Reports provide LEAs with strategies for family engagement

A trio of recently released reports from The Education Trust aim to promote positive ways to involve families in their children’s education during a time when parental rights advocates looking to control the curriculum and books available in schools are negatively impacting some student groups.

The publications — Engaging First: Supporting Young Learners Through Family Engagement, Making Assessment Reports More Meaningful for Students & Families and How Student, Family, and Community Engagement Impacts Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) — highlight strategies that uplift culturally responsive family engagement and result in improved academic outcomes and student well-being.

The first resource covers survey results on how schools communicate with parents, the second provides recommendations for how the results of required annual assessments can be better shared with families and the third outlines steps policymakers can take to boost family and community engagement.

Engaging first

Longstanding educational inequities for Black and Latino students, English learners and those with disabilities were worsened by the pandemic, but research suggests that family engagement can benefit students’ achievement and well-being.

Engaging First: Supporting Young Learners Through Family Engagement presents the findings of two nationally representative surveys of first and second grade parents/caregivers and teachers in 2022–23 on perceptions of their school’s engagement initiatives. Pillars of meaningful and effective family engagement including communication; shared decision making; connections, trust and mutual respect; and cultural inclusiveness were considered.

“Parents and teachers had positive feelings, overall, about engagement opportunities at their children’s schools, communication with their children’s teachers, their role in schoolwide decision-making, and the cultural inclusiveness of their schools,” the report states. “Yet, when we examined more specific engagement offerings, a more nuanced picture emerged. Notably, only about half of parents reported that their school communicated whether their child was meeting grade-level academic expectations, and of those who did not receive this information, nearly all of them said that it would be helpful if their school provided it. Many parents also noted that it would be helpful for the school to reduce barriers to engagement, such as conflicts with parents’ work schedules and the lack of transportation and child care. Finally, parents said that they would welcome a broader range of opportunities to engage with their child’s school.”

Additionally, just two out of every three parents surveyed said their child’s school had parent-teacher conferences and those from low-income or multilingual backgrounds were more likely to report having bad experiences with schools or encounter unwelcoming staff.

The report offered five methods for local educational agency leaders to improve family engagement, including:

  • Collecting and regularly reviewing data to understand family and educator needs
  • Providing supports to families (e.g. setting clear expectations) and creating additional chances to help parents understand academic expectations and their students’ progress
  • Reducing the barriers to engagement and looking beyond typical strategies that require parents to come to school sites
  • Ensuring that engagement strategies/curriculum incorporate the language, culture, history and lived experiences of community members
  • Providing supports for educators

Assessment reports

Making Assessment Reports More Meaningful for Students & Families details the basics of annual statewide assessments, why they matter and how results can be used.

“Integrating assessment reporting into broader discussions about a student’s educational experiences is paramount to understanding the value of the assessment results. However, these conversations will be much more meaningful, productive and actionable if they are informed by individual score reports that employ smart design choices,” according to the report. “Moreover, states and their assessment development vendors must design effective individual score reports, so that students and their families can use them as springboards for additional conversation and action.”

Best practices for LEAs around meaningful assessment report design include:

  • Involving students/families in the report design process
  • Using asset-framing in reports
  • Clearly communicating assessments’ purpose
  • Helping users understand data so they can reach accurate conclusions
  • Providing actionable information


In addition to defining engagement types, their respective impact and existing disparities, the report How Student, Family, and Community Engagement Impacts Students’ Social, Emotional, and Academic Development (SEAD) has federal, state and local-level suggestions for promoting engagement.

“While federal and state leaders can facilitate conditions for student, family, and community engagement in various ways, the root of successful engagement is building trust between communities and schools,” the report reads. “Educators and school and district leaders are crucial players in building the relationships and effective partnerships that foster students’ social, emotional, and academic development. District leaders, school leaders and educators must take the time to develop their ability to authentically partner with students, families, and communities in a way is collaborative, empowering and equity-focused.”

Resources for LEA leaders on creating equitable engagement opportunities/experiences include guidebooks from the Alliance for Resource Equity (an Education Trust and Education Resource Strategies partnership) on topics like fostering a positive and inviting school climate and a diagnostic tool that identifies areas of potential growth in LEA policies/practices.