The traditional parents' evening held late in the summer term should be moved to early in the academic year - ideally over a weekend or half term - and used to agree pupil targets with parents.
Schools should also have to report to parents on their child's progress at least twice a year, rather than just annually, according to a report from the Research and Information on State Education Trust.
"Could do better" is its verdict on school reports and parents' evenings, based on a national survey of secondary practice and interviews with parents and teachers in four case study schools.
But its calls for more reports and more time for parents' evenings will not impress the teaching unions who are currently trying to cut bureaucracy.
Alison Clark and Sally Power's research suggests that while schools tend to put any deficiencies in parental participation down to lack of interest, parents complain of the lack of professional responsiveness to their needs.
Most schools surveyed reported more frequently than required and some had made great efforts to improve home-school communications. However, working-class and ethnic-minority parents had problems understanding the information, and many felt they had to read between the lines to work out how their child was doing.
They wanted to see more honesty from teachers and felt that an end-of-year report left it too late for them to help if problems had arisen during the year.
While parents were horrified at the thought of abandoning consultation evenings, they were felt to be an unsatisfactory and often chaotic free-for-all, with no opportunity for meaningful discussion with teachers.
RISE trustee Maurice Plaskow, said at the launch of the report: "This is not just advocacy on the part of parents. Evidence shows that schools need parents to support their children in order that children perform better."
The national executive of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers was due to meet today to discuss reducing red tape.
General secretary Nigel de Gruchy said: "The NASUWT accepts the usefulness of parents knowing about the progress their children are making. But there is an enormous amount of time and administrative workload involved in reporting back to parents in person and on paper. What parents can't have (and many don't want) is any increase in reporting."
Could do better- school reports and parents' evening, Research and Information on State Education Trust. For a copy, contact Margaret Tulloch 0181 947 5758.