How families think about transitional kindergarten and whether they support it will be critical to its success. Parents generally prefer to be engaged through "person to person" interactions, particularly when it comes to new programs or changes at schools. With TK, delivering information about the program in a personal, accessible way, from a messenger they can relate to and trust is very important, especially in the initial stages of implementation.
See Communication Across the District for more information about setting up a communications plan for your district. Messaging ideas can also be found in Effective Messages About Transitional Kindergarten as well as the sample brochure and the Parent Outreach Toolkit.
When developing a parent outreach strategy, it is important to create opportunities to engage families directly through school events and resources. Below are some examples of effective outreach strategies:
Giving families an opportunity to engage in one-on-one conversations with teachers and principals about transitional kindergarten is pivotal to outreach. This has been the most important recruitment tool for many school districts. Communicating with families at this level gives them an opportunity to share their questions and concerns about TK. It also gives teachers and principals a chance to share positive information about the program and address misinformation families may have heard.
Organizing parent meetings offers a forum for districts to provide information about TK as well as encourage dialogue and questions from families. Small group meetings (three to six parents) have been shown to be much more effective than large group meetings because they allow more time and space to share information and provide an opportunity to correct misinformation in a productive way.
Transitional Kindergarten Liaison
Districts can assign a designated staff member(s) to serve as a community liaison on transitional kindergarten. TK liaisons should be knowledgeable about how the district is implementing TK, have access to all outreach materials, list their contact information on letters and other materials and present at parent information sessions to help families feel comfortable reaching out to them in the future.
More information on classroom tours, parent hotlines, resource tables and other ideas for family outreach can be found in the Transitional Kindergarten Parent Outreach Toolkit.
Identify Parent Ambassadors
Parents trust other parents when it comes to information about their children's education. They offer a peer-to-peer perspective that helps validate information from the school or district. Having parents who can act as ambassadors for transitional kindergarten has proven to be one of the strongest assets in TK recruitment efforts across the state. Candidates for parent ambassadors might include:
- parents whose child attended TK;
- parents formally involved in school leadership such as school site councils, Parent-Teacher Associations, and other parent advisory committees;
- parent center staff and volunteers; and
- trusted parents who may not be in formal school leadership roles but are very involved in their community (churches, community based organizations, food pantries, etc.).
Engagement ideas for parent ambassadors might include some of the following strategies:
- Hold a personalized briefing with the principal or teachers to ensure all parent ambassador questions are addressed. Provide parent ambassadors with written materials to distribute to other parents.
- Invite parent ambassadors to participate in parent informational meetings, serve as a panelist at community events or provide a quote or note of endorsement in the school's parent bulletin.
- Invite parent ambassadors to planning meetings and give them opportunities to provide feedback on planning documents.
Above material adapted from Preschool California Transitional Kindergarten Parent Outreach Toolkit, 9-10.