Volume 15 | January 10, 2021
Response to the Insurrection at the US Capitol on January 6, 2021
The violent attempts to disrupt our democratic processes at our US Capitol on January 6 were disturbing and traumatic. The Capitol building is a symbol of our representative government, meant to uphold our cherished values of equality, liberty and justice for all. Yet the insurrection, including the symbols held up during the desecration of the US Capitol, explicit encouragement from a President fueling false conspiracies about the election, and delayed deployment of the National Guard from the Executive Office, was deeply about the racism that courses through this country’s past and present. 

As educators fighting for equity, it is our responsibility to acknowledge this truth: while our nation’s promise may deem all to be equal, we have yet to achieve this promise for all of us. To live up to the promise that our democracy’s laws and institutions hold, we all must do our part to face our past while rebuilding a more just future for ourselves, and for our children.
Founder's Focus: Learning to Rebuild Trust with Families
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted stark differences in student learning progress by income, race, and English Learner status. Families have a front row seat to this growing inequality and its impact on their children, leaving educators with an urgent challenge to build family engagement practices that will help students recover months of lost learning time while rebuilding trust in public education. 

For educators, improving learning outcomes for students and building trust with families may feel like a dual challenge. But for families, trust in schools is inextricably linked to how well schools are educating their children. To rebuild trust with families, schools must focus their relationships with families around learning. This includes sharing information with families about what skills their children are developing and how families can help. At a system level, education leaders should communicate concrete programs to help students recover and achieve and include clear roles for families to support their children. 

While building strong relationships takes time, some of the most cost-effective family engagement practices yield immediate benefits for students. Furthermore, most school systems have the capacity to implement programs that yield “quick wins” for students while laying the foundation for long-term sustained collaboration with families. 

Family Engagement Lab has helped school systems demonstrate success through FASTalk, our tool which connects families and educators around learning. FASTalk is one of few educational programs that has the most pronounced impact for students furthest behind their peers, promoting equitable learning outcomes. And in our most recent study, learning gains from FASTalk were observed after only eight weeks.

How do programs like FASTalk work to improve student achievement so quickly? The key lies in how FASTalk shifts how schools and educators communicate with families. FASTalk does more than send brief and actionable information relevant to student learning. It enables consistent communication infused with warmth and caring, which is especially important for immigrant communities looking for direct invitations from their schools to participate in their child’s learning. 

A study of culturally responsive communication highlighted in EdWeek reinforces these and other effective practices. Two that stand out include “Giving families the benefit of the doubt” when families are not immediately responsive to your communication efforts, and “Offering flexible ways for families to support learning” so that families can easily adapt approaches to their lives. These mindsets and approaches to communication help students while building trusting relationships with families.

It is not only possible, but our moral imperative for schools to meaningfully engage families in learning. Evidence-based family engagement strategies are able to yield immediate results and form a meaningful foundation for trusting relationships with families.

Vidya Sundaram
Co-Founder, Family Engagement Lab
In Case You Missed It
Family Engagement Lab Announces Appointments of Chief Impact Officer, Chief Operating Officer, and Head of Partnerships

Leadership dedicated to accelerating the impact of family engagement on student learning

It is with great pride that Family Engagement Lab announces the expansion of its leadership team to accelerate the impact of family engagement on student learning. Family Engagement Lab welcomes Marci Goldberg as Chief Operating Officer, Hailey Kuhn as Head of Partnerships, and promotes Dr. Elisabeth O’Bryon to Chief Impact Officer.

The COVID-19 pandemic has heightened the critical role that families play in a child’s education. There is growing demand to build educator and family partnerships to support student academic success and recover lost learning time. Family Engagement Lab is committed to addressing this critical need among historically underserved families, particularly low-income and linguistically diverse families, through its family engagement work. The combination of Dr. O’Bryon, Goldberg, and Kuhn on the leadership team positions Family Engagement Lab to grow its impact on a much larger scale.

FASTalk Connection
Family Engagement Lab is thrilled to reveal our new vision statement:
Authentic family-school partnership is critical to a child’s successful learning journey. This drives our work at Family Engagement Lab every day.  

Our tools bridge classroom and at-home learning to raise student outcomes.

Family Engagement Lab helps students achieve their full potential by catalyzing partnerships between the most passionate advocates for children teachers and family members.
Meaningful Moments: The Top 10 Insights from the “Science of a Meaningful Life” in 2020
The Greater Good team has named the most provocative and influential findings published during this past year.

