December 11, 2020

Improving Student Outcomes One Call at a Time

A father to an elementary-age son received an absence report in the mail detailing the days of virtual class his son had missed during summer school. He noticed a number on the report for families to call if they had questions or needed additional support. He called the number and a Family Support Specialist with EveryDay Labs answered and asked how she could assist him. He shared that the family’s electricity had been turned off, and they were struggling to access food. He wasn’t sure where to go or who to ask for help. The Specialist listened closely to what was going on before providing him with a number to call where he could receive information on basic resources available to him, such as free meals and other assistance for struggling families in his specific district. She was also able to reach out to the district on the father’s behalf, expediting assistance.

This is just one of many stories the Family Support Team at EveryDay Labs hears on a daily basis from families across the country. The 24-person team, which includes 16 bilingual members and a handful of current and former educators, works around the clock as a support system, connecting families to the resources they need. When a family calls in it’s usually because they’ve exhausted their resources and aren’t sure where else to go. Families may call in with questions about their students’ attendance or their needs may cross into more complex barriers to learning like unemployment, financial challenges, lack of transportation or food. 

The Family Support team is a key component of EveryDay Labs’ absence-prevention program. Through the intervention, families receive absence information reports in the mail as well as text messages about their students’ absences. In these communications, families are provided with a phone number to call if they have any questions or need support, leading them to the Family Support Team. 

In the wake of COVID-19, this team has become even more integral to the EveryDay Labs’ approach to absence prevention. Prior to the pandemic the majority of the calls received by the team were inquiries regarding students' attendance. As the pandemic set in, it became apparent to the team that families were struggling to meet basic needs—impacting not only their students' attendance, but also their well-being. With teachers and administrators facing increasing demands, it was becoming  more and more difficult for them to provide the level of support needed by many families. The EveryDay Labs Family Support Team has taken on a vital role bridging the gap between families and necessary resources, and they have done so with compassion and understanding. 

The team knows that supporting students means supporting families and they are dedicated to doing so. This mission is apparent in each and every team member.  School Counselor Sandra Flores had over 15 years of education experience when she applied to work as a Support Specialist at EveryDay Labs. The position, she said, aligned with the work she was already doing. As a Support Specialist, she loves that she gets to listen to families, be a source of support, and direct them to much-needed resources. “I love to help people. That’s my calling,” Sandra explained. “At EveryDay Labs, we are the bridge connecting families to resources”. And as a bilingual Support Specialist, Sandra brings the ability to communicate with Spanish speaking families in their native language. As the daughter of a Spanish-speaking immigrant, she has first hand experience with understanding how language barriers can affect the ability of schools to connect with families. On the Spanish calls she takes with EveryDay Labs, it’s not uncommon for her to hear gratitude from the families for being able to assist them in their own language, especially as school districts aren’t always equipped to provide Spanish language support. 

“I  might spend a day taking dozens of calls from families and caregivers who are upset, angry, and uncertain. But at the end of the day if I was able to help a family that wouldn’t have been helped otherwise, I’m happy and can’t wait to do it again. That’s why I love being a part of EveryDay Labs and I know that by helping to support families, I’m also playing a role in a larger mission which is to improve student outcomes and give all students the opportunity to learn.” 

Getting students on track starts with attendance. We can help.