Universal access to pre-K is a laudable goal, but to succeed, family engagement must be part of the plan.

With family engagement, universal pre-K will be a success in 2022

Universal access to pre-K is a laudable goal, but to succeed, family engagement must be part of the plan

There are any number of issues that families could be dealing with, but in order to find out about them, we have to treat families as partners and elevate their voices. Doing this can be as informal as listening to them on an impromptu phone call or as official as sending a survey designed to find out what they need and want to be a bigger part of their school community.

By engaging families early, we strengthen the relationship between families and educators that will support students for the rest of their academic careers.

The time for new strategies is now.

It’s never a bad time to focus on family engagement, given how important it is to a child’s academic success. Right now, however, it’s particularly important because there has been so much change and uncertainty in the last couple years.

Students with limited access to school or the supports they were receiving before the pandemic have experienced learning losses, making achievement gaps wider. Students without consistent access to technology or who live in less stable environments also fell further behind, and other students had trouble making progress in basic literacy skills because their teachers’ mouths were obscured by masks as they taught phonics. The list of big and small disruptions stemming from COVID may as well be endless.

Our preschool-aged children certainly need all the love and support their families and communities can provide. Fortunately, the world of education is willing, even eager, to change at the moment. Educators are looking for new strategies to support student learning. We have whole new ways to reach families because activities that used to be relegated to school can now be done remotely. Having a student complete a science experiment at home with their caregiver wasn’t an option just a few years ago, for example, but now they can not only work on it at home with family, but they can also still chat with their classmates as they do it.

If we apply all the lessons we learned during COVID and brainstorm, together we can accomplish all the goals that we have for students and empower them to accomplish the ones they dream up for themselves.

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