In 2020, the study of well-being took on new meaning. The COVID-19 pandemic created a mental health crisis that is affecting people in all corners of the globe. In the United States, Americans have faced intense political polarization and a reckoning around racial justice. Many of us are left wondering how we can move forward toward a better future.

This year’s top insights speak to the moment, from concrete tips about how to bond with a friend to broader truths about how societies respond to diversity over time: 
  • Rich and varied experiences may be an overlooked key to a good life
  • If you want to connect with someone, call rather than text
  • Acting like an extravert can make you happier
  • Cooperating with each other may encourage kids to work harder
  • For a more empathic world, we need to choose empathy
  • Witnessing gratitude and kindness helps bond people together
  • To get people to follow COVID guidelines, appeal to their care for others
  • We might care more about inequality if we question our underlying assumptions about poverty
  • Social justice and individual happiness go hand in hand
  • Living in diverse communities may reduce stereotypes—and improve well-being

Family Talk: What are parents saying about FASTalk? Join the conversation and share their thoughts with us.
FASTalk Weekly Activity

Monday: Your child is learning research skills! If a family member asks a question that requires looking up an answer, ask your child to research it.

Wednesday: Ask: What did you research? What different info did you learn from different sources? What evidence do you have to support your research?
"I really like that it gives you information regarding words that are being discussed within the classroom and activities to help with vocabulary, colors, etc."

-Parent, Sabine Parish, Louisiana
"Fun and different topics and sparked good conversations between myself and my kid"

-Parent, Alameda Unified, California
Educator Highlight: Attianna Floriano, PK Teacher, Oakland Unified School District
Due to unforeseen staffing changes, Ms. Attianna Floriano from Oakland Unified School District had to adjust and transition from being an Instructional Assistant to a full-time PK classroom teacher in a virtual learning environment. With the strong support and coordination from the site principal, Family Engagement Lab assisted Ms. Attianna with a smooth transfer of FASTalk student rosters and teacher accounts to allow for continuity of student learning.

 In addition to the prescheduled, weekly tips and activity ideas that are automatically sent through FASTalk, Ms. Attianna uses the chat box to personalize messages with her students’ families. Within just one month of signing up for FASTalk, Ms. Attianna quickly became the most engaged FASTalk PK teacher user across the district sending 1,045 personalized texts via FASTalk to date and 92% of her students’ families actively responding back!

I absolutely LOVE FASTalk and how easy it is to communicate with my families  especially during a time like this when it is much needed. Not only that, but my families find it extremely easy to reach out to me with any questions, concerns, or simply to share a picture of their child’s work. FASTalk has made distance learning so much easier when it comes to communication with families! Thank you so much FASTalk!
FASTalk Tip of the Month: Review Your FASTalk Student Rosters for Accuracy
Start the new year strong by re-engaging with your families after the holiday break. Check to see if any phone numbers in your FASTalk roster may be outdated. FASTalk can deliver messages to mobile numbers that receive SMS text messages, so if any of the phone numbers listed in your roster are landline numbers, please update the phone number to the parent/caregiver’s cell phone number.

Teachers often have the most up-to-date phone numbers for their families, so to take a few minutes to review your FASTalk student roster for accuracy:
Use your school email address and password to log-in to www.fastalk.org
Click on the STUDENTS tab at the top of the page
Review that all your students are accounted for
To add a new student, follow this step-by-step guide
After you have updated your roster, send a positive message to your families (group or individual) to kick off 2021 by acknowledging and appreciating their help at home.

Questions? Find helpful information on the Teacher Resources page or email us at support@fastalk.org.
Share the Good News
As teachers, you can encourage parents to become more involved in their child's learning by providing them with quick tips on how to support learning at home. Here are a few social media posts to use this month to help build family engagement in your classroom or school.
@FamilyELab helps students achieve their full potential by catalyzing partnerships between the most passionate advocates for children teachers and family members. Learn more: http://www.familyengagementlab.org/vision.html #familyengagement
This month, @FamilyELab spotlights Ms. Attianna Floriano who quickly became the most engaged #FASTalk PK teacher user across her district with 92% of her students’ families actively responding back to FASTalk texts. How has FASTalk supported you? #FELfamilies
Contact Us
Have questions? Email us at felcommunications@fastalk.org.
Don't forget to follow us on social media for the latest tools and resources to support family engagement.