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Family & Community

Partnerships among educators, families, and community members.
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Family and community engagement greatly increases the likelihood that students will learn and thrive. Students are more prepared for school, more likely to achieve, and more likely to graduate when they are supported by schools, families, and communities working together in a coordinated manner. Schools will be more effective at engaging families and communities when they move toward systemic, integrated, and sustained engagement.

QSF Logo Resources

Tools

These tools are provided as resources to support implementation of the QSF. Their use is not intended as a requirement for schools and districts.

  • Family Engagement in Anywhere, Anytime Learning External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    The examples offered will help leaders who are seeking to better connect and engage families with expanded non-school learning opportunities.
  • Family Engagement Toolkit: Continuous Improvement through an Equity Lens (PDF)
    Provides practical planning and evaluation tools that support efforts to engage all families, particularly those of underrepresented and underserved students.
  • The Harvard Graduate School of Education Pre-K–12 Parent Survey External link opens in new window or tab.
    This tool is a rigorously developed, web-based set of survey scales that schools and districts can access online and administer to parents with school children of all ages. to assess family–school relationships in schools serving Pre-K to 12th grade students. Designed to elicit input from parents, the survey can help schools evaluate interventions that they are implementing to try to improve family–school relationships, see how family–school relationships develop as students advance from one grade to the next, or simply collect baseline information on their strengths and areas that need improvement in their family–school relationships.
  • Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    This national framework lays out the goals and conditions necessary to chart a path toward effective family engagement efforts that are linked to student achievement and school improvement.
  • A Toolkit for Title I Parental InvolvementExternal link opens in new window or tab.
    This toolkit is designed to provide information to those who are implementing Title I Part A parental involvement provisions. By using these tools, you can increase the "transparency" for parental involvement in children's education.
  • California School Parent Survey External link opens in new window or tab.
    The California School Parent Survey is designed to provide teachers, administrators, and other school staff with information directly from parents that can be used to foster positive learning and teaching environments, parent involvement, and student achievement, health, and well-being, as promoted in the Blueprint for the proposed ESEA reauthorization. The survey can also be an effective tool in seeking solutions to help close the racial/ethnic achievement gap. (Additional survey questions can be included in the Parent Survey by arrangement with WestEd for an additional fee.)
  • Family Engagement Framework: A Tool for California School Districts (PDF)
    This tool provides guidance to educational leaders, families, and communities for planning implementing, and evaluating family engagement strategies that support student success. The framework includes references to categorical funding requirements and research on family engagement.

Promising Practices

  • Design Thinking: Catalyzing Family Engagement to Support Student Learning External link opens in new window or tab.
    Use this modified design thinking process to improve family engagement at school sites. This process is used to build trust and stronger relationships between the families and educators.
  • Strategies for Community Engagement in School TurnaroundExternal link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    This report examined the role of community engagement strategies in the effectiveness of the school turnaround strategy in improving the performance of low achieving schools. Initiatives in eleven states are reviewed, and five primary recommendations (or takeaways) were identified. A description of each of the eleven initiatives is included in the report.

