Learning Continuity Guidebook: Consider & Work With Families

June 24, 2020
AUTHOR
AUTHOR

Jerri Kemble

Former Assistant Superintendent

,

Lawrence Public Schools, KS

AUTHOR
AUTHOR

Ann McMullan

Project Director

,

CoSN's EmpowerED Superintendent Initiative

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Welcome to the Learning Continuity Guidebook, this post is the seventh in a nine-part series. Click here to learn more about the guidebook and its contributors.

Families are frontline workers when it comes to learning at home. They need your support, clear communication, and understanding if they are going to find ways to make learning from home happen within their household.

As you plan for future rounds of remote learning, here are some best practices to follow from districts that put families first in their learning continuity plans.

Understand and address challenges

Each family has a different set of circumstances. Districts need to be aware and mindful of the unique challenges, and the resulting support families need to make learning at home work.

To do that, districts such as Capistrano Unified School District and Los Angeles Unified School District surveyed families and used the results to build their remote learning plans. Both districts found the issues facing families were consistent. They need

  • internet access,
  • technology training,
  • more communication,
  • more face time with teachers,
  • and mental health and wellness support.

However, as we learned in our Establish Equity and Access post, districts may be missing more subtle issues that are difficult to uncover with a survey and may need to probe further with phone calls and focus groups. Digging deeper can highlight more specific issues such as

  • Older students may need to care for siblings while their parents work and can’t attend live classes.
  • Families may share one or two devices for both school and work.
  • Students with special needs can’t use particular technologies or need a more personalized approach.

Students facing any of these roadblocks can still learn from home if districts are aware and have plans to address or accommodate student needs. This assistance could come in the form of recorded lessons, additional devices, flexible deadlines, or technical and mental health supports.

Consistent and clear communication

Decide when, where, and how often you’ll communicate, then stick to a consistent communication plan. That can include sending the same message through a variety of platforms, such as email, Facebook, Twitter, and posting on district or school websites. If parents know where to find messages and when to expect them, they’re more likely to get the information they need. Seattle Public Schools did a great job of updating families consistently with weekly announcements on their website and plenty of social media updates.

Another way to support parents is by letting them know when and how they can reach teachers. This step is as easy as posting office hours, contact information, and additional parent resources but goes a long way in encouraging communication between parents and teachers.

Districts can save time, effort, and confusion by posting step-by-step support documents and answers to common questions in a central place. Warwick Valley Schools, for example, created and shared ‘The Parent Guide to Distance Learning.' This PDF includes mental health and self-care resources for families, a list of tools teachers use for remote learning, and where teachers will post assignments.

Provide technology support

Levels of technology expertise will vary across families, with some who are highly capable and others who need continued support. Frustrations often run high with parents reporting there are too many tools, and they’re spending too much time trying to find and log in to apps and resources.

Districts can help by recommending teachers use the same technology across the board. Denver School of Science and Technology (DSST) Public Schools did this, asking teachers and students to use Microsoft Teams for meetings and learning.

This approach saves parents (and students) from the frustration and time spent learning multiple tools—a problem compounded when parents are pressed for time and have more than one child in school.

Many districts are also creating quick and easy training videos, Q&A’s, parent hotlines, or even PTA support groups that families can connect with for help using technology for remote learning.

Cajon Valley Union School District created a section on their website filled with distance learning resources for families, including technology FAQs and videos designed to help parents manage online learning.

Set expectations around remote learning 

Districts don’t expect parents to act as full-time teachers, but there’s no doubt they need to be involved in learning at home.

Some specific areas where parents of all students can help include

  • ensuring learning from home is a priority,
  • scheduling time for learning, completing and submitting school work,
  • creating a schedule for using technology if families are sharing devices,
  • understanding how students should access and submit school work,
  • and understanding and promoting data security and privacy.

You can create guides or use existing resources created by trusted organizations such as CommonSense Media’s Wide Open School, ISTE, and Learning Heroes (a nonprofit organization that equips parents to support learning at home). Virtual schools and homeschooling organizations such as the National Home School Association are also great sources of information.

Long before this recent move to remote learning, the Louisiana Department of Education created a toolbox outlining examples, resources, and ideas to show districts how others were engaging parents in student learning.

You can also share this Parent Toolkit for Student Privacy created by Student Privacy Matters to help parents protect their children’s sensitive data, along with information about steps your district is taking to protect student data during online learning.

Coming Up

In our next post, ‘Implement Remote Learning', we look ahead to the new school year. Leading experts outline best practices to follow for a smoother transition to another round of remote learning this Fall. Follow us on social media to stay up-to-date with new entries in this series, or subscribe using the form below.

Resources

As we continue through the series, we’ll share resources and best practices from trailblazers and districts leading the way. Here are some that stand out for their vision, expertise, and usefulness.‍

Districts to follow

Leaders to learn from

Practical tools and news you can use

Categories:

Education Leaders
Remote Learning
ABOUT THE
AUTHOR
S

Jerri Kemble

Former Assistant Superintendent

,

Lawrence Public Schools, KS

Ann McMullan

Project Director

,

CoSN's EmpowerED Superintendent Initiative