August 19, 2020

14 Key Questions for Parents to Ask to Help Navigate this School Year

By Josh Crosson

This year, back-to-school will look different than ever before. With each district making a unique learning plan, how do you know if your school’s approach meets the mark? We’ve created a new tool with some key questions parents can ask to navigate your local plan.
Download the Worksheet! (English)
Descarga la Hoja de Trabajo! (Español)
Rub daim ntawv khij! (Hmoob)
Soo dejiso xaashida shaqada! (Somali)

We walk through some key topics that will help you identify areas of strength and potential concern. After you explore your local plan, we encourage you to reach out to your superintendent, school board, and principal to get clarity and advocate for change!

To get started, visit your school district’s website to find their current plan. They are required to post it, and you should be able to find it with back-to-school and/or COVID-19 resources. 

Then, use the worksheet to take notes, make reflections, and develop your own questions about how your family’s needs can be met.

Here’s a quick preview of the topics covered in the worksheet—we’ll be advocating around these issues and more in the coming months.

1. Measuring if Students are on Track

Is there a plan for identifying areas where my student needs help to catch up? This is usually measured through “diagnostic assessments” or screening tests at the beginning of the year.

2. Supports & Interventions to Help Students Catch Up

Will there be any special supports for students who need help after being out of school? Are they research-backed and proven to be effective? Examples include tutoring, extended learning time, and supplemental one-on-one support.

3. Grades

How will my student be graded? (A-F, Pass/Fail, No Credit, etc.)

4. Feedback from Teachers

How will teachers provide feedback to students during distance learning? How will students turn in assignments? How often will they receive feedback?

5. Real-Time Lessons

How often will students have access to live (synchronous) instruction? Will lessons be recorded if a student has to miss the lesson?

6. Office Hours

How often will teachers host office hours for students to connect and ask one-on-one questions? Will they be at accessible times? Will parents have opportunities to connect with teachers?

7. Students with Disabilities

What special supports and services will be provided to students with IEPs? Will they receive the proper services, accommodations, and modifications? Will they have priority access to in-person services?

8. English Learners

How will English Learners be supported? What services will they have, and how will parents be supported?

9. Mental Health

What mental health supports and/or services students will have access to? How can they connect with social workers, and guidance counselors?

10. Internet Access

Will your school ensure your access to the internet for each and every student? Will the options be sustainable and reliable?

11. Computers & Tablets

Will your school ensure that each student will have a device that allows them to fully engage in distance learning?

12. Student Meals

How will students from low-income families access meals? Will the plan be flexible enough to accommodate all families in need?

13. Parent Information

How will your school keep families updated, and how much notice will they provide before they change the learning model? (i.e., returning to hybrid or in-person)

14. Safe Classrooms

For in-person/hybrid learning: What precautions will your school take to ensure the learning environment is safe for students and adults: distancing, grouping, mask compliance, etc.? How will they manage any COVID-19 cases in students or staff?