Family Engagement

Regular and Timely Communication“Again and again, reach out to share what’s going on with the school and to ask how they are. You can find out a lot engaging with families and communities.”

Family buy-in and participation are crucial to students’ success, especially in times when students may be feeling disconnected from teachers and peers during their school day. Family engagement should focus on ways educators and families can collaborate to encourage students’ academic and social emotional development and success. For teachers to make family engagement a priority, it is essential for them to have practical strategies for interacting with families in meaningful ways.

Communication during lockdown. Young black couple having video call with friends on laptop at home, wearing medical mask and wawing hands to camera

of teachers and admin reported challenges in providing the support, connection and encouragement families need to support their child’s learning

Guiding Questions

  • How can we help families have a productive role in the learning process?
  • How can schools clearly communicate those expectations while supporting teachers to meet them?
  • What are some practical techniques to engage families?

Professional Development Connections

  • Select and provide training to teachers, students, and caregivers on a limited number of tools, applications, and platforms that the district or school plans to use so that no one is overwhelmed by constant technology changes
  • Link family engagement professional development to anti-racism, anti-bias, and cultural responsiveness and relevance so educators have tools and are comfortable connecting with families around these critical areas
Use these selected strategies and resources
High-leverage Strategies Aligned Resources

Communicate Essential Information

 Throughout the school year, continue to give families the information they most need to properly prepare themselves and their children including essential logistics such as key dates, bus schedules, class schedules as well as where to access essential supports for well-being and other needs.

The New Teacher Project’s 5 Essentials for Engaging Families and Community Partners in Reopening Efforts outlines key steps for starting and maintaining family engagement. It also includes reflection questions that can help you think about the effectiveness of your engagement efforts.

Durham Public Schools’ district-wide Embrace SEL hub promotes SEL skills and well-being across the community.

Tech Tool Menu that Includes Multilingual Options

Create a district- or school-wide menu of tech tools (by grade) that will be used universally and train all students and their families on those tools. The menu should include:

  • A required Learning Management System and key tools
  • Some optional items that allow for choice/flexibility (e.g., video, email, text)

Tech Toolkit for Families and Guardians is for educators and allows them to share resources about Google’s technology with families and guardians. (Google for Education)

Apps to Communicate with Families (Parent Teacher Home Visits) is a targeted list that includes Talking Points. This free for educators app supports two-way communication in multiple home languages.  It will translate up to over 100+ languages and can send individual or group messages up to 200 individuals per teacher.

Rotate Engagement Opportunities

Create a rotating schedule of town halls and virtual family coffee hours with the principal and/or other school leaders

This Virtual Coffee Hour meeting agenda and highlights provide a good example of family engagement. (Lowry Elementary School in Denver)

This Family and Community engagement planning tool draws on resources created by the Council of Chief State School Officers, The New Teacher Project, and Education Resource Strategies.

Families as Partners in Learning

Engage families specifically as partners in learning by:

  • Setting engagement priorities
  • Focusing on a specific cross-cutting academic area such as literacy
  • Encouraging them to help
    students establish good work
    habits and time management
    rather than supplementing
    instruction or academic content (EdResearch for Recovery, brief #12)

Springboard Collaborative’s Virtual family engagement coaching is a two-week family engagement plan focused on reading with daily messages and ideas (and scripts) for connecting personally with families through videos, chats, Facebook live events, or phone calls.

Learning Heroes is a bilingual “roadmap” parents can use to help keep their children on track with math, reading, life skills, and more while school is closed.

Family Guides for each grade level (Seek Common Ground and Student Achievement Partners) help parents, grandparents, caregivers, friends— anyone helping a child to learn in the 2020-21 school year— understand more about what children should know and be able to do by the end of each grade in literacy and math. Other academic subjects are important too, but math and literacy are the building blocks for everything else, so these guides focus just on those subjects.

Virtual Civility Guidance for Students and Families  (Montgomery County Public Schools) is model for providing district-wide guidance on supporting online learning and includes tips on how parents/guardians can have constructive email exchanges with teachers and school staff.