Retailers focus on August as back-to-school season, but we know that behind the scenes, the real preparation begins long before families start stocking up on notebooks and markers.
After two summers of uncertainty, school leaders have a better idea what to expect when students return to the classrooms for 2022-23. Some of the predictions are sobering. Prices are higher than projected when budgets were approved. Staff and teacher shortages are a formidable hurdle. Some students are still catching up from disruptions during the pandemic.
But there are bright spots as well. Student well-being is at the forefront of everyone’s minds. Technology continues to improve. Federal funding is helping many districts increase student support, bridge local budget gaps, and move ahead with needed renovations and new construction.
As you take stock this summer and plan for 2022-23, here are some resources to help you prepare for the hot topics now and ease back-to-school stress later on.
Centering Students’ Experiences
Researchers have spent decades studying the evidence around student learning, school climate, and inclusive support for all—and the sheer amount of data can be overwhelming.
The Annenberg Institute at Brown University has compiled evidence briefs by top experts in response to commonly asked questions on topics such as academic recovery, attendance, school counseling programs, and more. These make a great starting point in reflecting on current practices and making changes if needed.
To create space for identifying innovative approaches that might work well for specific challenges, consider research-practice partnerships. These connect researchers and education leaders to ensure a two-way flow of ideas so best practices are applied effectively AND future research is informed by the actual conditions and perspectives in the classroom.
Check out this guide from the nonprofit advocacy organization Digital Quality Campaign to learn more.
We’ve mentioned the Whole Student Approach before, in blogs like this one. If your school or district is exploring this framework, there are many science-grounded self-assessment tools online, such as the Turnaround for Children Toolbox, that can boost your decision-making process.
Physical safety of campuses is top of mind for all administrators right now. As you review your protocols and procedures, take look at the collection of research-based tools from Safe and Sound Schools, the nonprofit formed after the Sandy Hook tragedy.
Schoolsafety.gov is a project of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Department of Justice, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that offers a wealth of resources, webinars, and links about both physical and psychological safety.
Effective Use of Resources
Every school has plenty of internal committees, boards, advisory groups, and programs focused on how to make the most of their people, time, and money—but sometimes those in-house groups can use an infusion of new ideas and big-picture thinking. One example is these ESSER Staffing, Spending, and Scheduling Guides from the nonprofit research organization ERS.
Educators’ time is an especially precious resource. We recently recapped how chatbots save time when it comes to communication by streamlining two-way messages with families across an entire school or district. Individual teachers and staff spend less time replying to routine questions and can focus on the highest priorities.
Communication with Families
Stay ahead of families’ start-of-school questions by ensuring a smooth flow of outbound information. Text messages have higher open rates compared to email and postal mail, which makes them an optimal tool for pointing families to online information and reminding them of action steps and deadlines. (And if you use a chatbot like ours, text messages are also great for incoming questions and concerns.)
In-person events are making a big comeback this summer as a proven way to engage the community. Especially popular are one-stop-shops like block parties where families can meet staff and teachers, receive school supplies, get services like haircuts and immunizations, and—above all—build enthusiasm for the coming year. For ideas on planning and promotion, check out Attendance Works’ 10th anniversary awareness campaign.
And keep an eye out next month for more about the importance of communication in setting the foundations of family engagement over the summer!