Year of the family“…this year, more than any other year…I’m calling it the year of the family.”

During the COVID-19 pandemic, parents and guardians have become at-home teachers. Families are educating their children while juggling jobs and other responsibilities. At the same time, Black, Latinx, and low-income families have been especially hard hit by illness, death, and income instability from the coronavirus. Many have also suffered from trauma as police brutality and other forms of systemic racism have become more visible. For students, the consequences are especially concerning as they have also experienced loss of learning time. Because of the long-standing digital divide, students without reliable Internet access or appropriate devices are at an even greater disadvantage.

Now more than ever, it’s imperative that educators engage families as partners in student learning and support parents and guardians who are struggling.

Recent research confirms the severity of this challenge. For example, in a recent survey of parents (Cision PR Newswire):

of parents reported that they were closely connected to their child’s academic activity but only a third of those parents were closely connected to their child’s teacher
of parents reported feeling anxious or worried about their child’s schooling
of parents said texts or phone calls were most useful BUT…
of teachers used texts to stay in touch
of teachers used phone calls to stay in touch

Flexibility“Parents will need flexibility on when meetings are held, the type of technology that is used, and how much assistance they will need to be effective in monitoring their child’s progress in online classes.”

In the focus groups and surveys we conducted, most teachers and administrators (87%) said it’s important to support families in culturally or linguistically responsive ways, but 64% of these also said they needed more support to do this effectively. More than half of the teachers and administrators (57%) reported challenges in providing the support, connection, and encouragement families need for their child’s learning.

Overall Findings

of respondents said that it’s important to support families in culturally or linguistically responsive ways, but 73% of the 87% also said they needed more support to do this effectively (survey).

Developing and nurturing family buy-in and participation require clearly communicating what schools expect from families and what families can expect in return. Meeting and maintaining these expectations means ongoing two-way communication, while being mindful of avoiding confusion and burnout from communication overload.


This section will help you to...

  • Identify and try techniques for engaging families as partners in their child’s academic and social-emotional learning (SEL) process
  • Home in on effective practices for identifying needs and providing families with the supports they require

Equity Priorities

  • Translate, translate, translate in all of the languages the parents and guardians in your district speak
  • Offer families a variety of times and modes of communication and engagement opportunities to accommodate their schedules and learning or communication styles
  • Continue to address the digital divide issues that exacerbate the challenges for many families, including the lack of access to appropriate devices and/or reliable Internet service
  • Provide staff with professional development in anti-racism, anti-bias, and culturally responsive education
  • Have your social workers and other staff help families access supports such as food and mental health care so teachers can focus on students’ academics and SEL growth.