Research

  • Family Engagement in Schools: Parent, Educator, and Community Perspectives External link opens in new window or tab. (New 02-Jun-2021)
    The purpose of this study was to explore parent, educator, and community member perspectives of family engagement—preschool through grade 12—to inform state-level policy from an ecological framework. Several themes emerged through focus groups, including: the importance of relationships; inclusive opportunities; communication; parent education; and family activities.
  • How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF; New 02-Jun-2021)
    This literature study found several family and community engagement programs and practices that have been shown to have a positive impact on student outcomes and school improvement. Some of the strategies that were found to be most related to student achievement include: engaging parents in their children’s learning through social networks; empowering parents with leadership roles in the school environment; providing parents with classes to help with their own education or their child’s education; and providing families with opportunities to engage with their children’s education at home and at school.
  • Community Schools: An Evidence-Based Strategy for Equitable School Improvement External link opens in new window or tab. (New 02-Jun-2021)
    This brief examines the research on community schools, with two primary emphases. First, it explores whether the 2015 federal Every Student Succeeds Act opens the possibility of investing in well-designed community schools to meet the educational needs of low-achieving students in high-poverty schools. Second, it provides support to school, district, and state leaders as they consider, propose, or implement a community school intervention in schools targeted for comprehensive support.
  • Strategies for Community Engagement in School Turnaround External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    States, counties, district, charter administrators, school staff, parents, students, and other stakeholders can use this guide to develop policies and practices to improve community engagement in school turnaround. This resource provides strategies for community engagement in making school turnaround more effective. The studies identify five key lessons to assist policymakers, district officials, school leaders, and stakeholders for community engagement. This resource may assist in developing meaningful partnerships with the community to support student achievement and ongoing collaboration. In addition, this resource may support local educational agencies engaging stakeholders as required in the Local Control Accountability Plan.
  • The Power of Parents: Research Underscores the Impact of Parent Involvement in Schools External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    This report presents a review of the vast research on the value and impact of parent engagement on their child’s academic performance, especially as it relates to the California experience. The report offers highlights of research findings, information on LCFF’s priority for parent involvement, and numerous resources to support schools with implementing best practices to increase parent engagement.
  • Handbook on Family and Community Engagement External link opens in new window or tab. (PDF)
    This Handbook is intended to provide educators, community leaders, and parents with a succinct survey of the best research and practice in family engagement accumulated over the years.

Excerpted from CDE’s External Linking Policy: The CDE is providing these external links only as a convenience, and the inclusion of any external link does not imply endorsement by the CDE or any association with the sites' operators.

Definition

“Preparing students for the twenty-first century demands the full spectrum of society’s resources to support all students, and especially the disadvantaged and disengaged. . . . . Over 40 years of research confirms that family engagement improves school readiness, student academic achievement, and graduation rates. FSCE [family, school, and community engagement] in education should become an essential strategy in building this pathway to college-and career-readiness.” (1)

Traditionally, family involvement in schools has consisted of what one researcher called “random acts of family involvement.” (2) Sending home flyers about meetings and activities, recruiting chaperones for field trips, soliciting parents’ help with fundraisers— all these types of activities contribute to a school, but may result in low parent engagement, and may not make a substantial impact on students learning and thriving.

While these activities are important engagement points, effective family and community engagement is an intentional and systemic partnership of educators, families and community members. These partners share responsibility for a student’s preparation for school, work, and life, from the time the child is born to young adulthood. (3) To build an effective partnership, educators, families, and community members need to develop the knowledge and skills to work together, and schools must purposefully integrate family and community engagement with goals for students learning and thriving.

Importance

Ensuring that all students learn and thrive is a complex endeavor, one that educators cannot manage in isolation from students’ families and communities. Family and community engagement has a positive influence on student achievement and behavior. (1) Research has found that schools with family and community partnerships are more successful in improving students’ academic achievement and their college and career readiness compared to schools that do not engage families and community. (2) The positive influence of school practices to engage families is greatest for low-income children; in fact, the disparity between middle- and low-income families’ readiness to work effectively with schools contributes to the achievement gap. (3)

Government policy has long recognized the importance of family and community engagement in schools. Title I, Title III, Special Education, and other federal and state programs require the participation of parents in decisions ranging from school priorities to the allocation of resources. (4) But in practice, these requirements have often resulted in more of a “checklist orientation” than authentic participation. The National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement has urged the federal government to develop clear expectations of how schools and districts should use Title I set-aside dollars for family engagement and should apply accountability measures to show the benefits of how these funds are used. (5)

Current research underscores the importance of building partnerships between schools and a wide diversity of families and segments of their community. Yet myths about family engagement persist.

Myth: Lack of participation by low-income families at school indicates a lack of concern for their children’s education.

Facts: Families at all socioeconomic levels have high aspirations for their children. Families from all backgrounds report a desire to be involved, want their children to do well in school, and hope that their children will achieve a better life than their parents. (6)

Families may not participate in school for a wide variety of reasons. Some parents do not speak English, or are intimidated by the communication styles of educators; in some schools, educators and staff may be disrespectful toward families or see them as a burden or problem. Many parents have had negative experiences with their own schooling and are reluctant to trust educators. Some immigrant families come from cultures in which parents may not be expected to play a role in school decisions in their home countries, and are unfamiliar with the education system in the United States. (7) In some families, adults have multiple jobs in addition to their family responsibilities, and attending meetings is very difficult.

