Parent Teacher Home Visits: Strengthening family-school relationships
Wednesday, September 25, 2019
by: Gina Martinez-Keddy

Section: From Contributors




Growing up, Carmen had a terrible experience with school. Later diagnosed with ADHD, her teachers in the 1980s knew little about it and Carmen felt labeled as “the dumb kid,” so she dropped out. When her children were old enough for school, she was disengaged and had few academic expectations for them. The last thing she wanted was to set foot in their school or talk to a teacher or principal.
Growing up, Carmen had a terrible experience with school. Later diagnosed with ADHD, her teachers in the 1980s knew little about it and Carmen felt labeled as “the dumb kid,” so she dropped out. When her children were old enough for school, she was disengaged and had few academic expectations for them. The last thing she wanted was to set foot in their school or talk to a teacher or principal.
 
She reluctantly agreed to let two teachers visit her home in suburban Denver and within 10 minutes of their arrival, everything changed for her. Her daughter’s teachers asked her: “What are your hopes and dreams for your child?” Nobody had asked her that before. No teacher had sought her input on the education of her children. She did not even know that her daughter’s teachers cared. After that home visit, Carmen felt more comfortable getting involved in her children’s education. She is now a regular at their school. She seeks out the teachers, and has made clear to both her daughters the importance of school. She even persuaded her older son, who had dropped out before graduating high school, to finish his education.
 
We hear stories like this all the time from the teachers we train to make home visits and from the family and community engagement specialists at school districts in more than 700 communities in 27 states and Washington, DC. Teachers are amazed by what they learn about their students and their families. Educators routinely report that they get better at engaging students, they show more empathy, they rethink their assumptions about students, and they incorporate student interests and culture in classroom teaching and learning. Families also report changes - greater appreciation of their children’s teachers and school, and greater comfort interacting with them in ways that benefit their children.
 
We always knew home visits also have a positive effect on learning. But over the past few years, three studies — one by Johns Hopkins University and two by RTI International — have measured and confirmed it. Specifically, they found that:
 
  • Students whose families participate in PTHV home visits are 21 percent less likely to be chronically absent. Interestingly, all students at schools doing the home visits are less likely to be chronically absent — even if their family didn’t get a home visit themselves.
  • Students in schools participating in home visits have 35 percent higher odds of scoring proficient on ELA tests, whether or not their own family participated.
  • Parent teacher home visits measurably change teacher and family mindsets.
 
The research also shows that it works in all kinds of schools — rural, urban, more and less diverse, in elementary and secondary schools.


The PTHV model was developed by a group of parents in Sacramento, CA, more than 20 years ago who got together and discussed their frustration over their relationships with their children’s schools. The model is simple and contains five core practices: visits are voluntary for both teachers and families; educators are trained and compensated; we share hopes, dreams and goals; we don’t target students; and educators go in pairs and reflect after the visit.
 
A superintendent’s larger vision and strategy to meaningfully engage families plays a key role in supporting a home visit practice. District family and community engagement directors often refer to this bigger vision when they reach out to us to schedule trainings. Their superintendents recognize that the partnership between school and family is critical to student success and they make it a priority. 
 
Districts that are exploring parent-teacher home visits often ask us three questions when they’re considering bringing PTHV in to lead a training: 
 
  • Won’t teachers and parents resist? Sure, sometimes. But it’s voluntary, the teachers get paid, they quickly grow to love it (teachers and families), and word spreads. 
  • Aren’t teachers nervous to visit some of their students’ neighborhoods? It turns out that teachers very quickly become comfortable with it, and going in pairs helps.
  • Can districts afford it? A typical home visit costs about $80 (for two educators) and reaching even only a portion of families still shows impressive results for all students. Many districts fund home visits through Title I funding for family engagement.
 
The new research conclusions add credibility to what we have long known anecdotally: relationship-focused parent-teacher home visits, implemented well, make a world of difference to teaching and learning, for teachers, families, and students.

If you’re interested in bringing this research-backed practice to your district, we would love to talk with you about the PTHV model and our trainings. Please contact our office at 916-448-5290 or gina@pthvp.org.
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