More than two and a half years later, the cumulative effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on children and their caregivers are coming into clear view. Surveys of both parents and educators highlight concerning trends in children’s emotional well-being and mental health. These concerns are heightened for children of color, who were significantly more likely to lose a parent or caregiver from a COVID-19 related death. Recent research evaluating the effects of the pandemic on students’ learning trajectories reflects this reality. Learning rates slowed during the pandemic for most students, and even more so for students of color and students from low-income families.

To support students, families, and schools in recovering from the varied harms of the pandemic, Congress has provided U.S. public schools with $190 billion in federal relief aid over the last three years. Many school districts are using some of these resources to fund academic interventions like summer and after-school programs and high-dosage tutoring that families can sign their children up for.

News reports and recent research indicate that participation in these opt-in recovery programs may be low. Some researchers argue that low participation rates indicate low levels of parent interest in academic recovery efforts. However, a broader literature on family engagement in education suggests that insights gleaned from families’ participation in recovery programs may be limited.

Here, we interrogate what we do and do not know about families’ interest in and engagement with COVID-19 recovery programs based on the limited research to date. We also summarize broader literatures on family engagement that can support education leaders working to better engage families in COVID-19 relief effort.

Read the full article about family engagement with students by Rachel M. Perera, Ayesha K. Hashim, and Hayley R. Weddle at Brookings.