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Keying In K–12 Equity

Leslie Ortego hopes that the pandemic-era use of technology for parent– teacher communication will be built upon to help all students thrive

This is the fourth school year educators, students, families, and administrators will be impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. While recent data from NWEA shows early signs of rebounding,1 which offers some hope, the research also shares some jarring insight—it may be at least three to five years until students fully recover from the pandemic.
During the height of the pandemic, schools were shut down and parents had to be more hands-on in their children’s schooling. More than ever, teachers and parents had to depend on collaborative relationships with each other for the sake of their students’ learning and overall well-being. Because of that, parent–teacher communication, which has been proven to be beneficial for student success, skyrocketed. Monthly interactions became weekly or daily phone calls, text messages, and video chats. In addition to leaning more on each other, parents and teachers also relied on technology tools for communication and to track students’ progress during those unprecedented times.
As the new school year gets underway, we will continue to see the many ways that parent–teacher communication and technology will heavily impact student learning and success, including the following:

New Technologies Will Support Equity in K–12 Parent Communication

Equity is critical to a student’s academic success, particularly for students who have been historically marginalized. But to create more equitable opportunities for students in K–12 classrooms, equity efforts need to extend to families as well.
Equity in K–12 parent communication is about reaching out in ways that are direct and convenient to parents. It’s about meeting parents where they are. In the 2022–23 school year, we will see growing demand for K–12 technologies and platforms that support more equitable parent communication and collaboration. Platforms that fuse data and communications and offer multiple modes of communication and translation capabilities can help enable expanded educator understanding of student home life. Using these platforms can also result in increased parent engagement and shared parent understanding of curriculum and course goals.
In the coming year, this will be an important area of focus for districts as we continue to address the fallout from COVID’s disproportionate impact on historically marginalized students.

Schools Will Leverage Data to Address COVID’s Impact on English Learners

It is no secret that historically underserved students were disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. More specifically, English learners (ELs) severely suffered, as many of their educational needs were not being met during the COVID-19 school closings.
On top of COVID-19 learning disruptions, students have been continuously impacted by the “summer slide,” which is a drop in learning levels that occurs during summer break. Students tend to forget information during the summer due to being out of the classroom for months at a time. While this “loss” in learning isn’t typically enough to alarm educators, this paired with COVID-19 learning interruptions is alarming. Research found that ELs tended to lose more ground over the summer than their non-EL peers or their multilingual peers who were ELs at some point but not consistently through K–4.2
Using data dashboard tools to help educators visualize student data has become paramount in assessing the learning impact of COVID and implementing remediation resources. It will be critical that we address the specific needs of this group of learners using both data and communication technology tools that offer translation for one-to-one parent engagement and communication to help support ELs.
As we move forward, technology will be a vital part of districts’ efforts to support equity and address learning gaps that have widened due to pandemic disruptions. By investing in technology that supports equitable school–home communication and the meaningful use of data and that provides a holistic picture of students’ progress, districts can help to address inequities in schools that were made worse by the pandemic. This type of technology can provide support for families, students, and educators, which will be the key to making gains in learning.

Links
www.nwea.org/research/publication/student-achievement-in-2021-22-cause-for-hope-and-continued-urgency
www.nwea.org/research/publication/achievement-and-growth-for-english-learners-2

Leslie Ortego is the director of customer success at SchoolStatus (www.schoolstatus.com).

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