Questions for Principal

Principals can be strong advocates for families. They know what students need to learn, set teachers’ expectations for educating students, and decide what resources are necessary to ensure students and families stay on track. They work to ensure the school communicates effectively with you and your child, they want to include you in your child’s educational decisions, and they will respond to your needs.

Principals define the structure for teachers and staff to inform you and set expectations for your child’s education. Creating open and clear lines of communication are essential for strong partnership and developing one with the principal is particularly important because things may change quickly. Principals can answer questions that teachers may not be able to. You can communicate directly with principals by calling the school general phone number.

Each school and school district will have its own set of resources. Principals will know what resources are available and can help you get what you need. Also, let your principal know what you need, whether it is access to technology (such as a router, a laptop, etc.), mental health needs for you or for your child, digital literacy training, or something else.

Establishing clear teaching objectives is how teachers demonstrate they are implementing the curriculum and are meeting grade-level standards. Principals support teachers so they can meet the learning objectives. Therefore, principals can share grade-level expectations as well as how teachers are expected to meet those expectations. Make sure you clearly understand what your child is expected to learn.

Knowing where to turn when the amount of instruction and the type of education experience does not meet expectations is the first step to advocate for your child. Ensuring your child has equitable access to educational opportunities, even in the pandemic, is your right and principals can make sure the school fulfills its obligation.

Districts have developed transition plans for children to return to school for in-person learning. You should know what those plans include. Principals can provide details about how to provide feedback about the transition plan.

  • What criteria must be met before children go back to in-person classes? It is important to understand the specific criteria the district will use to decide when to allow students back on campus. Understanding what will guide those decisions, as well as your child’s needs, will impact which students receive in-person instruction first. Knowing what new measures have been put in place will also help you decide if going back on campus is the right thing for your child.
  • Who decides if children return to the school? Principals will be aware of the process and criteria districts will follow in making decisions about “in-person” transitions. They will often be responsible for setting the conditions necessary for health and safety protocols and schedules that keep teachers and children safe. Having open and clear lines of communication with your child’s principal can help you know when it is appropriate for your child to return to campus.

These requirements are set by the district, with guidance from the state, and implemented through district agreements with local teachers unions. Principals will set expectations and policies for the school that reflect the agreements with the union and align with the school’s expectations. Knowing what those expectations are will help you and your child meet them.

Questions for Teachers

Developing a strong partnership with your child’s teacher is essential in keeping your child learning. Here are key questions to ask to begin the conversation with your child’s teacher. They provide you with important information about expectations, guidance, resources, and supports for you to reinforce learning at home.

Understanding what teachers expect for meaningful “in class” participation (like the use of a web camera, participating in chats, etc.) and “after class” work can help you and your child establish daily routines that support learning activities. This includes how much time teachers anticipate you spending “after class” supporting your child’s learning activities. It is helpful to understand if and how teachers will provide feedback on “after class/homework” projects and/or assignments if these projects are optional, and what resources are available if your child needs help completing them (such as teacher office hours for extra help, tutoring opportunities, videos, etc.).

Constant and open communication leads to strong relationships, which means strong educational support for your child. Understanding how you and your child’s teacher(s) will track your child’s progress and sharing results with you is critical. Knowing when to expect updates (such as weekly check-ins, after assignments are submitted, progress reports every two weeks, etc.) is important to identify early in the school year, especially if your child needs additional support.

Knowing the communication tools teachers plan to use (such as email, texting, apps, phone calls, etc.) and how often they’re available to support you and your child (for example, Friday afternoons, every other Monday, etc.) is essential to staying up to date and engaged with your child’s education. Access to technology tools, however, can create challenges to effective and ongoing communication. Sharing with the teacher what type(s) of communication works best for you and any help you might need to communicate with them, can minimize challenges and help develop stronger two-way communication – and better learning for your child.

Planning for the unexpected will minimize learning loss by being prepared to address technical challenges (such as the loss of internet connection, blackouts/electricity cuts, slow broadband internet, etc.). If you know there are videos that cover class content, “make-up” classes, or other one-on-one opportunities that your child can access, can prevent your child from falling behind. Also knowing if there are dedicated technology supports (such as a “hotline” phone number to call or a video to watch) and how to access them during “class” and after “class” is important.

Teachers may be planning individual or small group time to provide additional help to ensure your child is learning. Work with your child’s teacher(s) to understand what resources are available and how to access them. There may also be tutors available outside of “class time” to support the teacher’s learning objectives.

  • Will there be answer sheets for parents? How do I get them? Knowing what resources are available to answer questions and where those documents are located or how they will be shared, is another way to support and reinforce learning outside “class time”.

  • Are there videos to watch with the material covered? Having carefully selected videos aligned to content that your child is learning can reinforce learning at home.

Clarity about when and for how long your child’s teacher will be meeting with your child can help maximize learning. Specifically knowing the weekly schedule, will the teacher meet daily, only twice or 3 or 4 times a week, for how long (15 minutes, 90 minutes) and in what format (large groups, small group, one-on-one). If your child is an English Learner, has an IEP, and/or is a special needs student, this information is even more critical, as there may be additional supports or different platforms or resources that will be needed during that time.

California has established The Safe Schools For All Hub which consolidates key resources and information related to COVID-19 and schools. New resources are added to the Hub on a routine basis. The Safe Schools Parent Page explains the steps that schools are taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The page provides parents with information about the school safety measures that protect the health and wellbeing of students while they are on campus, and the valuable role that in-person learning plays for children’s social and emotional development. We encourage all parents to reach out to their children’s schools to learn more details about that specific school plan.

Questions to Ask for Families with Special Needs Student

Having a clear understanding of the plan for delivering services is necessary to ensure your child gets the services they need. Who, what, and where are critical questions to ensure all available services are provided in the most accessible way.

Understanding the learning goals for your child is important as you work with your child’s teacher(s) to ensure the services they are receiving are appropriate. Your child’s school should provide you with a clear process and timeline for reviewing and updating services, and how those will be delivered. This is part of creating a positive transition to school.

Principals can share district contact information and how to connect with the right person to follow up on services that are provided by the district.

It is important to know what resources are available through the school or community partners given the added disruption of services for English learners and children with special needs, and the stress this has placed on their families and caregivers. These supports can help improve educational outcomes and the well-being of families.

Monitoring learning progress is an important aspect that happens at the beginning and end of each school year. Many assessments may not have happened given the sudden school closures. Knowing when and how those assessments will happen is important to evaluate your child’s needs.

Watch short video. Principal shares his top questions.