Back-to-School Tips for Family Engagement

Educators, students and families are all bracing themselves for a back-to-school unlike any other. This fall, many students will meet their new classmates and teachers on video conferences. Others will do so sitting six feet apart, wearing masks.   

Whether starting a school year remotely or in-person under new restrictions, no one has a playbook for getting this just right. What we know for sure is that partnering with families effectively will be even more crucial to student development as we all face new anxieties and stressors caused by the pandemic, economic crisis and racial injustice.   

Here are some guiding questions and tips for keeping home-school connections strong while avoiding family overwhelm and burnout:  

Make learning meaningful and relevant to all students and families. 

Reflect on the learning experiences your school designs for students. In what ways can the curriculum this Fall deepen connections with families? Are the identities or interests of students and families taken into account? Are there opportunities for family members to contribute in meaningful ways in their child’s learning no matter their level of literacy or education?  

Make forms and coordination tasks digital. 

How can your school make filling out forms, permissions and other tasks less stressful and time-consuming? The less paperwork you send home, the better. Most tasks that schools accomplish with paper forms can be sent and organized digitally in less time. Use a tool like Actionaly that populates information already on file to make these tasks less tedious.

Streamline platforms you expect families to use.

Inventory how many apps parents and family members are expected to access. How many logins are they using to access these programs? Are there apps that can accomplish multiple tasks? Keeping the number of apps and platforms to a minimum helps prevent overwhelm and makes it easier for families to monitor their child’s education. Opting for a single-sign-on solution for parents takes away the unnecessary hassle of managing login information. Actionaly partners with GG4L to provide mobile access to all their vendor apps for students, teachers and parents.

With School Passport, parents can access all their apps, messages and to-do tasks via Actionaly’s interface.

Give outreach a personal touch. 

Consider how much your school relies on email for parent communication? Email inboxes get cluttered, important messages from school buried. Some families may not have an email address or check theirs regularly. Messages sent to a mobile app or via SMS can cut through the noise and make it easy to respond. Many educators reported great success with regular check-in phone calls throughout the spring semester. Does your school have a secure and reliable method for staff to make calls from their homes?  

Whatever this back-to-school looks like, family support is the most valuable asset a school can have.  

We Speak Your Language

Actionaly offers in-app translation

At Actionaly, we believe every family has the right to partner in their child’s education at school. Home language should not be a barrier. When parents understand the information they receive from school, they can more effectively support their child. That’s why federal law requires schools to communicate information to limited English proficient parents in their preferred language about any school program, service, or activity. 

And yet, many parents still miss out on valuable opportunities to engage when they receive communication in English only due to lack of translation support. Even before COVID-19, we knew educators struggled to find translators in a timely fashion for classroom-level communication. During distance learning, the volume of written communication increased dramatically; meanwhile in-person translation was no longer an option.  

With Actionaly, users can easily change their language preferences so that content is automatically translated. If family members aren’t sure how to make this change, this support page offers a step-by-step guide. 

Find language preference in Account Settings to enable automatic translation of content.

For parents needing more support, select staff can change language preference via the school administration dashboard.  

Please reach out to families and let them know about this feature! Actionaly wants to be part of the solution to issues of equity and access by making it easier for schools to build a welcoming school culture for all families.  

For more information on managing support ELL families during distance-learning check out this extensive online resource