According to this review of recent research published by the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2002), students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, are more likely to:
Furthermore, studies show that families of all income and education levels, and from all ethnic and cultural groups, are engaged in supporting their children's learning at home. White, middle-class families, however, tend to be more involved at school, and to be better informed about how to help their children. Supporting more involvement at school from all families may be an important strategy for addressing the achievement gap.
For example, teacher outreach to parents results in strong, consistent gains in student performance in both reading and math. Effective outreach practices include: meeting face to face, sending learning materials home, and keeping in touch about progress (Westat and Policy Studies Associates, 2001). Workshops for parents on helping their children at home are linked to higher reading and math scores (Shaver and Walls, 1998). Schools with highly rated partnership programs make greater gains on state tests than schools with lower-rated programs (Epstein and Sanders, 2000).
(See also Clark, 1993 and Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler, 1997.)
Schools that succeed in engaging families from diverse backgrounds share three key practices:
(Mapp, 2002; see also Chrispeels and Rivero, 2000 )
This type of engagement, which is based outside schools and led by parents and community members, is growing nationwide. Aimed mainly at low-performing schools, strategies of community organizing are openly focused on building low-income families' power and political skills. Unlike traditional parent involvement, parent and community organizing intends to hold schools accountable for results.
Recent studies have found that community organizing contributed to these changes in schools:
(Mediratta and Fruchter, 2001; see also Gold, Simon and Brown, 2002)
When parents talk to their children about school, expect them to do well, help them plan for college, and make sure that out-of-school activities are constructive, their children do better in school. When schools engage families in ways that are linked to improving learning, and support parent involvement at home and school, students make greater gains. When schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns, honor their contributions, and share power, they are able to sustain connections that are aimed at improving student achievement. And when families and communities organize to hold poorly performing schools accountable, school districts make positive changes in policy, practice, and resources.
Chrispeels, J. H., & Rivero, E. (2000). Engaging Latino Families for Student Success: Understanding the process and impact of providing training to parents. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
Clark, R. (1993). Homework-focused parenting practices that positively affect student achievement. In N. F Chavkin (Ed.), Families and schools in a pluralistic society (pp. 85-105), Albany, NY: State University of New York.
Epstein, J. L., & Sanders, M. G. (2000).Connecting home, school and community: New directions for social research. In M. T. Hallinan (Ed.), Handbook of the sociology of education (pp. 285 - 306), New York, NY: Kluwer Academic
Hoover-Dempsey, K. V., & Sandler, H. M. (1997). Why do parents become involved in their children's education? Review of Educational Research, 67(1), 3-42 EJ548327.
Mediratta, K., & Fruchter, N., (2001). Mapping the field of organizing for school improvement: A report on education organizing in Baltimore, Chicago, Los Angeles,, the Mississippi Delta, New York City, Philadelphia, San Francisco, and Washington DC. New York, NY: The Institute for Education and Social Policy, New York University.
Mapp, K. L. (2002). Having their say: Parents describe how and why they are involved in their children's education. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, New Orleans, LA.
Shaver, A. V, & Walls, R. T. (1998) EJ561992. Effect of Title I Parent Involvement on Student Reading and Mathematics Achievement. Journal of Research and Development in Education, 31(2), 90 - 97.
Westat and Policy Studies Associates.(2001). The longitudinal evaluation of school change and performance in Title I schools. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of the Deputy Secretary, Planning and Evaluation Service.
All the above studies (plus many more) are summarized in A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement, by Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp (Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002).
To download a free copy of this report, go to www.sedl.org/connections To order a print copy, call 1-800 476-6861.
Family Friendly Schools/ 4sight learning
Dr. Steve Constantino founded Family Friendly Schools to provide not only awareness regarding the importance of family engagement, but also explicit processes that provide strategic interventions to help all schools and school districts improve not only the culture of their educational organizations, but most importantly to help all students learn. With the research-based Comprehensive Evaluation for Family EngagementÂ© and the Family Friendly Schools Five-Step ProcessÂ© all schools and districts can benefit from the power of families that are truly engaged with their children's education.
Harvard Family Research Project
The Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) was launched in November 2000 by Harvard Family Research Project to serve as a hub of resources for family engagement in children's education, and to enable colleagues in the field to connect and communicate. FINE believes that engaging families and communities in education is essential to achieve high-performing schools and successful students. It envisions:
FINE offers the following resources online:
FINE members receive a monthly email that describes the latest family involvement research, toolkits, and training resources. FINE membership is open to anyone and is free of charge.
National Network of Partnership Schools
The National Network of Partnership Schools was established by researchers at Johns Hopkins University. It brings together schools, districts, and states that are committed to developing and maintaining comprehensive programs of school-family-community partnerships.
"Based on more than a decade of research and the work of many educators, parents, students, and others, we know that it is possible for all elementary, middle, and high schools to develop and maintain strong programs of partnership," explains Joyce L. Epstein, Director, Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships. Dr. Epstein and all of the staff will work with members of the Network to encourage, inform, recognize, and support efforts to improve and maintain school, family, and community connections that produce positive results for students. Network researchers study many aspects of school, family, and community partnerships. Some research analyzes how Network members develop partnership programs and meet key challenges for success. Other studies focus on issues such as interactive homework, international perspectives on partnerships, and partnerships in high schools.
Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory
NWREL's Center for School, Family, and Community helps families, educators, and communities work together to enhance student learning at all stages of life. The center conducts research and provides training, technical assistance, and evaluation through a broad range of programs.
Although NWREL is a regional lab serving the northwest region, the center disseminates valuable information both regionally and nationally through publications, web site, and conferences.
Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL): National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools
The National Center's goal is to link audiences with research based information and resources they can use to connect school, families and communities to increase student success, especially in reading and math.
Working in partnership with leaders in the field, the Center gathers information about the latest research and the most innovative thinking about family and community connections with schools. Research literature is collected in an extensive database called the Connection Collection and made available Online for people working to make school, family, community connections.
The Center provides:
(Although funding from the US Department of Education ended in the fall of 2005, SEDL will continue to maintain the Center's web site).