Volume 19 | September 12, 2021
The Phenomenal Power of Families
Mask protests and violent demonstrations against teaching critical race theory have dominated our news feeds, giving a false sense that these are the issues that are top of mind for families as we enter another school year in the grips of a pandemic. The loudest voices are not necessarily the most representative voices, as we found in our synthesis of over 60 articles, surveys, and research reports on parents’ and caregivers’ thoughts, behavior, priorities, and concerns related to schooling during the pandemic. What we uncovered serves as an important reminder of why we do the work we do at Family Engagement Lab. Families are an amazing power in every child’s education, and we must continue to offer accessible and equitable ways to foster meaningful school-home partnership in support of student learning. 
This month, we will begin to share a series of articles on our blog about these important findings with examples of how Family Engagement Lab takes action to address them and with suggestions on how you can too. 

These learnings deepen our understanding of the needs and experiences of families today, providing critical insights that support our ability to equitably advance learning outcomes for all students through family engagement solutions. We hope you will join us in these efforts to support all families as children return to another school year that is like none other.

Read more about the findings on our blog.

Vidya Sundaram and Elisabeth O'Bryon, Ph.D.
Co-Founders, Family Engagement Lab
What We're Learning
2021 Back to School Study
The recently released “2021 Back to School Study” by Understood.org and UnidosUS illustrates current challenges that we’re facing as children, families, and teachers start the academic year. 90% of their surveyed teachers cited top concerns of academic development (73%), anxiety (65%), and social (63%) and emotional (62%) advancement for their students. They found that, “open communications between teachers and parents will be pivotal in bridging at-home and in-classroom learning as we get ready for the new school year.”

“More than 70% of Hispanic/Latino parents and 65% of Black/African American parents noticed their children experienced a learning challenge, and similarly to all parents surveyed, approximately a third said their children are continuing to struggle to adapt to COVID-19 rules and regulations in the classroom.”

Many of these themes were echoed in interviews that the Family Engagement Lab team conducted this summer with nearly 40 families, teachers, and administrators. Anxiety and uncertainty related to the start of another school year in the pandemic, as well as concerns over students’ mental health and social and emotional needs as a result of the school closures were top-of-mind in thinking about the upcoming school year. The powerful potential of teacher-family partnership to support student success was also noted across our stakeholder groups shining a spotlight on a key strategy for supporting a successful 2021 “Back to School” season.
Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding
The U.S. Department of Education recently released, "Strategies for Using American Rescue Plan Funding to Address the Impact of Lost Instructional Time,” a resource to support educators as they implement, refine, and work to continuously improve their strategies for supporting students. 

At Family Engagement Lab, we’re encouraged by the Department’s focus on the critical importance of family relationships and engagement with teachers and schools, along with recommendations that school districts use ARP funding to build, support, and grow these relationships. 

In the resource’s first section: "Reengaging students by meeting their social, emotional, mental health, and academic needs,” the first action recommended to do that is: "Building trust with families to support in-person learning." And the very first tip is: "Communicate frequently with families – in their home language – and work to build their confidence that children will be safe in-person."

The guidance continues to reference the important role of parents and caregivers in their child’s success and states, "Supporting parents and caregivers in their efforts to support their own child’s learning is critical to addressing the impact of lost instructional time and increasing student success."

At Family Engagement Lab, we create solutions to harness that amazing power of families to accelerate learning in the home as an extension of classroom learning – and in partnership with teachers. Through our signature tool FASTalk, we offer accessible and equitable ways to foster these meaningful school-home partnership in support of student learning.
To learn more about how Family Engagement Lab can accelerate your school system’s plan to address lost learning time through evidence-based, equitable, and easy to use FASTalk, set up a time to talk with us!
Upcoming Events
Uniting Schools and Families for our Students: A Conversation with Family Engagement Lab and Springboard Collaborative
Families play a powerful and impactful role in supporting student literacy development.

Join us on October 1 from 12:50-2:05 p.m. Pacific to learn about innovative literacy-focused family engagement approaches by hearing firsthand from local nonprofits Springboard Collaborative and us. Springboard will share their methodology of equipping families to become reading coaches. Through their FELA framework, they utilize families as assets in order to extend and sustain a culture of literacy habits and critical thinking that go beyond a classroom. We will share more about FASTalk, our family engagement tool that promotes equity and builds partnerships between teachers and historically underserved families by sharing engaging, at-home literacy activities via text messages in each family’s home language. In this exciting joint session, which includes an interactive Q&A, you will hear from two Oakland organizations that are empowering families, supporting educators, and lifting up students to reach their full potential.
Back to the Future: Strategies for Centering Families’ Needs Post-Pandemic
Chief Impact Officer and Co-Founder of Family Engagement Lab, Dr. Elisabeth O’Bryon presents: “Back to the Future: Strategies for Centering Families’ Needs Post-Pandemic” on October 14 at 1:45 p.m. ET.
During the session, participants will learn how to collect and apply family feedback to inform your approach to advancing equitable school-home partnerships that support student learning. Participants will also complete a planning tool to clarify key action steps for developing a family engagement strategy that centers families’ needs.
Engaging Families in SEL
Please join us for a webinar co-hosted by Committee for Children on Wednesday, October 27 at 11 a.m. PDT to learn more about how to activate the power of families in your SEL work. We will talk about best practices for meaningful, equitable family engagement and will also share resources and ideas you can use to partner with families through your SEL program and with Second Step.
In Case You Missed It
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.