Family engagement in children’s academic lives produces numerous benefits for the student and the school. A focus on parent engagement can spur profound changes in classrooms. Involved parents often yield more positive experiences for everyone in the school system. Schools excel when parents support learning and classroom rules at home.
Despite the myriad benefits, schools face many obstacles regarding parent and family engagement communication, including few resources, low staffing, and short timelines for critical notices. One critical aspect of parent and family engagement is reaching non-English speaking parents and families. The Office of Civil Rights (OCR) requires translation for specific notices, yet schools may not know which notices might require a translation or who is permitted to translate such notices.
ESSA Communication Requirements
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) is the foundational federal education law with the purpose of pursuing educational equity. In an effort to achieve greater educational equity, it has been amended multiple times since it was passed in 1965, with the most recent amendment being the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) of 2015. Under ESSA, which became fully active in the 2017-2018 school year, schools must provide a wide range of notices. Depending on the school or district's federal funding, a school might be required to send as many as 100 different parent notifications per year. When the spirit and the letter of the law are met, these notices can help engage families in their children’s education and lead to meaningful outcomes for students.
Some of the most common required notifications include the following:
- Teacher qualification notice: Schools must send an annual notice about teacher qualifications, informing parents they have the right to request this information. Some states require additional notices, such as when a substitute teaches in a child’s classroom for longer than 30 days.
- Request for change in enrollment in an English Learner program: When parents elect to opt-out of these programs or request a program change, they must sign a notice.
- School performance notifications: Schools and districts must send notifications to parents and families to indicate when a school has been identified for Comprehensive or Targeted Support.
- Notices for students experiencing homelessness: Under the McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act, youth experiencing homelessness are entitled to certain rights, all of which should be outlined in this notice.
- English learner program placement: Required under Title I, the English learner program placement notification is sent to parents of students placed in English learner programs.
- School-parent compact: A school-parent compact is an informal contract between parents and schools that plays a critical role in parental engagement.
How ParentNotices Promotes Communication, Engagement, and Student Success
ParentNotices can play a crucial part in helping students succeed. ParentNotices is a subscription service to hundreds of expertly written and already translated notices, many of which are federally required. Some of the benefits of subscribing to ParentNotices include:
- Bridging the school-family communication gap: ParentNotices delivers ESSA-required communications to parents in a language they understand, directly to any mobile device.
- A reduction in communication compliance-related resource usage: The right technology empowers administrators to spend fewer hours deciphering ESSA parent and family engagement communication requirements. The RoadMaps feature helps staff and administrators to plan the required notices based on the funding received and provides statute information for better understanding.
- Notification tracking: School systems can track notifications and obtain electronic signatures, documenting their ESSA communication compliance.
- Lower stress for staff: Family communication is essential, but it can also be time-consuming. ParentNotices give staff their time back by allowing them to schedule notices in advance and leverage features like SIS data integration to autofill forms and notices, so they can focus on the work they do best.
- A more welcoming school community: ParentNotices makes it possible for schools to include families who are not proficient English-speakers in academic life, promoting a more equitable school system, making families feel more valued, and reducing language-related stigma.
- Efficient, effective communication: Schools gain the ability to communicate with parents and caregivers in a language-friendly way that is compliant with ESSA communication requirements. Language-friendly communication helps parents feel like the valuable members of the school community they are, encouraging them to become or remain involved in their students’ academic lives.
Good intentions are inadequate. Without the right notifications, or without the ability to understand the language that the notices are sent in, families may lose out on opportunities to participate in their student’s academic life. Not providing translations may cause a situation where students are forced to translate for their parents, raising concerns about low-quality translations, or even a conflict of interest when a student must translate information relating directly to the student’s education. Quality translations by qualified, trained translators offer an equitable solution to language barriers. ESSA communication compliance is more than just a bureaucratic requirement. It truly improves educational access and equity.
ESSA parent and family engagement communication compliance does not have to strain limited resources and take administrators away from other duties. With the right software partner, authentic parent and family engagement can even be easy. TransACT ParentNotices software provides 10+ State Departments of Education and over 5000 districts across 48 states with federally compliant school-to-home communication notices and forms in multiple languages since 1993. For more information about delivering parent communications in a distance or hybrid learning environment, request a demonstration of ParentNotices.