Federal dollars can play a major role in school-home communications and helping students get to school, ready to learn, every day.

3 reasons to spend ESSER funds on school-home communications

Federal dollars can play a major role in helping students get to school, ready to learn, every day

Key points:

  • School-home communication is critical in boosting attendance and decreasing absenteeism
  • A thoughtful school communication plan is as important to good schooling as a great teacher
  • See related article: 5 ways video improves school-home communication

When you think about Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds, do you think “HVAC?”

While ESSER funds were vital for making schools safer during the pandemic, they cover more than infrastructure. The true goal of ESSER funding is learning recovery, and the heart of learning recovery is attendance.

Attendance is an important predictor of student success.

School communication is an essential piece in supporting attendance and reducing absenteeism. Parents can’t help if they don’t know what’s going on. Consistent school-home communication helps home adults understand the benefits of coming to school. If school communication is the bridge between home and school, let’s leverage ESSER funds to ramp up the percentage of students crossing that bridge.

Here are three core areas for ESSER funding and their connection to school-home communication:

1. Technologies for educational interaction

The more teachers communicate with parents and caregivers, the more successful students are. The reason is that it builds trust. When teachers share what’s happening in the classroom, parents feel better able to support their learners.

This, in turn, leads them to appreciate the teacher’s efforts. Building this kind of trust is essential to student achievement. In fact, a recent study showed that communities with higher trust in institutions, including public schools, experienced better academic outcomes.

Sharing a weekly update is a simple way for teachers to communicate care. If the updates are digital, parents can view them from any device. If they’re translatable, parents and caregivers can read them in their preferred language.

So, what happens when folks aren’t reading updates? Teachers need to be able to see if home adults are engaging with their messages and, when they aren’t, follow up with 1:1 outreach. Make a phone call or send a translatable text message. This tells students someone in the building cares about their presence and notices if they’re not there or not performing to their ability.

These two types of consistent communication are fundamental to productive learning recovery.

2. Reaching multilingual and at-risk families

Right now, more than 10 percent of all students in the U.S. – more than 5 million students are Multilingual Learners — and the numbers are rising. This means translation features are non-negotiable for school communications. In order for parents to support their students, they need to be able to read the materials schools send home. At-risk families may lack access to certain technology, so communications must be easy to access without an app to download. And they must translate into each family’s preferred language—accurately and with ease. The same goes for forms!

Translated universal attendance measures have a bigger impact when they focus on positive rather than punitive messaging. It’s not that families don’t care. It’s often that they can’t access the information or support they need to help their students succeed.

Let’s make sure all families feel included and able to take part in what’s happening at school.

3. Providing mental health services and supports

All families are dealing with the fallout from the pandemic, particularly at-risk families, so the stakes are high for districts that need to get information home to all parents. This is where the right school communication tools make all the difference.

What’s required? School counselors need to share materials, surveys, and resources that reach all families. They also need the ability to do 1:1 outreach in a caregiver’s preferred format and language. Accessibility, translation, and mobile-friendly features aren’t nice-to-haves; they’re must-haves. Any extra step is one more barrier to the families who most need our help.

A thoughtful school communication plan is as important to good schooling as a great teacher. Let’s put our federal dollars where they’ll do the most good–helping home adults get students to school, ready to learn, every day.

Your top 5 school-home communication challenges, solved

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