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.
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:
- 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.