Problem Solved: Lack of Family Engagement With Supporting Students Academically

In a new article series, members of the NAESP Mastermind Group share problems of practice and how the group, together, developed solutions. Patricia Wells-Frazier sought help with the lack of family engagement with supporting students academically. Here’s how she addressed the problem.

Editor’s Note: The NAESP Mastermind Group is a peer-to-peer mentoring group to help members solve problems in real time through input and advice from other group participants. Led by NAESP Mastermind Group facilitator Andrea Thompson, participants have volunteered to share their problems of practice—and solutions to those problems—in a new NAESP article series “Problem Solved.” This article is the first in the series.

In her school, Patricia Wells-Frazier, principal of Panorama Elementary School in Temple Hills, Maryland, noticed the following factors contributed to a lack of family engagement with supporting students academically.

  • Socioeconomics: Families facing financial challenges often struggle to prioritize academic engagement due to competing demands on their time and resources.
  • Cultural Differences: Cultural beliefs and practices play a significant role in shaping parental engagement with education. In some cultures, there might be a strong emphasis on the authority of teachers, leading parents to defer to educators and be less involved.
  • Language Barriers: Families who do not speak the language of instruction fluently might find it difficult to communicate with teachers, understand school materials, or assist their children with homework.
  • Educational Background: Parents with limited formal education might feel ill-equipped to support their children academically.
  • Time Constraints: Many parents are juggling multiple responsibilities, including work, household chores, and child care, making finding time to engage consistently in their child’s academic activities challenging.
  • Communication: Effective communication between schools and parents is essential for fostering engagement. Limited communication channels or language barriers might hinder parents’ abilities to stay informed about their child’s progress.
  • Perceived Relevance: Without a clear understanding of the benefits of their involvement in their child’s education, families might not prioritize academic engagement or participation in school workshops.

A Comprehensive Approach

We needed a comprehensive approach that recognizes the diverse needs and circumstances of the families in our community. We set out to:

  • Provide culturally sensitive and language-appropriate resources and support for parents;
  • Offer flexible scheduling for parent workshops and events to accommodate varying work schedules;
  • Implement strategies to improve communication between schools and families, such as multilingual newsletters, parent-teacher conferences, and digital platforms;
  • Educate parents about the importance of their involvement in their child’s education and providing concrete examples of how they can support academic success at home; and
  • Collaborate with community organizations and stakeholders to provide additional support and resources for families facing socioeconomic challenges.

Solutions-Driven Steps

Wells-Frazier outlines steps she took to develop solutions to her problem of practice, with help from members of the NAESP Mastermind Group.

  1. Collaborate with like-minded leaders. By partnering with NAESP Mastermind Group members like principal LaTonya Wright and facilitator Andrea Thompson, I created a collaborate support system with a knowledgeable and experienced colleague who shares my commitment to improving parent engagement.
  2. Engage in transparent conversations. The NAESP Mastermind Group allowed me as safe space to gain insights, share experiences, and exchange ideas with other educators facing similar challenges related to parent engagement.
  3. Visit other schools. By participating in onsite visits at other schools, I had the opportunity to observe firsthand how different schools approach family involvement initiatives. This exposure inspired me with new ideas and best practices to implement in my own school community.
  4. Build relationships. Building a relationship with Thompson strengthened my commitment to seeking support and guidance from experienced professionals in the field of education. Her expertise and assistance are invaluable in leading staff, families, and stakeholders in efforts to enhance parent engagement.
  5. Set goals and intentions. Looking ahead to the next academic year, I have set clear goals and intentions for fully engaging all stakeholders around parent involvement. This proactive approach to implementing meaningful changes and fostering a culture of collaboration and partnership within our school community.

Tangible Results

After implementing these strategies to increase parent engagement around academics within our community, results showed:

  1. Increased Attendance at Parent Workshops: With new strategies and better communication, more parents started attending workshops, indicating heightened engagement.
  2. Enhanced Communication: Improved communication methods, through newsletters, emails, and digital platforms, led to more frequent and meaningful interactions between the school and parents and fostered a sense of connection and collaboration.
  3. Greater Family Involvement: Parents became more involved in their children’s academic activities by assisting with homework, monitoring progress, and engaging in enrichment activities, resulting in better support at home and improved student outcomes.
  4. Empowered Parents: Workshops and resources helped parents feel more confident in their ability to support their children’s education.
  5. A Stronger Sense of Community: A culture of collaboration and partnership between schools, families, and communities has created to a stronger sense of community and shared responsibility for student success.

As we continue to implement these strategies in the new school year, we hope to continue to encourage family participation in workshops, discussions, and collaborative initiatives, in hopes of leading to greater parental efficacy. And we hope to see a long-term impact on student achievement that should come from our efforts to lay the foundation for sustained family engagement.

Overall, the Mastermind framework played a pivotal role in shaping and implementing the intervention to increase parent engagement. The collaborative, supportive, and goal-oriented nature of the framework provided the necessary foundation for developing and executing effective strategies.

Patricia J. Wells-Frazier is principal of Panorama Elementary School in Temple Hills, Maryland, and member of the NAESP Mastermind Group.

NAESP Mastermind Group Framework

The NAESP Mastermind Group framework is a collaborative model that brings together educational leaders to share knowledge, discuss challenges, and develop strategies to improve educational outcomes. Here’s how it works:

  1. Collaborative Learning Community: Education leaders meet regularly to discuss various topics, share insights, and support each other. This collaborative environment fosters a sense of community and mutual accountability.
  2. Structured Meetings: Meetings are typically structured to include discussions on specific themes, problem-solving sessions, and opportunities for members to share their experiences and best practices.
  3. Facilitation by Experts: Groups are facilitated by experienced educators or leaders who guide discussions, provide insights, and ensure that meetings are effective.
  4. Goal-Setting and Accountability: Members are encouraged to set personal and professional goals related to their leadership practices. Regular check-ins and peer accountability help ensure that members stay committed to achieving their objectives.
  5. Reflective Practice: The framework promotes reflective practice, allowing leaders to critically analyze their approaches, learn from their experiences, and continuously improve their strategies.
  6. Professional Growth: Participation contributes to professional growth and enhanced leadership skills.
  7. Resource Access: Being part of the Mastermind network connects leaders with resources, experts, and additional support that are instrumental in planning and executing interventions.

Ready to get involved in the NAESP Mastermind Group? Visit