James July-Aug 2021 web - Flipbook - Page 59
Leveraging technology to advance these family
engagement practices, GaDOE created online resources
including “Power Tips,” five-minute feature videos capturing best practices and community partnerships to
build capacity at the local level. A YouTube channel and
Facebook and Twitter platforms offer other opportunities
for districts to exchange ideas on successful programs.
Additionally, Georgia Public Broadcasting has partnered
with GaDOE to create at-home learning enhancements for
students, parents, and educators.
Enhanced engagement helps families rechannel their
perceptions of the education cycle. Increasing awareness
of grade-level standards and why they matter, understanding student achievement data to set learning goals,
and implementing fun, engaging ways to reinforce concepts can positively impact student outcomes. Lifelong
learning— where students (and parents) understand how
interests and aptitudes can transfer to a career— has
real implications for enrollment in college and career
academies, Career Technical and Agricultural Education
(CTAE), and post-secondary pathways.
An additional critical component of family engagement success is communication. Traditional methods— quarterly report cards and once-a-year “meet and
greets”— need to make way for more frequent, effective
JULY /AU GU ST 2021
feedback. Georgia must focus on building sustainable educator–family relationships that support students’ journey
from pre-K to post-secondary with easy-to-understand
information that is culturally appropriate. Innovations that
emerged out of necessity could prove beneficial post-pandemic. For example, the creative use of text messaging,
family support hotlines, daily e-assessments and offline
e-learning utilized by teachers in rural and under-resourced communities is not only setting the stage for
continued improvements in education, but also for how
educators partner with students’ families.
Further, technology gives access to a whole new
world of opportunity through virtual field trips, training,
and apprenticeships. When jobs and skills of the future
are showcased, students, parents, and educators become
better informed on how to prepare for the workforce.
While technology has opened the door to numerous,
creative mechanisms for improving the communication
feedback loop, Georgia must allocate resources to close
the digital divide— ensuring statewide, equitable access
to technology and broadband.
The question now: How do we transform education
systems to amplify these innovations and family involvement in a way that creates equal access for all children to
gain the skills they need to build a better future? Moreover,
how do we support and sustain the engagement of parents and caregivers as students move through the K-12
system, realizing that family support for kindergarteners
differs greatly from the needs of middle and high school
adolescents? Georgia’s approach to engaging parents and
caregivers in historically marginalized families must be top
of mind for educators, community groups, and legislators.
Personalized engagement gives teachers and counselors
the platform to inform families— who may not see education as a steppingstone out of poverty— on the value of
education. With 13.3 percent of Georgia’s citizens living
below the poverty level, educators need tools that demonstrate the relevance and value of lifelong learning.
Ultimately, including parents and caregivers in the education process has a valuable, long-term impact for Georgia students. Achievement through family goal setting—
whether it is a literacy goal or preparing for a career
pathway— has implications far beyond the classroom.
Equipped with a better understanding of their children’s
levels of mastery, aptitudes, and learning styles, parents
will become better advocates for resources to help their
children succeed. To improve learning outcomes, Georgia
must elevate the relevance of every step of education and
the central role of the family— looking through the lens of
fairness and effective education for all.
Dr. Robert Gaines is the Director of External Affairs of the Georgia
Partnership for Excellence in Education