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Resource roundup: Strategies to strengthen family outreach and engagement to support student learning

Strategies to strengthen family outreach and engagement to support student learning

By Joni Wackwitz | March 02, 2022

Extensive research indicates that developing strong partnerships among schools, families, and the community can benefit student learning, both in the classroom and at home. As educators address the challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for engaging and empowering families is greater than ever. To support educators in using evidence-based engagement practices, we rounded up recent research and resources on the topic from across the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) network and the Institute of Education Sciences, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, we included resources on engaging parents and caregivers to support their children’s learning at home.

Engaging families and the community

How to Text Message Parents to Reduce Chronic Absence Using an Evidence-Based Approach
Chronic absence is a nationwide problem, even among young students. A recent Institute of Education Sciences (IES) study found that a carefully designed text messaging strategy improved attendance in elementary schools. Based on the study, this guide provides districts with information and tools for carrying out their own evidence-based attendance text messaging. Learn more about this guide and best practices for parent outreach in an upcoming REL Southwest webinar. More information to come soon!

Impacts of Home Visits on Students in District of Columbia Public Schools
This REL Mid-Atlantic study examined the impacts of structured teacher home visits in grades 1–5 on student disciplinary incidents and attendance. The home visits were conducted as part of a family engagement program in the District of Columbia Public Schools. The study found that a home visit before the start of the school year reduced the likelihood of a student being involved in a disciplinary incident during that school year and, on average, slightly improved student attendance.

Engaging Families to Support Students’ Connectedness to School
This REL West infographic highlights research-based practices that teachers and school leaders can use to increase family engagement. The strategies are partially based on a related webinar, “Engaging Parents and Students from Diverse Populations in the Context of Distance Learning.”

Research in Brief: Engaging and Empowering Diverse and Underserved Families in Schools
This REL West brief (379 KB) PDF icon, developed for the Arizona Department of Education, draws on recent research to highlight evidence-based strategies for engaging and empowering families in their children’s learning and development. The brief also summarizes lessons learned and offers recommendations for how local education agencies can collaborate with and empower diverse groups of families.

Pillars for Family Engagement: Foundation for Meaningful & Equitable School & Family Partnerships
This REL Mid-Atlantic training video highlights a research-based family engagement framework that identifies practices that are meaningful and equitable for schools in Delaware. The goal of the project was to help support districts in adopting and implementing research-based family engagement practices.

Increasing Family Engagement in Distance Learning Classrooms
This REL Pacific blog post summarizes four strategies featured in the Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education and how to adapt them to a remote learning environment. For each strategy, the toolkit provides research, promising practices, tools, and activities to help educators establish and maintain positive partnerships with families and the community.

Leveraging Community Partnerships to Address Unfinished Learning in Kindergarten Through Grade 3 Due to COVID-19
This REL Central webinar explores Rocky Mountain PBS’s innovative Colorado Classroom programming, which addresses unfinished learning for students in kindergarten through grade 3. Webinar presenters introduce strategies and resources that educators at the state and local levels can use to partner with community-based organizations to proactively address unfinished learning in their communities.

It Takes a Village: How Community Organizations, Schools, and Families Can Work Together to Support Early Childhood Literacy
This REL Midwest documentary, produced in partnership with the Chicago public broadcasting station WTTW, illustrates how community organizations can support children’s early literacy skills. A related blog post showcases one of the featured programs, North Lawndale READS, as an example of what equitable access to learning can look like in the context of early literacy.

Engaging parents and caregivers to support learning at home

Supporting Young Children’s Learning and Well-Being at Home: A COVID 19 Resource for Teachers, Parents, and Caregivers
This REL Southwest infographic, developed in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, provides a visual map for what young children need to feel safe, connected, and ready to learn in the time of COVID-19. A modified version of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs guides educators and caregivers in supporting children’s most essential needs as well as their higher level needs, such as learning, self-esteem, and personal growth.

Supporting Young Children’s Learning and Development at Home: Resources for Early Childhood Educators and Caregivers
This REL Southwest tool, developed as a companion product to the infographic above, consists of two searchable spreadsheets of resources that educators and caregivers can use to support young children’s learning and development at home. A companion webinar introduces the tool and includes a Q& A with early childhood educators about how they are engaging parents to support learning in home settings.

Supporting Children’s Reading at Home: Family Resources for Kindergarten through 3rd Grade
This REL Southeast webinar features the Supporting Your Child’s Reading at Home series of resources and how to use them to support learning in home settings. Highlighted resources include kindergarten, grade 1, grade 2, and grade 3 teacher guides for engaging families to support their children’s literacy development at home. The resources draw on the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Foundational Skills to Support Reading for Understanding in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade.

Helping Families Support Their Middle and High School Writers at Home
This REL Southwest and REL Northwest resource describes approaches that parents and caregivers can use to assist middle and high school students in all stages of the writing process, regardless of the caregivers’ own writing skills and experience. The activities draw on the recommendations in the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide Teaching Secondary Students to Write Effectively.

Helping Families and Caregivers Support Young English Learners at Home
This REL Northwest, REL Northeast & Islands, and REL West toolkit, which includes an educators’ guide and nine activity sheets in both English and Spanish, provides simple and fun activities that families and caregivers can use at home to strengthen their children’s development in both their home language and English. A companion webinar introduces the toolkit to educators and provides tips for sharing the activities with families. In addition, a three-part video series demonstrates how educators can use the activity sheets to connect classroom learning with activities in the home.

Community Math Nights
This REL Appalachia video introduces the concept of Community Math Night, an event that brings together educators, students, and families to learn about, talk about, and have fun with math. These events seek to reinforce positive math mindsets, help family members participate in their child’s learning, and build a sense of community and partnership around math learning. A related Community Math Nights Facilitators’ Toolkit includes materials and activities to help educators plan and host their own Community Math Night events. In addition, a Community Math Nights workshop series builds the capacity of elementary math educators, as well as families, to host Community Math Nights.

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Author Information

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Joni Wackwitz

Senior Communications Specialist | REL Southwest