Engaging Parents in Student Learning: The Use of Student Data

Each year, school administrators are challenged to find meaningful ways in which to engage families in discussions of student learning that support improved outcomes. In the past, discussions of student achievement were often limited to parent-teacher conferences and report cards. However, technology-based tools have created a range of new opportunities that enable administrators, teachers, and parents to engage in meaningful, ongoing communication about student progress. For example, many districts have created websites portals that provide parents with access to information about student schedules, grades, and attendance. In addition, many online instructional resources include progress monitoring tools that allow parents to access student progress reports, and some popular student data management systems allow schools to share student data directly with parents.

Recognizing that simply sharing data does not make it understandable or actionable for parents, the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has created a set of tip sheets to guide administrators, teachers, and parents in communicating about student data in ways that support student learning and forge strong partnerships between families and schools. According to HFRP:

Many of the tips represent small but significant—and often overlooked—steps in sharing data with families that can make a big difference in families’ ability to access, understand, and act on information about their child’s progress.

Some HFRP tips address steps that administrators may want to consider as teachers and students return to school. These tips include:

  • Providing families with an orientation that covers how to access and understand student data, such as benchmark test scores, as well as how to logon to parent portals and other online data sharing tools;
  • Building capacity for data sharing through staff professional development activities focused on effective communication about student data, student privacy requirements, and the use of technology-based data tools; and
  • Ensuring equitable access to data by designating some school computers for parent use and providing data reports in parents’ native language.

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