Recommended practices for schools
Family involvement in education is a key element in student achievement. Collaborative relationships between educators and family members based on mutual respect, trust, equality and shared goals are predictors of student academic success.
Research consistently shows that when educators and families work together, students perform better academically and behaviorally. Attendance improves, behavior issues decline and graduation rates rise.
Developing partnerships with families is not just another program in a school or school district. It is part of the professional practice of educators and the way daily business should be conducted in school buildings and school district offices. It is also part of an institutional value system that recognizes the central role that families play in education.
Family-Partnership strategies for schools linked to academic goals
1. Offer student-parent interactive homework. This keeps families connected to the school's goals and participating in their student's education. A good source for interactive homework is Johns Hopkins University's Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork.
2. Provide families with home-learning tips connected to the school's academic goals during all school family events such as music/drama student performances, back to school night, open house, school plays, book fairs, family dinners, PTA meetings, etc.
3. Offer family workshops or seminars to explain grade-level academic standards and provide families with examples of the topics being taught in the classroom.
4. Schedule quarterly "Family Day" classroom visits for family members or special adults in children's lives to observe teaching techniques in the classroom.
5. Offer family evening events focusing on learning games and activities directly linked to school goals (math, reading, writing, science, technology).
6. Publish annual academic goals (translated as needed) in the school and/or PTA newsletter, on reader boards, on the website, etc., throughout the school year. Create laminated posters and display goals (translated as needed) around the school.
7. Inform parents of the school's annual goals, and send strategies and tips to improve student academic progress in all correspondence and media such as:
- Back-to-school packets
- Report cards
- Progress reports
- School newsletters
- Weekly classroom packets
- Student calendars
- PTA newsletters
- Event agendas/programs
- Reader boards
- Bulletin boards
- School website
- Parent online information site
- School student newspaper
8. Display student work throughout the school.
Partnership strategies for elementary school families
- School tours for families
- Grade-level learning packets
- Family visits
- Grade-level parent discussion groups
- Lending libraries
- Family interactive homework
- Parenting workshops
- Health and nutrition education for parents
- Student-led parent-teacher conferences
- Meetings with middle school staff and parents
For secondary school families
- Family visits
- Family workshops to explain courses, electives, credits, graduation requirements, etc.
- Parent-student-counselor sessions for joint college admissions and career planning
- Student-led, parent-teacher conferences
- College and career fairs for families
- Tutors and mentors program for students
- Family classes on puberty, raising teenagers, drug and alcohol prevention/intervention, depression/suicide prevention, etc.
Add an educational component to family events at school
- Back-to-school night – add a guided school building tour for bilingual families
- Family dinner – add parent involvement workshop
- Open house – add community resources fair
- Curriculum night – add cultural heritage fair potluck
- ESL class presentations – add understanding the school system workshop
- Parent-Teacher conference – add student study skills workshop (with interpretation for ELL families)
The development of a public school system that actively seeks good relationships and academic-oriented partnerships with families starts with foundational work—a set of institutional core beliefs and a system of professional practices that guide the work of school staff and families. Here are sample value statements and professional practices for school districts:
SAMPLE VALUE STATEMENTS
- Student academic success is a shared vision and the responsibility of schools, families and the community.
- A planned, organized and integrated school customer service system is crucial to establish relationships among school staff, families and community members.
- All families have strengths and challenges. Challenges should not be viewed as failures or deficits.
- Interacting and welcoming families of students in school buildings is not the responsibility of one or two staff members; it is the responsibility of everyone who works in the school district.
- Academic goals are easier to achieve when families, educators and students clearly understand their roles and responsibilities.
- All families can learn techniques to support education at home and can feel part of the education system.
- Cultural diversity is valuable and a vital part of today's global society.
- Diverse family structures are today's reality, and they are all welcome in schools.
- Collaboration with community agencies is an important factor in supporting families.
- Set a partnership vision and goals for the school district and for every school building.
- Develop district school-family partnerships policy and procedure, and ensure that families and staff are familiar with them. The document should include values, standards of practice, a framework and district-wide implementation strategies.
- Offer professional development about family partnerships for all staff, including secretaries, bus drivers, teacher aides, custodians, etc.
- Allocate resources and designate staff and funds to implement policy and procedures.
- Develop a school district-wide implementation plan that includes goals, strategies, expectations of staff and measures of success for school buildings. Evaluate and refine the plan on an on-going basis.
- Identify and acknowledge best practices taking place in school buildings. Aim to replicate successful models around the district.
SAMPLE FAMILY INVOLVEMENT POLICY
OEO and the Washington State School Directors' Association worked together to craft a model family involvement policy for school districts in our state.
THE EPSTEIN FRAMEWORK
Dr. Joyce Epstein, a researcher and social scientist from Johns Hopkins University, developed a framework and model for schools to partner with families. Thousands of schools and school districts in the nation have successfully implemented this model, including several in Washington state.
For more information about the Epstein model, visit the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University: www.csos.jhu.edu.