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Family Engagement Strategies for ELs with Julie Allen

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High performing schools recognize that family engagement is one of the most powerful tools for student success. For English learners (ELs) who come from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds, effective strategies for reaching families are particularly crucial for student achievement.

During this episode, we speak with Julie Allen, a long-time educator and school leader who currently works as the principal and CEO of International Community School in Georgia. Most of their students come from Clarkston which has been called the “the most diverse mile in the US” - there are over 33 languages represented in their students this year. She shares successful strategies they use to support equitable family engagement. 

Build out systems for consistent contact in home language

  • Try piloting a phone tree. The ICS team recruited a few families who are comfortable with English and their home language to take messages from the school and pass them on to other families who speak their language. The system has built trust and resulted in a better translation and a sustainable system where everyone is supported. Julie says it’s crucial to have family home language data and organized prior to starting - summer is a great time to prep.

Family Engagement Data

  • Leverage common tools like email and text messages and Zoom calls. Julie’s team provides translations using tech tools and in house expertise.

Family engagement is built on relationships 

  • In the absence of home visits, embrace the power of video in remote lessons. We talk a lot about being grateful for being invited into peoples’ homes when their cameras are on, rather than requiring it.”

  • Foster support from siblings. Julie emphasizes that while we should never rely on them to translate or “to do the work of adults”, older siblings can encourage their younger siblings during independent lessons to keep morale high and students engaged.

Consider starting a Family Resource Center 

  • Define a clear purpose - “What are you doing for your families and how?” - which for them has been increasing multicultural family engagement and taking down any barriers in the way of students getting the best education.

  • Design the center around the needs of families by asking what potential offerings would be most helpful to them, and backwards plan with these end goals in mind.

Julie has so many great ideas and insightful approaches from her years of experience working in diverse communities.  Listen to the full episode to hear them all.

During our conversation, we reference the following tools and resources:

For more resources on this topic, check out our Engaging and Partnering with Multilingual Families Toolkit.

To get access to strategies and resources from experts in multilingual education, join the thousands of educators in our ELL Community - it’s free!