Increasing & Sustaining Family Engagement - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Family Engagement

Increasing & Sustaining Family Engagement

The Challenge

Schools are looking to increase and sustain family engagement across the board, but particularly at the middle- and high-school levels. Many caregivers are busy or over-committed; they can’t make it to traditional events like PTA meetings or open houses. Districts understand this challenge and are seeking ways to help families stay connected with what is happening at their children’s schools. They strive to both ensure parents and caregivers are informed about key initiatives, and to actively gather family input. Districts are looking for ways to identify the critical issues families should be involved in, and inclusive ways to engage families as partners in finding solutions. Deepening the relationship between schools and families may also include finding ways to enhance the home learning environment.

In the Words of District Leaders

Admittedly we can do a much better job of getting parents in for these programs. And sometimes I would argue that the parents that are coming to these programs, are not necessarily the parents or families that need the help as much as the families that don't come to the programs.

“There’s only so much time in the day, and when teachers are working as hard as they are to change the game for kids, getting them to spend the time to bring parents along also is pretty tough. As well as parents, who have so many competing interests and challenges to overcome, that making the time to engage with the school may not be a priority. So even though their kid is a priority, making time to be here is a tough leap sometimes.”

Ideas from the Field

  • Technology is opening up many new avenues for family engagement, from social media initiatives to new apps that allow parents to track buses, student activity, and stay connected to classroom activities.
  • Several districts are rethinking parent-teacher conferences, whether to make them more convenient for parents, or more regular throughout the year to develop a stronger communications pipeline between teachers and parents.
  • Parents are also being brought into the conversation on key topics like emotional wellness and trauma through trainings and speaker series, which both educate parents and help them better connect to similar efforts taking place within their child’s school.


Check out the following research-based resources for more information about increasing family engagement:

Family Engagement topic page – From Digital Promise, an introduction and key findings from the research on on the outcomes of family engagement, and how schools can overcome barriers to implementation, including links to additional resources.

National Standards for Family-School Partnerships – From the National PTA, process for building successful partnerships, from raising awareness about the power of family and community involvement, to taking action to cultivate involvement through specific programs and practices, and celebrating success as your school sees increased involvement and its impact.

Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Interactive Framework – From Head Start, the interactive Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework connects users to research, resources, and regulations related to program foundations, program impact areas, family engagement outcomes, and child outcomes.

Engaging Families in Education – This brief from the National Conference of State Legislatures examines four potential policy options for engaging families in education: two-generation strategies, capacity-building systemic school practices, technology-supported strategies and home-visiting services.

Joining Together to Create a Bold Vision for Next Generation – Family Engagement This challenge paper from the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Global Family Research Project examines the history, current practice, and the future potential of family and community engagement as a key part of ensuring lifelong success for all children in order to help stimulate a growing movement that places families at the center of conversations around student success.

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