As more research is conducted it becomes more clear that family engagement is critical for student success. It is systemic intentional work, not random work that integrates family members into the learning process.1 When schools work more purposefully with community partners it may actually assist them with family engagement efforts as well as help with providing direct supports to family members, students and staff.
“Twenty years of research on school performance has created a body of knowledge that grounds today’s school improvement efforts and has resulted in a concise list of characteristics that are common to high performing schools. As accountability becomes more important, educational leaders across the nation are actively attempting to foster these qualities in their schools:
- A shared understanding of goals and expectations for all involved in the school system
- High academic standards clearly defining what students are to know and be able to do
- A strong cadre of leaders providing support for the goals and expectations of the school and the school community
- Procedures for purposeful collection and analysis of data on students, programs and staff
- Strong relationships with family and community partners2
School leaders, school board members and administrators determine to what degree to partner with families and connect with community resources will be effective. Their commitment through stated purpose and actions will propel other school staff to integrate family engagement efforts in their work.
Classroom teachers, nurses, counselors, social workers have regular contact with students and can be the closest connections for family members. Their activities to welcome families, affirm their role as their child’s guide and other school staff (janitors, cafeteria workers, secretaries and school bus drivers) should not be overlooked as potential resources in welcoming parents/family members and community partners as part of an intentional, systemic plan to raise levels of student achievement.
1 National Policy Forum for Family, School & Community Engagement Beyond Random Acts Family, School and Community Engagement as an Integral Part of Education Reform Heather B. Weiss, M. Elena Lopez, and Heidi Rosenberg, Harvard Family Research Project, December 2010
2 Berman & Chambliss, 2000; McLaughlin, 1990; Cuban, 1988; Elmore, & McLaughlin, 1988; Fullan, 1993; Griffin & Barnes, 1984. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools ©2005 p.103
Family engagement is one of the most powerful predictors of student academic success.