Family Engagement Lab is proud to participate in the 2021 Education Writers Association National Seminar as part of the panel discussion, “Family Engagement in a Post-COVID Era.” We offer the following companion document for journalists covering family engagement, and focused on addressing this question:
How can reporters do a better job of understanding what drives engagement of parents, especially parents of color, in education and schools?
Families are passionate supporters of their children’s learning. In marginalized communities, including low-income communities and communities with a high percentage of families of color, it is sometimes assumed that families are less interested in their child’s education. Through our experiences at Family Engagement Lab, we have found that this can be a narrative that undermines the power and impact of families. To counter this narrative, it is critical to elevate the voices and perspectives of diverse families. Here are suggested questions for journalists covering stories related to family engagement.
Questions for Parents and Families
Background: Families are eager to support their children’s learning and development. They often rely on collaboration from teachers and their children for guidance on how to help. Invitations from teachers can facilitate collaborative partnerships in support of student learning.
Questions for Educators
Background: Parents trust teachers for advice on how to support student learning, and want to know how to connect with teachers to support learning (Speak Up Research, 2017). However, a majority of teachers express that they need help to engage families. 84% of teachers in high-poverty schools need help to engage families (Scholastic, 2016). Few teachers have received adequate training on how to communicate with and partner with families.
Journalists can check how much support teachers are receiving from their schools and districts by asking the following questions:
Questions for District & School Administrators
Background: Schools or districts may use terms like “hard to reach” to describe parents and caregivers. These terms imply that parents are less interested in building a relationship with schools, when in fact, parents are very interested but limited options are available for them to connect meaningfully with educators.
Journalists can ask school and district administrators to describe the unique and differentiated needs of families in their communities, and how they are adapting. Suggested questions include:
About the Author
Vidya Sundaram is co-Founder and CEO of Family Engagement Lab. She previously led research and insights at GreatSchools, championing a test and learn culture across the organization. Over her nearly 20-year career in family engagement, she has managed development, research, and strategy for digital resources used by more than half of US families with school-aged children.