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Strategies for Educators

Academic Partnering

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A cademic partnership between educators and families has been a staple of supporting students’ success for decades. At the Flamboyan Foundation, we have seen – and research shows –  that families play Five Essential Roles in their children’s education.

  • Communicate high expectations for their student;
  • Support their student’s learning at home;
  • Monitor their student’s progress;
  • Guide their student’s education; and
  • Advocate for their student’s needs

It is the teacher’s responsibility to ensure families have the resources and information they need to play each of these roles, and academic partnering is a way to do just that.

Academic Partnering in Action

From APTT workshops to student-led conferences and parent-teacher goal-setting conferences, academic partnering can take many forms. Watch the different ways families, teachers, and  students cultivate meaningful partnerships with each other:

Components of Successful Academic Partnering

Excellent + Equitable Attendance

No matter how meaningful your academic partnering meeting may be, families won’t get the information and resources they need unless they attend! Being organized and thoughtful about ensuring all families have the opportunity to partner academically with you may seem obvious, but this step is often overlooked.

Ask Yourself:

☐ What steps am I taking to ensure all families can participate in academic partnering in a way that works for them?

☐ In what ways am I ensuring that students, especially secondary students, play an active role in the meeting?

Consider the following practices to ensure Excellent + Equitable Attendance:

Scheduling time collaboratively – rather than holding open drop-in hours or when academic partnering must happen – shows that this is an equal partnership, and you respect the family’s time.

  • Ask for families’ preferred days, times, and modes of meeting (phone, Zoom call, in-person, etc.) and schedule a time that works for everyone. Using technology, such as Doodle or Calendly, can help with scheduling.
  • Clearly communicate the purpose of the meeting. This should align with families’ ability to play at least one of the Five Essential Roles. For example, the purpose of the meeting could be to make sure families have the information they need to monitor student progress. See the Five Roles in Action throughout the document.
  • Ask families if they need materials translated or the session interpreted to ensure information is accessible.
  • In secondary, student attendance matters as well. Communicate the importance of students participating in the conversation.

From the start, make sure families know that they are an equal and valued member of the academic partnership!

  • Ask for their input on what the meeting covers. See example outreach.
  • Ensure initial communication sent to families is translated in their preferred language
  • Provide families with tips on preparing for the meeting (questions to ask during the session, tips for setting up technologies)

Be creative and helpful in the way you remind families about upcoming academic partnering meetings. Send meeting reminders one-week,  on-day, and 15-minutes prior to the meeting.  In secondary, include the student in the remind process and consider incentivizing the support with things like extra credit.

Even when you’ve taken all of the above steps, plans may change. Ensure that extra time is scheduled between your meetings to provide time for unanticipated delays or interruptions. Be flexible and keep the goal in mind: that families have the information and resources they need to play the Five Essential Roles.

  • If the meeting was originally scheduled to be in-person, offer to meet virtually instead.
  • If the meeting was whole-group, such as APTT, record the session and share it with families who were unable to attend. Follow-up for a 1:1 meeting to discuss what was covered.

If a family does not show or needs to reschedule, it can feel disappointing. Check your assumptions and operate with asset-based beliefs about families. This will continue to build trust with the family.

  • If a family doesn’t attend, the first thing you should ask is something along the lines of, “Are you okay?” Families – and teachers! – are juggling a lot, and it is essential to connect about our personal well-being first and foremost.
  • Use the Challenging Assumptions Reflection Tool to examine and interrupt implicit bias.

Meaningful Content + Delivery

Educators are the experts on curriculum and pedagogy, and families are the experts on their children, from the earliest years to and through adulthood. Your academic partnering meeting is a key opportunity to share power with families which will continue to build or sustain the trusting relationship you started with families at the beginning of the year. As you prepare for your academic partnering, consider how the information and resources you share support families to play each of the Five Essential Roles. How you deliver the content of your academic partnering meeting can show that you’ve consider the needs of the family and are dedicated to growing a meaningful partnership in service of their student.

Ask Yourself:

☐ What are the most relevant data to share with this family? Is it presented in a way that is accessible?

☐ What activities or resources can I compile or create so the family can support learning at home?

☐ How will I know families are confident about how to support their student at home?

☐ How will I know families and students are clear about goals and next steps?

☐ What will I do to ensure shared powers so families feel at ease and able to share their honest thoughts, wonderings, and needs?

Five Roles in Action

When a family has the information and resources they need to advocate for their student, it might look or sound like:                 🠖 Discussing developmental concerns with their child’s pediatrician
🠖 Requesting a speech evaluation
🠖 Supporting their child to attend a teacher’s office hours to discuss a test grade
🠖 Alerting the teacher to concerns about bullying or guiding their child in communicating needs to teachers
🠖 Ensuring their child knows how to ask for support or supplemental learning materials when needed (e.g. tutoring)

Consistent Two-Way Communication

Families feel most valued and a true sense of partnership when communication is consistent, proactive, individualized, student-centered, and timely. When two-way communication is strong, families are best equipped to play the Five Roles.  Staying connected is key!  Some ways to do so:

    • Weekly office hours (in-person or virtual)
    • Personal emails or text messages. Families especially love getting photos!
    • Bi-weekly Zoom or phone calls

Using a tool like the Ongoing Communications Tracking Tool allows you to reflect on the goal for your communications with families and how frequently you’ve connected with them. For more ideas about following up after academic partnering, check out Flamboyan’s Academic Partnering Follow-up Toolkit.

Ask yourself:

☐ When is the next time I’ll share data with families?

☐ How will I check-in with the family on how the learning strategies shared during the conference are going?

☐ How will I keep track of who I’ve connected with, what we discussed, and any relevant next steps?

Academic Partnering Companion Guide for School Leaders

While they might not be families’ primary point-of-contact, leaders play an essential role in ensuring teachers and families can partner academically throughout the school year. This guide provides school leaders with a checklist for supporting an effective academic partnership between families and teachers.

Learn more

Supporting Materials

Example Outreach

Examples of outreach to schedule academic partnering meetings and gather information to co-construct agendas.

Challenging Assumptions Reflection Tool

Tool for reflecting on biased or negative beliefs about families and challenging the beliefs when they emerge.

Agenda + Planning Tool

Example agenda items, objectives, evidence of successful completion, and teacher actions that support collaboration.

Feedback Form

Example form to collect feedback from families after an academic partnering meeting in English and Spanish.

Academic Partnering

Related Resources

Academic Partnering Companion Guide for School Leaders

Guidance for school leaders to create the conditions for meaningful engagement between families and teachers.

Academic Partnering Follow-up Toolkit

Thank you notes, information about progress towards goals, and celebrations are ways to follow up with families about students’ progress toward goals set during academic partnering sessions.

Share On-the-Spot Academic Success With Families Via Email

Teachers can include families as partners in their child’s academic success by sharing on-the-spot moments of academic and social-emotional learning.

Ongoing Communication Reflection Tool - BETA

This tool is a powerful way to reflect on your individual practice of building a trusting relationships and meaningful partnerships with families through ongoing communication.

Beginning of the Year Relationship Building

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Ongoing Communications

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