insights from their school communities, especially those serving multilingual families. For example, one of our district partners finds the feedback gathered from Spanish speaker surveys sent from the ParentPowered Dashboard highly valuable to properly capture the feedback from the community they serve.

When designing a family survey, there are a few fundamental practices you may want to integrate into your approach to yield the most equitable and impactful results. Here are four to help you get started:

  • Verify which language families prefer to receive written communications like surveys
  • Translate your survey into all languages represented in your families’ preferences, using comprehensive methods that prioritizes equivalent meaning over word-for-word translation
  • Level all survey text to a third-grade reading level, using short sentences to ensure the content is accessible to families of varying literacy levels
  • Use text messaging to deliver surveys, which is a more effective and equitable way to reach caregivers than through tools like email or paper surveys
A sample text message survey from ParentPowered sent to caregivers.

Here again, it is essential to be mindful of how your data collection practices can reduce potential harm, especially for traditionally underserved communities that have experienced exploitation in the past through data. 

If you are looking for more ways to make the most of family surveys, watch our recent webinar for more tips and tricks. 

3. Share findings often, consistently, and intentionally

Once you have gathered your data, it’s time to review it. Educators these days have a variety of approaches and tools for exploring patterns or trends in their metrics. Professional learning communities and grade-level team meetings are great spaces for teams to collaboratively analyze their family engagement data or design visuals that convey the story of their organization’s family-school partnerships.

However, just as important as completing the data analysis itself is sharing these results back out to the broader school community. Remember, authentic partnership between home and school means that trust is firmly established and maintained. Two-way communication with families is the key to ongoing collaboration that reinforces their trust in your school team. 

Because survey fatigue, time constraints, and uncertainty about the value of their input can discourage a caregiver’s participation in your requests for feedback, it is important to highlight the impact of their time and effort spent sharing their insights. Even a simple email or text out to the community that shares how their feedback informed a recent decision about school programming sends a powerful message to parents: their perspectives and voices matter. Other strategies for communicating survey results include posting snapshots to social media and weaving in metrics into parent-teacher meeting agendas.

ParentPowered offers its partners an end-of-year impact report to help them share their success stories with family engagement, including reach, usage, and qualitative caregiver input on our evidence-based digital family engagement programs.  

A sample image of the ParentPowered Dashboard, displaying the results of a family feedback survey.
Example family feedback data in ParentPowered Dashboards

Administrators can take screenshots or highlights from this report or their Dashboards to weave into recurring family communication. Alternatively, if they prefer, educators can also export raw family survey data to explore the results and craft their own unique narrative specific to their school context.

4. Iterate on reporting alongside family engagement strategies

For data and reporting to support continuous improvement efforts with family engagement programming, they too need to be improved, well, continuously.

Alongside adjusting family engagement strategies little by little, schools also benefit from iterating on their methods used to identify, collect, analyze, and report on caregiver and parent engagement. Here are additional guiding questions to help you get started on improving family engagement reporting methods:

  • How representative is our family survey sample? Does our data reflect input representative of the diversity in our community?
  • What partners or resources in the broader community can we leverage the next time we ask for family input? In which organizations do our families already trust as partners, and how can we collaborate with them to both ask for feedback and share back results?
  • How frequently are we asking families to take actions, including sharing their ideas and insights? Have we made each request for actions accessible for all families — new, returning, multilingual, etc?

You can apply the same principles of reflection and active listening explored earlier in this article to incrementally adjust family engagement reporting for the better. For more information on effective continuous improvement practices, explore these resources:

Leverage family and community insights with ParentPowered

Regardless of the roadmap that they follow through their data forests, educators benefit from thoughtful family engagement reporting strategies. That’s why ParentPowered prioritizes making data collection and analysis about our programs and their impact easy for our partners. Educators utilize resources like customizable text message surveys, impact reporting, engagement dashboards, and much more to share their stories of partnership with their communities. 

Join us at an upcoming info session to discover reporting made easy, and explore our sample messages to witness digital family engagement programs that grow alongside your students. 

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About the author

Maren Madalyn has worked at the intersection of K12 education and technology for over a decade, serving in roles ranging from counseling to customer success to product management. She blends this expertise with fluid writing and strategic problem-solving to help education organizations create thoughtful long-form content that empowers educators.

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