Use Data, Not Donuts: Supporting Family Engagement for Equitable Learning

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Location: Room 298-9
Experience live: All-Access Package
Watch recording: All-Access Package Year-Round PD Package

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Megan Lorio  

Family engagement is a top priority to achieve reading proficiency for all children. Learn about evidence-based practices when involving families to impact learning outcomes. (Hint: It’s not free doughnuts!) Discover innovative strategies to effectively scale and sustain family engagement to promote equity and access for all students.

Audience: Coaches, Curriculum/district specialists, Teachers
Skill level: Beginner
Attendee devices: Devices not needed
Participant accounts, software and other materials: There will be a Google doc they can access and there will be print-outs of that doc that they can use too. Attendees should have a way to access and type into the google doc and save it to their local drive OR they should have a pen/writing tool and be able to write on a piece of paper.
Topic: Communication & collaboration
Grade level: PK-5
Subject area: ELL, Language arts
ISTE Standards: For Educators:
  • Stay current with research that supports improved student learning outcomes, including findings from the learning sciences.

Proposal summary

Purpose & objective

The focus of the training will be on FASTalk (Families and Schools Talk), an innovative, family engagement tool that promotes equity and builds partnerships between teachers and historically underserved families by sharing engaging, at-home literacy activities via text messages in each family’s home language. Learn about FASTalk’s impact on families, teachers, and students, with a focus on evidence of how FASTalk is accelerating literacy growth for English learners and students who started the year behind their peers academically. Learn how Family Engagement Lab aligns a family engagement programming to improve student learning while directly aligning to school and district academic strategy. Participants will also hear perspectives from educators and families about how partnership helps support student learning.


Overview: This collaborative planning workshop focuses on sharing current research and evidence on authentic family engagement as a foundation for improving literacy outcomes. Through group discussion and guided instruction with an equity and social and emotional lens, participants develop or refine their family engagement action plans. 90-minute session.

What is high-impact family engagement? 5 min
What does family engagement that impacts student learning look like? 5 min
Interactive poll 5min
The powerful role of educators in supporting meaningful family engagement 10 min
Characteristics of effective home-school communication: Families’ perspectives 10 min
Exploration of key characteristics, including: 15 min
Convenience; push, not search; personalization; timeliness; realization of business; high-impact information
Breakout group discussions
Family engagement across grade levels
Considerations that recognize children’s developmental stages and families’ evolving roles in supporting learning over the course of their children’s academic journeys
Effective practices across levels

Whole group discussion 10 min

Action planning 30 min
Focused on identifying key goals around family engagement, new strategies to implement, key resources, plans for sustainability, and timeline considerations.
Breakout group discussion using Action Plan Worksheet (see below)

Note: throughout the session, participants will be prompted to answer reflection questions that will help inform their action planning (see Action Plan Prep section below)

Action Plan Tool

Reflect: What is going well right now? Why?

What new strategies or ideas do you want to try?
Which characteristics of effective home-school communication* does it address?
Who do you need to collaborate with?
What resources do you need to be successful?
How can you sustain and scale your plan?

Wrap Up 5 min

Supporting research

The powerful link between parent-teacher relationships and student learning has been demonstrated in multiple studies. In Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago, the Consortium on Chicago School Research found that schools with strong connections with parents were 10 times more likely to improve in math and four times more likely to improve in reading than schools weak on this measure. Furthermore, in schools where connections with parents were weak, it undermined virtually all attempts at improving student learning.

Strong relationships can be empowering for both parents and teachers. A few years ago, I met an elementary school parent who explained, “Teachers have to see parents ask them things, so that teachers have the confidence to tell us what is happening at school.” Building and sustaining parent-teacher relationships is an ongoing process that needs to start early with banking positive interactions. Research from psychology researcher John Gottman shows that stable relationships need five times as many positive interactions as negative. Positive interactions spill over to help improve student engagement and learning outcomes as well (Christenson & Reschly, 2009).

Family Engagement Lab is a leading organization in the field of family engagement. The organization has been featured in multiple publications and leading blogs, as well as a recent report from the Harvard Graduate School of Education by Dr. Karen Mapp and Dr. Eyal Bergman. (

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Megan Lorio, Family Engagement Lab

Megan Lorio is the Managing Editor at Family Engagement Lab, a national nonprofit that catalyzes equitable family engagement and student learning by bridging classroom curriculum and at-home learning. In this role, she supports content strategy and development for Family Engagement Lab’s family engagement solution, FASTalk (Families and Schools Talk). FASTalk promotes equity and builds teacher-family partnerships by sharing engaging, at-home learning activities via text message in a family’s home language.

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