Volume 13|November 15, 2020
Founder's Focus: Today, November 15, is Family Engagement Lab’s birthday!
At Family Engagement Lab, we work to build bridges for every family and every classroom to support students every day. FASTalk is helping schools and teachers share weekly information and tips in families’ home language that are explicitly connected to student learning

This focus is especially meaningful during the pandemic. Since March, FASTalk has strengthened school-family partnerships to support learning for 30,000 students in grades PK-8. Schools and families have exchanged 1.1 million messages directly related to student learning. For comparison, from 2017 until the start of the pandemic FASTalk supported 750K interactions for 9,000 families and teachers. Our text message library includes more than 3,000 learning tips that reinforce Common Core skills and content in 12 ELA and SEL curricula, and include culturally relevant adaptations in multiple languages. 

We are also proud of FASTalk's growing evidence base. Through multiple evaluations, FASTalk has been found to meaningfully advance literacy outcomes for elementary-age students, when compared to similar peers whose families did not receive the weekly messages. Importantly, FASTalk is having a powerful impact on the achievement of English Learners, students from low-income backgrounds, and students who start the year behind their peers academically. 

What do we hope the future holds? The greatest opportunity to improve student outcomes can be realized when more educators recognize, prioritize, and support the role that families play in learning. We are grateful that you all have taken this important step. But we know there is much more work to be done.

With your support, we couldn’t be more ready for the opportunities ahead — including exciting new partnerships and expanding our impact in new grade levels and learning domains. 

Here’s to the next four years!

Vidya Sundaram and Elisabeth O'Bryon
Co-Founders, Family Engagement Lab
Back-to-School 2020: Expert Tips to Support School-Family Partnership in Flexible Learning Environments
Family Engagement Lab is curating relevant family engagement research and emerging best practices to help school leaders and educators welcome families into a new school year. We will continue to add new resources and innovative practices to our back-to-school guide regularly.

To contribute to this resource, complete this brief survey.
Be transparent about any missed material from 2019-2020 and invite parents into the solution. 70% of parents (and 75% of Hispanic and African American parents) want to know what material their child is missing at the end of the 2019-2020 and how their school plans to make up that material (Learning Heroes, 2020).

What can this look like in flexible and remote learning environments?
  • One-on-one conversations with parents to discuss instruction that was not covered in the previous year, and any beginning of year test results. 
  • Have a goal-setting family meeting to set goals and identify what the teacher, student, and family will do to meet them.
  • Share assessment data with parents individually. In addition to helping schools plan, EdNavigator highlights this is an important time for teachers to share and discuss test scores with parents.
Visit http://www.familyengagementlab.org for more information.
Meaningful Moments: Diverse Representation Matters
Photo: Kamala Harris’ inauguration as California Attorney General in 2010, where Vidya Sundaram performed bharatanatyam, a classical dance form from South India.
Family Engagement Lab believes diverse representation matters. We would like to recognize and celebrate the historic significance of the 2020 Presidential election, with a record turnout of voters electing our first female, Black, and South Asian Vice President. Madam Vice President-elect Kamala Harris is entering the second highest office, bringing lived experiences that reflect our country’s growing diversity. Kamala often pays tribute to her mother, a cancer researcher who came to the United States from India in the 1960s and participated in the Civil Rights Movement. Early in the race, Kamala was one of the few candidates to bring racial equity in education into the spotlight, famously highlighting her own experience with school integration. We applaud her message to girls to “see yourself in a way that others may not simply because they’ve never seen it before.” We look forward to future generations standing on her shoulders to shatter the next ceiling.
Family Talk: What are parents saying about FASTalk? Join the conversation and share their thoughts with us.
FASTalk Weekly Activity

Monday: Metaphors like "life is a rollercoaster" are everywhere. Can your child spot them in a favorite song or story?

Wednesday: Create a metaphor with your child. Choose something you see around the house & compare it to something else. Ex: "My bed is a fluffy cloud!"

During this recent FASTalk activity, a parent of a third-grade student in Oakland Unified School District, California shared the following feedback.
“I liked that they were short and simple things to do, it didn't feel like I needed to build in a new practice.”

-Parent, Alameda Unified, California
“It helped me to engage with my child’s learning so it kept him at his best.”

-Parent, Redesign Schools LA, Baton Rouge
Professional Highlight: Stacey Labit Moorehead, Education Consultant and FASTalk Parent
In my work at the Louisiana Department of Education, I collaborated with FASTalk to improve literacy outcomes for students in Louisiana. This partnership with FASTalk provided the opportunity for educators to extend literacy support into the home environment and build positive relationships with families.

As a result of our partnership with FASTalk, the Department measured improvements in family engagement and increases in student performance. This fall, I found it surprising when I began to receive literacy specific text messages from my daughter's first grade teacher at Morris Jeff Community School. 

Earlier this week, just as we were sitting down to dinner, I received a FASTalk message mentioning Izzy’s class was introduced to fables earlier in the day. As our family sat around the table I casually asked, “Izzy what is a fable?” My daughter responded, “It’s a story that teaches a lesson. How did you know we learned that today?” We continued the conversation, discussing books we have at home that might be fables and what type of fable my daughter might like to write to teach her little brother a lesson. I knew the work to expand FASTalk across Louisiana was important and exciting but having the personal benefit as a parent makes it so much more meaningful.

At a time that family and school connections are of utmost importance, FASTalk provides an innovative approach in supporting educators, school leaders, and parents.
FASTalk Tip of the Month: How To View Upcoming Messages for the Week
FASTalk text messages accelerate learning by extending the curriculum into the hands of parents. We know that distance learning learning may necessitate adjustments to your original curriculum pacing guides.
As FASTalk teachers, you can also stay up-to-date with the messages your students’ families are receiving so that you can answer any questions that parents may have. To view any upcoming messages for the week, log into fastalk.org using your email and password. Scroll down to the bottom of the main dashboard where it says Upcoming Messages.
Another way to monitor outgoing pre-scheduled FASTalk messages is to sign-up to receive the text messages on your own phone by adding yourself as a student on your FASTalk class roster:
First, log-in to your FASTalk Teacher account on www.fastalk.org
Then, click on the STUDENTS tab at the top. 
Next, click CREATE NEW+ on the left hand side of the page.
It will open up to a form to add the details for the student’s parent and any additional caregivers.
Type in the following information: Student ID: Enter your email address
  • Student Name: Type in your name
  • Parent/Caregiver Name: Enter your name
  • Student Grade: Type in the grade you teach
  • Parent/Caregiver phone number: Enter your cell phone number
  • Language: Your preferred language
  • Relationship to child: Please select SELF  
Click the green ‘SUBMIT’ button to save your changes! 
If you notice any pacing adjustments need to be made, please contact support@fastalk.org. We also have curriculum-agnostic, standards aligned content to support flexible instruction models.
Share the Good News
As teachers, you can encourage parents to become more involved in their child's learning by providing them with quick tips on how to support learning at home. Here are a few social media posts to use this month to help build family engagement in your classroom or school.
During a recent @FamilyELab #FASTalk activity, a parent of a third-grade student in Oakland Unified School District, California shared the following feedback, “Thank you for these activities. They are great & make a difference!” Parents, share your thoughts. #familyengagement
To increase #familyengagement, take part in a goal-setting family meeting to set goals and identify what the teacher, student, and family will do to meet them. https://www.scholastic.com/teachers/articles/teaching-content/involving-students-parent-teacher-conferences/ #FELfamilies
Contact Us
Have questions? Email us at felcommunications@fastalk.org.
Don't forget to follow us on social media for the latest tools and resources to support family engagement.