It takes a village to raise a child—and the continued support of that village to help the child succeed in school. Family-school-community partnerships promote family and community involvement in children’s schooling, with districts encouraging parental assistance with homework, providing leadership opportunities, forming partnerships with local organizations, and more. When families and community members are involved in student learning, students improve their academic performance and gain advocates that promote their success, helping them feel more confident at school and in taking on more rigorous classwork.
Parent and community engagement has long been a focus for schools; however, parental involvement in education tends to decline as children go up in grade, with a dramatic drop once students reach middle school. In 2016, 90% of students in third through fifth grade had a parent who attended a parent-teacher conference, compared with 73% of middle school students. Lack of parental involvement is viewed by teachers, administrators, and the public as the single biggest problem facing schools, making it crucial for districts to evaluate their family-community initiatives to promote increased involvement.
By engaging family and community members in students’ school experiences, districts can actively support students’ development and learning, as well as improve school practices and operations by identifying the features that best support students. Read on to learn how strong family-school-community partnerships help to increase student achievement, improve attendance and behavior, enhance staff understanding of family-community needs, and build a stronger school reputation.
Increased Student Achievement
Research demonstrates that strong relationships between schools, families, and community members can positively affect student achievement and outcomes. Increased family engagement in schools is strongly associated with faster rates of literacy acquisition among children, increased rates of going on to secondary education, and decreased rates of school dropout. In addition, when families know about and encourage students to take rigorous classes, students are more likely to enroll and score higher on tests.
Parents can support students’ academic success by monitoring and assisting with homework, providing an at-home learning environment with high expectations and strategies to help students achieve success. Schools can support parents by providing homework answer keys and partnering with local organizations to offer helpful resources or events, like tutoring centers for parents to learn about the curriculum and skills being taught.
Improved Attendance and Behavior
15% of public school teachers reporting student absenteeism as a “serious problem” at their school. Large classroom sizes and students perceiving classrooms as being chaotic, uncaring, or boring are associated with student absenteeism, with many schools providing incentives like pizza parties in an attempt to promote good attendance.
While treat-like initiatives encourage some students to come to school, family and community involvement in the school experience has been shown to be a more important influence on student attendance. Families monitoring students’ whereabouts, talking with their children about school, volunteering, and being involved in the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) promotes lower levels of absenteeism among students. Schools can support families by hosting workshops on how to talk with students about school and partnering with local organizations to provide after-school programs.
Enhanced Staff Understanding of Family-Community Needs
Schools may wish to involve families and community members in students’ school experience, but not understand their needs, interests, and ideas about partnering. Many parents point to busy schedules preventing time for volunteering or school involvement, with others revealing dissatisfaction with school communication. These parents report lacking the know-how and resources to support their child and frustration with hard-to-understand school bureaucracies and policies. In addition, schools may not address language or cultural differences or the needs of single parents, grandparents, or foster parents, making caregivers feel uncomfortable in school settings.
Districts should hold meetings and deploy surveys that collect feedback from family and community members on what schools need to do to improve. Transparency and open dialogue about school policies and initiatives are necessary to promote family understanding. Schools must also focus their efforts on accommodating language and cultural differences so all families and community members can be involved in students’ learning. Partnering with local organizations or community members that understand these differences can be helpful in building community ties and meeting the needs of all student supporters.
Stronger School Reputation
Schools that engage families and community members see a statistically significant increase in their reputation; schools earn parent endorsement when they focus their efforts on making parents feel comfortable in the school setting. When strong family-school-community partnerships result in improved academic outcomes, attendance, and family comfort, the school becomes known as a valuable place to receive an education and student support.
Creating infrastructures for family-community engagement demonstrates a commitment to student support and a positive bond between home and school. Some schools whose reputations experienced a turnaround from improved engagement hired individuals who had personal connections with the community to lead community engagement initiatives. Staff can also improve the school’s reputation with periodic school climate surveys sent to families and community members to understand how they perceive the school environment, academic offerings, and support of students.