Equal attention to Learning Supports is essential so that:
- Every student will demonstrate academic achievement and be prepared for success after high school;
- Every student will be supported by highly prepared and effective teachers and school leaders; and
- Every school will offer a safe and healthy learning environment for all students.
Research has demonstrated the positive impact school-community-home partnerships can have on student achievement and behavior, including higher achievement, better attendance, more course credits earned, and more responsible preparation for class (Catsambis, 2001; Simon, 2004).
It is widely acknowledged that learning begins at birth and takes place in the home, school, and community. Meaningful family engagement is based on the premise that parents, educators, and community members share responsibility for the academic, physical, social, emotional, and behavioral development of youth. Family engagement is fostered through a deliberate process that is embraced throughout the school. It empowers adults to jointly support student growth, addresses any barriers to learning, and ensures college and career readiness. Foremost, effective family engagement systems, policies and practices are mindful of diverse school-communities that are rich in language, culture, and school experiences. They are responsive to student and family needs.
Where do partnerships with families happen?
Integrating family engagement efforts with learning and healthy development is important to achieving positive student outcomes. Multiple opportunities exist for districts and schools to partner with families which include but are not limited to:
- promoting academic, physical, social, emotional, behavioral development and a positive school climate;
- engaging and re-engaging learners; and
- addressing barriers to learning.
Family engagement efforts should be integrated and/or supported across all areas of school including: comprehensive planning, curriculum, instruction, assessment, leadership, conditions for learning, and professional development.
Family engagement also occurs at home and in the community. Families are supporting learning and healthy development in a variety of ways, including but not limited to:
- showing they value learning and healthy development;
- monitoring/assisting with homework completion;
- exposing their children to a variety of learning opportunities (e.g., educational camps, public libraries, museums);
- providing nurturing relationships;
- establishing routines; and
- maintaining expectations.
How do you engage families?
The Illinois State Board of Education has designed a Family Engagement Framework Guide which is a resource for school districts and schools to use in developing and expanding school-family partnerships to support student learning and healthy development outcomes. This guide brings together research, promising practices, and a consolidation of key program requirements to provide districts, schools, and families with tools to assist with the planning, implementation, and evaluation of family engagement practices.
What can families do to partner with schools?
Families can promote partnerships with districts and schools by:
- Becoming informed about how the school functions, the learning and behavioral expectations of the students, and how they can support their students’ learning and healthy development;
- Sharing up-to-date contact information of a lead family member with the school office and teachers, especially a cell phone number (indicating if interested in receiving text messages) and email address;
- Volunteering to serve on a district/school/classroom committee or project;
- Participating in parent teacher conferences or other school activities;
- Sharing with the district, school, and classroom family diversity strengths and needs at the beginning of every school year; and
- Regularly communicating with the district, school, and teachers to promote the academic, physical, social and emotional development of children and address any barriers to learning throughout the year.
Research has also shown the effectiveness of schools partnering with community organizations and local employers to improve student engagement and behavior (Dynarski, et. al, 2008 and Epstein, et.al, 2008).
Administrators and teachers play a critical role in developing and maintaining partnerships with the community.
Administrators can promote partnerships with the community by:
- Engaging community/family partners to identify all reliable and valid Learning Supports’ resources within the community;
- Engaging community/family partners to problem solve around gaps in Learning Supports; and
- Inviting valid and reliable community/family Learning Supports’ resources into the school to address any gaps in services while maintaining the integrity of the district’s mission.
Teachers can promote partnerships with the community by:
- Inviting valid and reliable Learning Supports identified by the school leadership into their classroom including but not limited to programs/strategies, co-teaching and consultation;
- Partnering with local businesses when appropriate to provide opportunities for work-related experience such as internships, simulated job interviews, or long-term employment;
- Providing a classroom-based orientation to community partners to ensure that they have the necessary information to successfully complete the agreed upon work; and
- Communicating regularly with community partners to ensure continued progress toward goals.