Connecting Family Engagement to Student Learning
Schools are striving for family engagement that goes beyond traditional parent involvement markers — like attendance at performances or classroom volunteer shifts — to focus on families’ role in supporting their children’s learning, including leveraging families’ strengths and resources. It can be challenging to equip caregivers with strategies to help their children with academic skills, like reading and math, in an era of new standards that involve some subjects being taught differently from when they were in school. Schools are also looking to support families to be involved their children’s academic goal setting, decision-making, and study skills, and to enhance their home literacy environments. Increasing engagement around student learning can be particularly difficult when working with families with lower educational attainment, and families who are not fluent in English.
In the Words of District Leaders
“Some of the more economically disadvantaged families may have one or two parents that are working class, maybe didn’t go to college, maybe didn’t experience the same type of high school environment that we provide, and as a result those students might not be coming into high school as attuned to what could really enhance the high school experience for a student, especially from a scheduling perspective. ‘What types of elective courses should I sign up for as a freshman? What should I be looking for four years in my high school experience? How do I best line myself up to be a competitive student to get into the college that would be appropriate for me?’, those types of things that we don’t believe we’re doing as good a job of educating those families and those students.”
Ideas from the Field
- Beyond providing new and additional opportunities for families to meet with teachers, parents are also being given more chances to see student work through expositions along with online access.
- One approach uses text messaging to provide parents with easy learning activities they can do at home to support what students are learning in school. For instance, one message might say, “This week we are focusing on math. Count socks with your student!”
- Reading and/or math nights invite parents to learn alongside their student, while also giving the parents skills to reinforce learning at home.
Check out the following research-based resources for more information about connecting families to student learning:
Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships – From Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, this paper presents a framework, based in existing research and best practices, for designing family engagement initiatives that build capacity among educators and families to partner with one another around student success.
Family Engagement Framework: A Tool for California School Districts – From the California Department of Education and WestEd, a tool for leaders in school districts and county offices of education to use as they work with schools, families, and communities to plan, implement, and evaluate family engagement practices that directly impact improved student achievement.
How Family, School, and Community Engagement Can Improve Student Achievement and Influence School Reform – From the Nellie Mae Education Foundation. A literature review to assist in the goal of understanding how family and community partnerships can promote school improvement efforts.