Resources requested from 2,100 NC families

Over the past two years, nearly every aspect of the education system has had to change and adapt for the safety of our students, educators, and families. SchermCo’s family commitment and empowerment approach has fluctuated over time, but our efforts have remained the same. We have consistently sought to ask families what they need, create meaningful opportunities to connect with the resources and supports they seek, and ensure families have the confidence and convenience to advocate for their children.

With the return of in-person schools for the 2021-22 school year, we are returning to this, applying what we have learned over the past two years supporting families and schools primarily through a remote/virtual model.

We now work with 12 schools and approximately 12,000 families in Charlotte and Durham, ranging from elementary to high schools. We are focused on applying a tailored approach to family engagement and empowerment efforts that combines the successful systems we established pre-pandemic with lessons learned from supporting schools during the pandemic.

We begin each partnership with a family empowerment pre-survey to quantify how families feel about their school regarding engagement and empowerment and understand the resources they need. We distributed surveys using a hybrid approach, using physical paper and electronic surveys. From 2,112 pre-survey responses, here’s what we learned are the top areas of need.

Most requested parenting resources

Support area # of requests % of total polls
Physical Health/Exercise 569 26.9%
Financial Literacy 451 21.4%
Professional training 449 21.3%
Lodging 425 20.1%
Mental Health 409 19.4%
Access to technology 396 18.8%

Physical health and exercise

For the second year in a row, health and wellness resources are one of the top requests from families. The pandemic has heightened health awareness and increased demand for access to health resources and movement-based activities.

Financial Literacy

The consequences of the pandemic go beyond health. It has also aggravated the economic difficulties of the families. Financial literacy is top of mind for families.

Most Requested Student Resources

Support area # of requests % of total polls
Academic support/tutoring 866 41%
Homework help/tools 794 37.6%
After School/Summer Programs 650 30.8%
Tutoring: Mathematics 647 30.6%
Tutoring: Reading/Literacy 626 29.6%
Physical Health/Exercise 583 27.6%

Academic support/tutoring

The pandemic has brought the classroom home, and parents have had a front row seat to discovering what their students are learning. Families have consistently requested tutoring over the years, but this year’s survey results also led to an increase in requests for math tutoring.

Most requested resources for elementary students

Support area # of requests % of total polls
Academic support/tutoring 496 60.5%
Homework help/tools 452 55.1%
Tutoring: Reading/Literacy 429 52.3%
After School/Summer Programs 428 52.2%
Tutoring: Mathematics 369 45%

Looking specifically at the demands of elementary school families, we find that tutoring in reading/literacy is of great importance to families.

Most requested resources for middle school students

Support area # of requests % of total polls
Academic support/tutoring 186 46.4%
Homework help/tools 174 43.4%
Physical health/exercise 132 32.9%
After School/Summer Programs 130 32.4%
Tutoring: Mathematics 113 28.2%

Looking specifically at the demands of college families, we see that physical health resources for students are of great importance to these families. We also find that support in mathematics is more in demand than other subjects.

Most requested resources for high school students

Support area # of requests % of total polls
Academic support/tutoring 184 34.8%
Homework help/tools 168 31.8%
Tutoring: Mathematics 165 31.3%
Mental Health 161 30.5%
Scholarship opportunities 140 26.5%

Looking specifically at requests from families of high school students, we always consider tutoring as the top priority and, as with middle school, we find that math is the main subject to be supported. Responses to the secondary school family survey also emphasize the changing needs of students and families as they age in the education system. Mental health is a top priority, highlighting the challenges of growing up in a rapidly changing world shaped by the pandemic, social media and remote learning. High school families also express a desire for resources to support their child’s post-secondary education, including scholarships, college access, employment and training opportunities.

Response and programming

Although schools have returned to full-time in-person learning, our event programming takes a hybrid approach to reaching families. Based on what families have expressed that they are most comfortable with, we plan and implement virtual and in-person events with schools. SchermCo plans to support our 12 partner schools with an average of 3-4 events per school, or approximately 33 family-oriented programs.

We have already started to put this into practice with our partner schools, which has resulted in some great achievements:

As mentioned earlier, health and wellness is a top priority for many families. We hosted a Community Resource Showcase with partner school Idlewild Elementary, featuring over a dozen community partners. The event included a vaccination clinic where over 25 students received their first vaccination and five parents received their booster shots.

Partner Sugar Creek Charter School chose to hold its first events virtually in response to families and staff who said it was the most comfortable model for them at this time. Nearly 250 families joined in two events aimed at elementary and middle schools. Families shared important information learned:

“Learning that our fellows have some form of homework every night. Even if it’s just reading.

“Everything we talked about was useful. I clearly understood what my child is learning and what he needs to work on in the future. »

We returned to the Movement School Freedom K-5 building, hosting a College Homecoming night, which hosted nearly 90 families and over 300 attendees. Families shared what they learned/enjoyed about the event:

“Getting an opportunity to see a ‘day in the life’ of a Grade 2 student at Movement. [It] was important to see and hear about the school calendar and the various activities they engage in throughout the day.”

We welcomed Healthy Start Academy, a new partner school located in Durham, our first school outside of Charlotte, and the first school we will support exclusively remotely. Successfully supporting our schools through virtual meetings and events over the past year and a half has given us the confidence and skills to pilot a full remote support option. We supported a Hispanic Heritage Month celebration that welcomed over 300 attendees to their school’s parking lots and outdoor areas.

Families commented that they enjoyed the event for “Showing academics and families how to celebrate diversity and culture” and “The family/school bond was great!”

A staff member shared: “Mingling with families and as a teacher [provided] the opportunity to meet and talk with academics and parents outside of academia.

We have also moved to virtual facilitation of Family Empowerment Committee meetings. The virtual meeting model provides greater access for families and staff to join where life is demanding at the time, whether it’s calling from the car, basketball practice of a child, from their office or classroom, or from the comfort of their home.

With the physical doors of the school open to students, but families entering the building are restricted, it is essential to create open communication channels for families and teachers/staff, opportunities for families to learn what happens in the classroom and how they can complement and support at home. We continue to help our partners innovate how they reach and engage families to create meaningful engagement opportunities for everyone. We know that when families are invited to sit down at the table, whether in a Zoom room or at a conference table, relationships are strengthened, trust is created, and outcomes are better for everyone.

As always, there is more to do and more to come.

Kelsey Van Dyke

Kelsey Van Dyke is Director of Family Empowerment at SchermCo, a national social impact implementation firm that provides strategic consulting, organizational development and implementation services to schools and organizations focused on education that support underserved communities.

Norma A. Roth