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August 29, 2022
Vol. 80
No. 1

Tell Us About

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Tell us about a unique way you or your school includes families and caregivers as part of the student learning process. 

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Monthly Meet-Ups

I invite families to join us in the classroom about once a month for different activities. I start by inviting them to join a morning meeting with us. We also had an evening when we all came in pajamas and did bedtime reading together. We've played math games, shared writing, coded, and created art together. Sometimes we're showing off our learning, and sometimes we're collaborating. It helps build our community and establish us strongly as a team—family, student, and teacher working together. 
Jennifer Orr, 3rd grade teacher, Fort Belvoir Upper School, Fairfax County Public Schools, Fort Belvoir, Virginia 

Enlisting Students to Engage Parents

Covering just three-square miles and two municipalities, Cornell School District is a tiny, tight knit K-12 community that’s seen a surge in ESL students. Our immigrant population—largely Hispanic—has swelled to 11 percent of our student body from less than two percent five years ago. Many of these ESL students’ parents and guardians face a language barrier that limits involvement in their children’s education and limits access to critical community services. 
To help, we launched an English language tutoring program in partnership with Literacy Pittsburgh, a local nonprofit, and, in a role reversal, we worked with students to engage their parents and guardians, asking them to take home information and help us gauge interest. Student outreach proved effective. Over half of our ESL students’ parents expressed interest in tutoring. We held orientation sessions and divided those who plan to attend in the fall into two groups based on the level of their English language skills. 
All of us are thrilled to be able to do this. For most of us, it’s hard to imagine being a parent who has to send a child off to a school where they can’t speak the language enough to even ask a question. 
Aaron Thomas, superintendent, Cornell School District, Coraopolis, Pennsylvania 

Breaking Down Communication Barriers

We believe that effective two-way communication can build a strong community and drive student success. In our district, we use SchoolStatus to communicate with students’ families and to create authentic relationships. The tool allows families to share what they need and what they want out of their school journey and their school system. Most communication solutions have built-in economic or social barriers such as requiring parents to own a smartphone or computer, have wifi, have time to spend communicating, and too often, to speak English. With SchoolStatus, we have removed barriers by reaching people in ways that are more direct and convenient through text messages, phone calls, or emails. SchoolStatus offers direct communication for our daily messages with families, and it feels authentic. From the dashboard or app, our teachers can reach families in over 100 languages. Our teachers love the translation option. When parents return messages, the teacher simply clicks a button to read it in English. SchoolStatus also reaches parents without requiring them to download anything or login anywhere. Downloading an app was just one extra step for our families. A step we wanted to eliminate. 
Andrew Fernandez, chief of communications, San Marcos CISD, San Marcos, Texas 

EL’s experienced team of writers and editors produces Educational Leadership magazine, an award-winning publication that reaches hundreds of thousands of K-12 educators and leaders each year. Our work directly supports the mission of ASCD: To empower educators to achieve excellence in learning, teaching, and leading so that every child is healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. 

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Strengthening School-Family Partnerships
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