Parent and Family Engagement: 15 Tips to Help High School Students Achieve

Ever wonder how to engage parents and families so they can help the high school student succeed? Here are 15 Tips that can help!

I teach high school, and parents and families often ask me “What can we do to help our high school student succeed? Is there something we should be doing at home?”

To answer these questions, I turned to the research. I wanted to be able to give parents and families a “toolkit,” which would assist them in helping their high school-aged student achieve. Harvard researcher, Nancy E. Hill (2009) has uncovered a series of strategies – differentiated from the elementary school model of parent involvement – that can help the parents and families of high school students. The core of Hill’s strategy involves “academic socialization,” a term she uses to refer to a family’s ability to communicate academic expectations and foster education and career aspirations. Academic socialization has proven extremely effective in supporting students during their middle and high school years. It focuses not on what parents can do AT the school, but what parents and families can do AT HOME to support their child.

15 Tips for Helping the High School Student Achieve

1. Communicate your expectations for the student often. You don’t have to be overbearing, but let students know you expect them to do their best.

2. Almost all schools now have parent portals, where parents and families can check a student’s overall grade or a grade in a particular assignment. You should check that at least once a week.

3. Discuss learning strategies with the student: using flashcards, making revisions to writing drafts, how to proofread (my favorite method is reading aloud to catch mistakes), studying with a family member, reviewing notes, etc.

4. Research has shown that youth are incredibly influenced by the discussion of aspirations and goals. Foster career aspirations with the student. Those aspirations may change frequently over the student’s four years in high school, but it is important to talk about setting goals and discussing pathways to achieving those goals.

5. Specifically, encourage and promote high achievement and academic goals – both long term and short term. As stated above, discuss these goals frequently with the student, including how to overcome obstacles to success, and what work will have to be done to achieve the goals. Review weekly, monthly, and by semester. Some examples:

Long Term Goals

Graduate high school with 3.0 GPA

Get into Duke University

Short Term Goals

Get a B in English

Go up 100 points on the SATs

Earn Proficient on the state test

6. Make plans for the future. Discuss the future with the student often, asking what s/he would like to do with his/her life, where s/he envisions him/herself in five years.

7.  Brint (2006) noted that “the people who tend to move up are those who have the habits and skills that bring success in school.” These include:

  • Regularity – be prompt to school, limit absences, go to teachers for extra help
  • Diligence and Perseverance – encourage your student not to give up, to continue to work hard, be conscientious, attentive, and careful with schoolwork
  • Reasoning Ability – work with students to develop reasoning ability through games, discussions, and questioning.

8.  Work to cultivate “academic ethos” – the discipline to study when others are out with friends, socializing, and having fun. Help your student to see the “big picture.”

9. Encourage your student to join clubs, sports, and other activities at the high school and bond with fellow classmates. There are many wonderful activities at the high school level that can provide students with unique experiences; most are free. Visit museums – the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, for example, is free on Wednesdays. The Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston is free to students under the age of 18. Lectures at colleges are often free to the general public.

10. Help students to understand how an education helps them economically. For example, more than 1/3 of high school dropouts live their lives in poverty. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2013, the median of the earnings for young adults with a bachelor’s degree was $48,500, while the median was $23,900 for those without a high school diploma or equivalent; $30,000 for those with a high school diploma or equivalent; and $37,500 for those with an associate’s degree. In other words, young adults with a bachelor’s degree earned more than twice as much as those without a high school diploma or its equivalent in 2013 (i.e. 103 percent more), 62 percent more than young adult high school completers, and 29 percent more than young adults with an associate’s degree.

11. Ask brothers and sisters (and cousins and aunts and uncles) to be sources of advice and support to encourage high achievement in students. That’s why this article is entitled Parent and FAMILY Engagement. Families can play a huge role in a student’s success.

12. Take advantage of free services for your student such as SAT prep programs, summer college enrichment programs, and state test ramp-up courses. Your student’s teachers and guidance counselors can provide this information.

13. Encourage students to take Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate courses. Talk with guidance counselors freshmen year to find out the requirements and work towards helping the student meet them. AP and IB courses are extremely important when it comes to college admissions.

14. You don’t have to help your teen with his/her homework – rather foster teen management of schoolwork by encouraging and taking a supervisory role in overseeing that work.

15. Augment or supplement instruction where needed through books, enrollment in co-curricular activities, and free on-line courses like Khan Academy, which offers a variety of few study programs in many subjects.

Most importantly, talk with your student’s teachers early and often. We are here to help, and together, we can make sure your student excels in high school and has a wonderful learning experience!


Berzin, S. C.  (April 2010) Educational Aspirations among Low Income Youths:  Examining Multiple

Conceptual Models. Children & Schools, 32(2).

Bourdieu, P. and Passeron, J. (1977) Reproduction in Education, Society, and Culture. London: Sage.

Brint, Steven.  (2006) Schools and Societies (2nd ed.)Stanford, CA, Stanford University Press.

Hill, Nancy, E. and Chao, R.K.  (2009) Families, School and the Adolescent. New York: Teachers College Press.

