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Top Benefits of Family and Community Engagement

Find out why K-12 family and community engagement play a key role in promoting student academic achievement, and how to increase these school partnerships.

It takes a village to raise a child — and support for that village to help the child succeed in school. In our report on The Current State of School Climate in Public School, only 50% of respondents agreed that their district modeled community engagement. With public school enrollment on a major decline, many districts are turning to K-12 family and community partnerships to promote more inclusive engagement. When families and community members are involved in student learning, students improve their academic performance and gain a stronger support system, helping them feel more confident at school.

K-12 family and community engagement has long been a focus for schools. However, parental involvement in education tends to decline as students get older. Some studies found as much as a 17% decrease in parental involvement between third through fifth grade and middle school. This trend paired with ongoing academic recovery challenges illustrates the need to involve and support more district community members in the K–12 learning environment.

By connecting family and community members to school experiences, districts can advance student development and learning, as well as improve school practices and operations by identifying the features that best support students. Use the following insights to learn more about how strong family-school-community partnerships positively affect student achievement, attendance and behavior, staff understanding of local needs, and school reputation.

Family and Community Engagement Increases Student Achievement

Increased family and community engagement in schools is strongly associated with faster rates of literacy acquisition among children, increased rates of promotion to secondary education, and decreased rates of school dropout. A 2020 study about family-school connections within low income Latinx communities, emphasizes the academic importance of school family networks for historically marginalized communities.

With busy lives, many parents need flexible ways to increase involvement in their students’ schooling. Districts should consider the following tips to help families promote student academic achievement:

  • Encourage parents to monitor and assist with homework by providing helpful resources such as virtual or in-person “homework nights,” answer keys, and make accommodations for English-learning caregivers.
  • Conduct scheduling surveys to better understand how work hours, extra-curricular commitments, and holidays may keep some family members from attending academic events at school.
Identifying prime challenges in the K-12 landscape is key to attaining district goals. Read our blog on The Top 3 Concerns on District Leaders’ Minds in 2023-24 for the latest insights.

Improving Student Attendance and Behavior

Chronic absenteeism remains a significant concern nationally. Many factors contribute to absenteeism, including disengagement due to a lack of meaningful connections to adults in the classroom. Some schools may spend resources providing incentives such as class pizza parties to promote good attendance.

While incentive-based initiatives encourage some students to come to school, family and community involvement in the school experience is a more important influence on student attendance. Some schools have implemented the practice of family-teacher home visits to significantly reduce chronic absenteeism. Schools can also support families by offering workshops, tip sheets, and messaging about the impact of positive attendance. Districts should provide clear, actionable steps to take if a student is experiencing barriers to attendance

Help break down attendance barriers by learning more about how to promote K-12 student belonging.

Family and Community Engagement Enhances Staff Understanding of Local Needs

Schools may wish to involve families and community members in students’ school experiences, but don’t understand their needs, interests, and partnership preferences. Many family members point to busy schedules preventing them from volunteering or being more involved in school activities, while others cite dissatisfaction with school communication. Many caregivers report a lack of tools and resources to support their child and frustration with interpreting school policies or practices. In addition, schools may not address language or cultural differences or the needs of single parents, grandparents, or foster parents, making some caregivers feel uncomfortable in school settings.

Districts should hold meetings and conduct surveys to 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.

Accommodating family-community needs means exploring challenging topics in K-12 diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn more about how to Pave the Way for Brave Conversations about K-12 Equity.

Strengthening School Reputation

Districts that effectively engage families and community members see a statistically significant increase in positive attitudes toward their schools. Districts can earn parent and caregiver approval when they focus their efforts on making family members feel comfortable in the school setting. When strong family-school-community partnerships result in improved academic outcomes, attendance, and family support, the school becomes known as a valuable place to receive an education.

Creating an infrastructure for family and community engagement demonstrates a commitment to supporting students and building a positive bond between home and school. In one Detroit district, administrators implemented several community engagement initiatives in response to negative enrollment trends. The result was significantly increased interest and enrollment with families in their district. To improve your district’s reputation and support enrollment, consider the following takeaways:

  • Periodically conduct surveys and/or focus groups to fully understand the needs and attitudes of your community.
  • Proactively establish a warm and inviting presence in the community with strategies such as canvassing and partnering with local organizations to help meet local community needs.

Overall, increased family and community engagement is a key factor in bolstering positive outcomes for both students and districts. While most families wish to see their students achieve, they may lack the accommodations and tools to meet their full involvement potential. Districts should always keep family-community engagement at the forefront of their agendas to help ensure success for all.

It’s never too late to promote community inclusivity. Learn more about engaging families and communities in K-12 education.

 

Learn more about how to strengthen K-12 family and community engagement.

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