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Building Multilingual Systems of Support and Engagement for Parents/Guardians

Providing multilingual support to engage parents/guardians in their child’s remote learning experience

Overview

With the shift to remote learning in the spring of 2019, the leadership team at Meriden Public Schools quickly realized they needed to build better systems to support and engage with families, especially those who were multilingual. Traditionally, technological issues with student devices were handled at school, but with school closures, the district needed to provide parents/guardians with bilingual technical support as they worked to troubleshoot issues remotely. Additionally, the district needed to find new ways to engage parents/guardians virtually, so the district launched multiple new methods of virtually communicating with parents/guardians in their home languages.

"When students aren't in school, we're really thinking through how we are communicating. Who's going to speak Spanish on the tech support line? How do we provide support to and connect with parents who don’t speak English? Why are we making it more difficult to connect with parents if what we really want is their participation? How do we make it as easy as possible for them to participate? I think parent teacher conferences opened our eyes that our parents do care, they want to be involved, but they may have to take an hour off of work to come to a parent teacher conference, or they may have to get a ride to the parent teacher conference." - Mark Benigni, Superintendent

Approach

In order to provide on-demand support, the district hired bilingual staff to offer technology support as needed to families whose home language wasn’t English. Bilingual staff members were available to help parents/guardians call in for questions around devices, learning management systems, and other online tools and resources.

The district also ensured that families had a way to communicate in their home language with someone about their child’s progress. Meriden Public Schools began offering parent-teacher conferences online, which had the unexpected effect of dramatically increasing parent/guardian attendance and access. Additionally, leaders noticed that engaging families from home helped to humanize relationships and build greater understanding.


This strategy is a part of TLA's Hop, Skip, Leapfrog release, which explores the concrete ways in which schools and systems pursued student-centered innovation during COVID-19. Explore the full guide to find additional strategies, insights, and resources.