Questions Families Should Ask

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.

In California, the minimum education requirement for teacher certification is a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university. You must also complete a teacher preparation program approved by the CTC. An approved program provides both educational curriculum and fieldwork. According to California state regulations, teacher certification is optional for private schools. Many districts have streamlined their hiring and screening practices by advertising year-round for a pool of teacher applicants by subject area.  Each application calls for several components which may include a video of the candidate teaching a lesson. (California Department of Education).
Principals set educational goals and establish policies and procedures for the school. Professional development is one strategy that principals can use to support teachers as they work to enhance student achievement and family engagement. Principals may also partner with local community partners such as Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE).  PIQE offers Educator Workshops and Culturally Responsive Family Engagement to support capacity building for school personnel deepening effective family engagement practices. Ask your principal about strategies used at your school to help support teachers.

Every principal will have his/her own approach and method to meeting with parents – emails, weekly coffee chats, scheduled meetings, or an open-door policy. Remember, you, your child’s teacher and principal all have the same goal – to promote the education, personal and social growth of your student. Feel comfortable asking your principal for his/her best method of communication.

Your child’s teacher is an important partner in helping your child with challenges. But teachers aren’t the only people at school you can turn to. The principal can also help you find answers and get the right support for your child. An article by Understood.org provides five ways principals can connect you to resources and support at school. Set up a time to meet with your principal. Be specific about what you want to talk about and do not be shy about asking questions. It’s important you walk away from the meeting knowing what next steps you need to take to help your student and family.

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.

Staying connected with your child’s teacher(s) and developing an action plan as to how you will track their progress (i.e., weekly check-ins, bi-weekly progress reports) can help determine how much additional support is needed both at home and at school. Maintaining open, honest, and consistent communication is the cornerstone to building strong relationships, and it is one of the most effective ways of supporting your child’s academic success.

If your child is having issues sleeping, has a sudden change in attitude, is acting out, and is angry or bored with school work it could be a warning sign that your child is struggling in school. Schedule time to meet with his/her teacher. Your child’s teacher can give you insight to what is happening in school.  When you meet, be prepared to talk about your concerns and ask for recommendations and support. Your child’s teacher may be able to help arrange additional support if needed.

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.

Get to know your child’s school and his/her teacher(s). Understanding and supporting the school/classroom policies will help to set and reinforce expectations for your child. In turn, the more the school and teacher(s) come to know you and your child, the better able they are to understand and assist with his/her needs. Working together requires two-way communication, making sure everyone is on the same page, and sharing an understanding of what is expected from the parent, the teacher, the child, and the school.

As a parent, you are within your right to take the lead in addressing this issue, opening the conversation to school administrators, teachers, and other parents. Bullying is a significant issue in school-age children, and most schools take a proactive approach to it. Work with your child and the school to create an intervention plan to address the immediate problem and to provide a long-term solution. When parents, teachers, and administrators work together to create a safe, inclusive environment, children stand a better chance at receiving a quality education.

California law requires that school districts provide English learners with additional services to help them gain fluency in English while moving forward with everything else they need to learn. By law, California districts may not allow students to fall behind—to obtain “irreparable academic deficits”—as a result of not yet knowing English. (Innovate Public Schools, Parent Guide)

An advocacy guide from EdTrust-West helps parents and communities know their rights. 

  • Schools are required to communicate effectively and often with families. They must also provide information and training to families so they can support their children’s learning. Parents of English learners must also receive information on how they can be involved in helping their children learn English, achieve at high academic levels, and meet the same academic standards as all other students. Schools must also have a written parent and family engagement policy provided, to the extent practical, in a language parents can understand. (EdTrust-West Advocacy Guide)
  • Download the Full Guide Here

California English Learner Roadmap

  • The California State Board of Education unanimously approved the California English Learner Roadmap State Board of Education Policy: Educational Programs and Services for English Learners (EL Roadmap Policy) on July 12, 2017. This policy is intended to provide guidance to schools on welcoming, understanding, and educating the diverse population of students who are English learners attending California public schools.
  • The road map was created for students in grades K-12. However, the majority of English learners, about 67%, are enrolled in kindergarten through 6th grade.  (EdSource)

More Resources Visit: CABE

The U.S. Department of Education recommends that states, school districts, and schools put in place policies to ensure that students continue to access high-quality and rigorous learning, that students’ basic needs are addressed, and that their social, emotional, and mental health needs are met.

If your student must stay home due to quarantine or other reasons, reach out to your teacher to discuss the resources available to you and your child. Work together to create a plan. Stay connected to teacher(s). Communicate regularly to ensure your child is on task and progress is being made.