Patterson, J. A., Hale, D. and Stressman, M. (2007) Cultural Capital and School Leaving: A Case Study

in an Urban High School. The High School Journal.

Viadero, D. (November 17, 2009) Scholars: Parent-School Ties Should Shift in Teen Years, Education

                   Week. 29(12), 1–14.



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  • EarlElvis

    Engaging parents a necessity


    I read your post with great interest.

    Engaging parents is very important, but can be extremely challenging, especially when dealing with ELLs parents.  Many of these parents do not talk nor understand English, so a communication problem arises.  And many teachers would prefer not consulting these parents.  Yet, the parents need to know what is going on with the education of their children.  They know their children more than anyone else, it will be sad not to have contacts with them.  Parents will support the teacher at home by making sure that their children study, do their homework and work hard.  They should, therefore, not be forgotten. 

    The teacher should make home visits and look for someone who knows the language to interpret for him or her.  Parents will appreciate it and they will know that the teacher is really interested in the education of their children.

  • NancyBarile


    Agree! My school is VERY multicultural – over 46 languages spoken and, because we are a gateway community, it is important that we reach ALL parents – not just those who speak English. I have translated these tips into the three major languages (other than English) at my school (Spanish, Arabic, and Portuguese), but we still need to reach our Albanian, Serbo-Croatian, Indian, etc. parents, and while that task is sometimes difficult, we utilize family members, translators, and every other tool available to us to make sure no one is left out. 

  • MadKat

    Parental Engagement


    Your article was forwarded to me, as a parent of a junior in a mediocre high school in the Midwest, by the sub-standard principal of said school in her weekly i-newsletter.  She stated, to wit, "2. This is a great article one of our teacher's shared with me.  As a parent, I found it helpful!"

    The principal of my son's school seems to think that by linking articles like this one to her weekly lip-service p.r. rag she distributes, she is being communicative, transparent, blah-blah, and the like.

    If I, as a parent, followed your 15 steps, or even five of them on a regular basis, my youngest son would very, very soon thereafter shut off all communication about his school life with me – because he would believe I was "hassling" him.  He would tell me to "get off his back".  His older sister would have shut me down even sooner.  As she would have claimed I was putting even more pressure on her that the school and herself already did, that she ought not have to hear this crap at home, and the like,  And both of them would be right. 

    I know this because this is exactly what happened when I followed this same principal's similar advice several years ago.

    Don't you administrators see how much anxiety is in these students of today?  That anxiety is the number 1 pressing health problem for college and university students (and thus their school’s support services departments).  Which crisis is feared to be reaching a pandemic stage in the next several years?

    I do not understand this push to make each and every child an overachiever while they are still in high school.  It's not healthy, and in my opinion, confers no visible benefit to a person during their post-school years.  Absolutely none.

    Lighten up, Francis.

    • NancyBarile

      Parental Engagement

      Thank you for your response! I wanted to point out that I am not an administrator – I am a teacher with over 21 years of experience in the classroom. I have seen these tips work very well for parents and families, especially in the low-income, urban school where I teach. Goal-setting, in particular, has proven very effective. And, of course, these methods are all backed by strong research. There is, however, no blanket method that works for everyone. Parents love, encourage, and support their children in many different ways – I suggest you do what works best for your family. 


    Parent Involvement
    Parent involvement is crucial to satisfy a lasting relationship with youregard child. No matter how old your child gets, encouragement and support are critical to positively motivate a child to keep moving forward. It’s hard as a parent when you have life’so forces that makes something that should be so easy so difficult in today’s economy, especially for us single parents. I mean we can let a busy,yet challenging day force us to not have enough time for our own child’support needs. I’m thankful my son’s PTO at his school referred me to Kid Consultants. I was able to get scholarship assistance for Kacey and he is only in the 9th grade. They taught both of us how to write for grants and how to take the path of their business ownership opportunity to help his future business pay his college education. I have never been more excited to support my child and have the weight lifted off of me as a single mother. I am supporting his business plans and it feels good to have a string bond with my son and see him smile as he puts his business skills into action. Thanks for sharing this blog post article Nancy. Parents need to know there are ways, and they need to find those resources that will support them as well. I’m fortunate I did!

  • Anna Weber

    Leadership Programs for youth

    Leadership provides with the opportunity to lead. Especially it is important for High School students to enroll themselves in leadership programs, as it helps them to learn and lead. As the young leaders of tomorrow, you have the passion and energy and … a global vision .Students go thorough complete transformation by attending such programs. It develop many attributes to their personality like it helps them to gain confidence, development of communication skills, expansion of their network,  getting management skills,  development of problem solving skill, getting recognized,  enhance resume and many more. Mr Chris Salamone formerly served as a faculty member at Loyola University Chicago School of Law and the National Institute of Trial Advocacy, and served as a leadership curriculum adviser at The University of Central Oklahoma. Chris Salamone works to improve the lives of young people around the world through his many philanthropic endeavors. He functions as chairman of the Lead America Foundation and extends a considerable amount of financial support to fund the education of 300 children in Haiti. 

  • TyroneLRoberts

    The way the parents

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