Myth: Family engagement depends on parents’ interest and initiative.

Facts: Schools and teachers need to take the initiative to reach diverse families and establish trusting relationships. Programs developed by schools specifically to engage parents in their children’s learning have positive effects on student outcomes. (8) Educators need to contact families about the positive accomplishments of students, support appropriate partnership practices at each grade level, and recognize that not all families will be able or willing to come to school for meetings. (9) Research has underscored the importance of parents’ feeling capable of making a contribution, understanding they should be involved, and feeling welcomed and invited by the school to participate in their children’s education. (10)

Myth: Families need to come to school in order to be engaged in their children’s education.

Facts: Children spend the majority of their lives outside of school, and families and community members can effectively support education beyond the school grounds. (11) Students’ reading scores have been shown to be higher in families of all socioeconomic levels where parents participate in simple learning activities at home, such as reading a book with their child, talking about things they have done during the day, and telling stories to their children. (12) Parents and guardians who express high expectations for their child’s educational attainment also contribute to student perseverance. (13)

Characteristics

A Strengths-Based Approach

Historically the role of families in the education process has been limited when some educators take a deficit approach toward families, based on the assumption that parents and guardians may lack the educational background and skills necessary to contribute to their child’s learning process. (1) When schools treat families as an asset and identify their strengths as a key school resource, the foundation is laid for a powerful partnership to support student success. According to one study, schools would need to spend $1,000 more per student to achieve the types of learning gains an involved parent creates. (2)

A Welcoming and Respectful Environment for All Families and Community Members

Parents have reported that feeling welcome and respected by school staff is the top reason they become and stay involved with a school. (3) Schools where this trust exists tend to have higher student achievement. (4) A welcoming and respectful culture is conveyed through the physical environment, such as colorful signs posted in the languages spoken by families; attitudes of staff conveyed through warm greetings, ready assistance, and friendly phone calls; readily accessible translations or interpretation at meetings; and other such signals. (5)

Two-Way Communication and Trusting Relationships Between Educators and Families

Communication with families is more effective when school personnel engage in genuine conversation, getting to know families in the school community. When parents do not respond to communication strategies such as flyers or automated calls, or when parents do not initiate communications with the school, educators should examine the reasons and try new strategies. Regular, positive, respectful, and productive communication is essential to establishing trusting relationships with families. (6) Many schools organize home visits so that staff can get to know families, and parents can meet educators in the parents’ own environment (Parent/Teacher Home Visit Project External link opens in new window or tab.).

Training and Data Sharing

Both educators and families need training and information sharing if home-school partnerships are to result in improved student outcomes. Educators can help students learn and thrive by providing and explaining student achievement data to families and by modeling strategies to support learning at home. Families and educators can also share data about how students approach learning goals and spend their time at home so that benchmarks and strategies can be established to advance student outcomes. (7) Further, when families have information and feel empowered to participate in their child’s education, they become advocates not only for their own children but for the success of all students. (8)

Shared Responsibility for School Improvement

Schools with effective family and community partnerships ensure that school governance committees include diverse representation reflecting the entire school community, and parents get training and support to take leadership roles. Families participate as planners and problem-solvers in all aspects of school life. Although research is inconclusive regarding the benefit to students from parental involvement in school leadership (school councils and boards), “this role builds parent social networks that can [positively] influence school climate and give voice to historically underrepresented families.” (9)

Partnership with the Community

Community partnerships can be crucial to sustaining education reforms—having disengaged communities runs the risk of jeopardizing important reform efforts. (10) Community and faith-based groups can often serve as intermediaries with families who feel alienated from schools or who don’t have the skills to advocate for their children. (11) Community partners, such as social service agencies and local businesses, can share the responsibility of providing information, services, and support to students and families.

Standards and Frameworks

 

Questions: Quality Schooling Framework | QSF@cde.ca.gov | 916-319-0836 
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 3, 2021
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