Toolkit: Promoting Effective Parent-Educator Collaboration to Increase Student Academic Achievement

Year Published: 2021


Students who are English learners represent one of the fastest growing groups in U.S. schools. These students, who have a wide range of backgrounds and cultures, are developing proficiency in English and learning grade-level content at the same time.

Students who are English learners sometimes need supports called accessibility features or accommodations in order to access grade-level content in classes and on tests. Accessibility features and accommodations, such as a bilingual dictionary or extra time, can help these students learn and demonstrate their knowledge. 

Families can bring valuable insights that can help inform educators' decisions about accessibility and accommodations. In addition, family-school partnerships can:

  • Improve the child’s learning experience
  • Ultimately improve outcomes

Yet communication between parents and their child’s teachers can be challenging, especially if the parents come from a country with a different school system and/or speak a language other than English. How can teachers help bridge this gap in communication and form strong relationships with parents? The key is providing practical steps that parents, educators, and principals can take to form a partnership through meaningful two-way communication that:

  • Bridges the opportunity and academic gaps for students
  • Establishes a trusting relationship
  • Supports the learning of culturally and linguistically diverse students
  • Builds a supportive relationship that helps the child to succeed

Parent-Educator Toolkit

In order to support these important partnerships, the National Center on Educational Outcomes and the West Virginia Department of Education are collaborating on a grant project titled The Improving Instruction for English Learners through Improved Accessibility Decisions  Project, funded by a federal grant from the Office of English Language Acquisition ([1]. The three primary project goals are to:

  • Improve teachers’ understanding of how to select, implement, and evaluate the use of accessibility features and accommodations by English learners, including English learners with disabilities, for instruction and assessment
  • Create a school culture that values the learning of all students, including English learners
  • Improve outcomes for English learners in math, English language arts, and English language proficiency

The Improving Instruction project starts from the premise that educators, parents, and English learners themselves should all be able to participate in decisions about accessibility features and accommodations. The resources developed by Improving Instruction help the stakeholders make these decisions based on the individual student’s characteristics and needs.

One resource created through the project is a new Parent-Educator Toolkit for parents and educators of English learners. The toolkit is a one-stop place that aims to help educators and parents of English learners make collaborative decisions about providing accessible grade-level, standards-based instruction, and assessment that meets the needs of individual English learners. The Toolkit provides parents of English learners the tools they need to be involved in decisions about accessibility features for their children.

What does the toolkit include?

The Parent-Educator Toolkit contains a series of short briefs on different topics related to parent-teacher communication about the academic performance of a child, the use of translators and interpreters to facilitate that communication, and the concept of accessibility features and accommodations. Materials within the Toolkit are designed from the specific points of view of parents, teachers, and principals. This enables the successful building of partnerships between principals, teachers, families, and communities.

Resources for families

Each of the parent resources below is available as a PDF and audio in multiple languages (English, Arabic, Simplified Chinese, Traditional Chinese, Spanish, Vietnamese)

Resources for educators

Resources for school leaders

Related resources

For additional teacher resources relating to choosing accessibility features and accommodations for English learners see the Supporting English Learners Through Improved Accessibility Decision Making Module and an accompanying template for an English Learner Accessibility planning form. These materials, and a literature review of research on assessment accommodations for English learners, are available on the Improving Instruction web page.


[1] The Improving Instruction project (2016-2021) is funded by the U.S. Department of Education, Office of English Language Acquisition (#T365Z160115).