Families are an integral part of school communities. To have a successful school, it is imperative that an open line of communication exists between the school and students' homes. Though many educators know this, schools often find it difficult to successfully engage all families, particularly families of ELL students. Schools also tend to feel as though ELL families are not interested in participating in the school community. This is often not the case, however, and there are several reasons why ELL families may not reach out to schools as frequently as other families. Some of those reasons include:

  • Unfamiliarity with the school system;
  • Concern over not knowing English;
  • Concern about immigration status; and
  • Isolation from families that speak their same language.

Keeping these reasons in mind, there are several things that schools can do to reach out to, and successfully communicate with, families of ELL students. Some suggestions for improving your school-home communication include:

  • Take the initiative and reach out to families even if they haven't reached out to the school;
  • Be explicit with parents about the types of supports you are providing their students, and explain the academic benefits of placing their child in an ESL program. This will help parents understand the nature and structure of these supports, and not worry that their student is missing other important instruction;
  • Provide materials in the families' home language. Recommended DOE translation vendors can be found online http://schools.nyc.gov/
  • Hire a bilingual parent coordinator or office staff member, or appoint a staffer, who can assist with family-school communications;
  • Reach out to local organizations that can provide translation services;
  • Immediately connect families with a contact person within the school whom they can contact with questions and concerns; and
  • Establish phone trees so that ELL families can receive important information in their native language.

For more information about involving families at school, please visit the Strategies for Supporting ELL Families and Communities page.

Additional Resources

Building Collaboration Between Schools and Parents of English Language Learners: Transcending Barriers, Creating Opportunities - This brief by the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems discusses strategies for overcoming barriers to recruiting and supporting ELL families. external image pdf.png PractitionerBrief_BuildingCollaboration.pdf, or available at: http://www.niusileadscape.org/lc/Record/580?search_query=.

ColorĂ­n Colorado has an archive of articles about parent involvement that is available at: http://www.colorincolorado.org/article/c44/.

Davis, C., & Yang, A. (2005). Parents & Teachers Working Together. Turners Falls, MA: Northeast Foundation for Children. ISBN: 1-892989-15-8.