A new school year can be a fresh start for educators and parents, but this year there are national conversations about educational equity that are likely to carry into the school year. Establishing trust between parents and the school is imperative to fostering a positive learning environment for students. We’ve come up with a list of 5 questions for parents to ask this upcoming year to learn about the classroom equity practices of the school.
1. How does the school ensure every student has equitable access?
Whether your student will be returning to school virtually or in-person, it’s important that every student has equitable access. Equitable access includes the devices and technology that students need to be successful in distance learning as well as the student-centered teaching strategies that allow every student to progress and be challenged at school. This question will allow the school to highlight its focus on equity and the plan in place to address the inequities that still may exist for student groups.
2. Does the school implement restorative justice practices or traditional disciplinary action?
When students learn in a supportive environment, they are more likely to flourish both at school and at home. It’s important to challenge traditional disciplinary systems that can negatively affect the school culture and the overall quality of life for all students.
During the 2019-2020 school year, the Gateway High School leadership team shifted the focus from punishing negative behavior to helping students learn from their negative choices. Now, we focus on building relationships that foster a positive school environment. Learn more about the importance of restorative justice practices here.
3. What support does the school provide for incoming students? For students about to graduate?
In addition to academics, social-emotional development plays a crucial role in preparing students for their future, whatever the next step is. This year, ask about student support and counseling programs at school.
Gateway provides opportunities for every student, at every level and in every circumstance, to prepare them for ongoing success. One of Gateway’s signature programs, the Freshman Academy, provides early support to incoming students. Similarly, Gateway’s College and Career Center provides individualized, evidenced-based assistance to help students and families make informed decisions about their futures.
4. What strategies does the teacher use to provide a culturally responsive curriculum?
Inclusive and welcoming schools utilize strategies like culturally responsive teaching to promote equitable classroom instruction. Culturally responsive teaching gives students of all backgrounds the same opportunities to learn by building on the student’s own understanding. Ask teachers how they will use a student-focused approach in their curriculum this year.
5. How can parents get involved?
Research has shown that parent involvement leads to student success, particularly as it relates to the opportunities to reinforce learning at home. Learn how you can weigh in on school issues, help out with administrative projects, or provide your unique perspective on the school’s learning environment and what could help it be more engaging and welcoming to the community.
Regularly engaging with the teacher and the school will allow you to share hopes for your child and struggles you are working through. Don’t wait for the parent-teacher conference later in the year – establish open lines of communication with your child’s teacher at the beginning of the school year to make this the best academic year yet.