Insights / Nov 24, 2020

Creating and Sustaining Family Engagement During COVID

Creating And Sustaining Family Image Blog

In the fall of 2020, still reeling and dealing with COVID, stakeholders in both public and private K-12 institutions are faced with trying to build the airplane while flying, when teaching/learning virtually.  It is now becoming apparent that this is not going away any time quickly. Creating and sustaining family engagement has become more important than ever, as the success of student achievement hinges on parental involvement. 

Impact of Parent Engagement on Student Success

Educators know intrinsically and anecdotally that parent/guardian involvement is key to students’ success in education, but the research bears this out. 

 

Children with engaged parents are more likely to:

  • Earn higher grades or test scores
  • Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education
  • Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom 
  • Have better social skills and classroom behavior

They are also less likely to:

  • Have low self-esteem
  • Need redirection in the classroom 
  • Develop behavioral issues

Parent Survey #1 01 (1)

(Waterford.org)

Strategies to promote parent/guardian involvement include:

  • Try these parent engagement strategies to transform involvement into parent partnerships:
  • Give parents your contact information and get to know them early in the school year. That way, when they have questions, they’ll feel comfortable reaching out
  • Provide opportunities for parents to connect with the school. Volunteer shifts, class activities, or parent-teacher committees are all great engagement opportunities
  • Share your classroom goals or expectations openly with parents, and ask them to do the same
  • Connect with parents in-person as much as possible. Use emails, texts, or apps to keep parents up-to-date on upcoming class events
  • Address common challenges that inhibit parent engagement like scheduling conflicts or an intimidating atmosphere

(Waterford.org)

Not only this, many districts battle with dropping enrollment, ultimately affecting their budgets year over year. Getting family engagement during COVID, although difficult, is now a must, especially if districts want to curb digital truancy.

Family Engagement Challenges during COVID

But what does this parent engagement look like in the new age of mass on-line learning and acknowledging there is still a gapping digital disparity in the United States. The Pew Research reports that the Federal Communications Commission estimates that more than 21 million people in the United States don’t have that connection. That includes nearly 3 in 10 people—27 percent—who live in such rural places as the outreaches of Maine and the fertile fields of Indiana, as well as 2 percent of those living in cities.

Research shows that 40 percent of schools lack broadband, as do 60 percent of healthcare facilities outside metropolitan areas. (Winslow)

Clearly, this problem is beyond the scope of what educators can tackle and is clearly an infrastructure issue in most instances, but these days people are getting creative, including providing wi-fi through equipped buses in outlying areas and neighborhoods, using hotspots,  public libraries, and retail companies that provide free internet. This still relies on students getting to these locations.   There is also the issue of devices, hardware, and software. 

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What can we do to build capacity for on-line learning through home-school-home connections? Understanding there is a digital divide, and everyone is overwhelmed and struggling with pandemic fatigue. The efficacy of family engagement still is integral for student success – even amid a pandemic – and even on-line. 

Building Community through Family Engagement and Technology during COVID

The first step is to determine who is connected and who is not.  A needs assessment is key – and this can be done at a school – drive-by surveys with either a tablet or a paper and pencil version of the survey.  Create a plan for those students who are not connected and provide resources/materials/learning packets and have the parents/guardians pick them up weekly and make sure they leave with updates as to what is going on and where they can turn for information that does not require the internet.

Leveraging Technology to Connect with Families

Even those who may not have internet or a computer, most households do have a smartphone. Mobile phone ownership over time has increased and most Americans – 96% – now own a cellphone of some kind. “The share of Americans that own smartphones are now 81%, up from just 35% in Pew Research Center’s first survey of smartphone ownership conducted in 2011.” (Pew Research Center Internet & Technology). Family engagement during COVID will require educators to connect via smartphones as they are the most accessible technology. 

Any social media platform can be leveraged to provide engagement. Zoom, Skype, and others all have an app. Schools have held town halls on Twitter, where at a set period of time, families can Tweet questions/concerns and receive replies. Applications such as ClassTag Connect are also ways to keep families connected when internet access in the home is limited.  

Best Practices for Integrating Technology into your Parent Engagement Plan

With all things, educational flexibility is always key, but particularly now.  Also, educators need to forget perfection.  Technology is temperamental and we have to do the best we can with the tools we have access to –to create a cohesive approach to family involvement, keep communication pathways open and simple – pick one app for communication so that all families know where to find important information.  The key is simplicity and having all families understand how they can connect in the virtual environment. 

No matter what the platform, family engagement during COVID is key to a student’s success. When this is all over, and it will be one day, we are going to have more ways than ever to connect with our families, and ultimately – that is a good thing.  We need to pick them up at the airport and have them help us build this plane. 


Want to learn how you can improve your district’s parent-engagement with ClassTag Connect? 

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