Why Family and Community Collaboration?
Years of research and practice demonstrate that when families and educators partner to support learning and development, children are more likely to have better attendance, succeed in school, graduate on time and stay on their path to college or a career.1, 2 Families and schools also benefit from these partnerships. Meaningful collaboration improves family attitudes toward school; increases families’ understanding of their child(ren)’s educational needs and how they can help address those needs; and improves standardized test scores, standards attainment, and school safety.3
Evidence also shows that some strategies are especially effective at improving family and community collaboration (FCC) and influencing student outcomes. Below are a few examples of high–impact strategies.
- The transformative school-community collaboration framework, which emphasizes democratic and empowering structures within out-of-school programs, significantly reduced the likelihood of student absenteeism in one study.4
- A community school approach, where parents and community-based organizations were key partners with district staff, showed math and reading scores for a 3rd grade cohort improved by 27 and 16 percentage points, respectively, over a two-year period.5
- A parent-teacher home visit program strengthened relationships between teachers and the families of high school students, resulting in a graduation rate that was 3.7 percentage points higher for students in the home-visit cohort compared to the entire graduating cohort. Chronic absenteeism for the home-visit cohort was 4 percentage points lower than the entire graduating cohort over a three-year period.6
Thus, school districts must not only see strengthening family, community, and school collaboration as essential to their work, they must select evidence-based strategies to ensure the greatest outcomes.
A Path Forward: Why this Guide?
While there are good examples of what strong district-wide FCC looks like, these are exceptions rather than the norm. There are even fewer examples where districts forge strong collaborative partnerships with marginalized families. While evidence-based family and community collaboration strategies exist, a myriad of challenges often get in the way of implementing sustainable approaches that improve student outcomes.
Our rationale for this guide is to better understand what concrete strategies districts are using to overcome challenges. Through this work, we aim to help build districts’ capacity to create strong partnerships with families and communities that make everyone feel valued, respected, empowered, and included in the education process.
1 Weiss HB, Lopez ME, Caspe M. Joining Together to Create a Bold Vision for Next Generation Family Engagement: Engaging Families to Transform Education. Global Family Research Project. 2018.
2 Henderson AT, Mapp KL. A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory. 2002.
3 Grant KB, Ray J. Home, school, and community collaboration: Culturally responsive family engagement 4th ed. SAGE Publications. 2019.
4 Kim J, Gentle‐Genitty C. (2020). Transformative school–community collaboration as a positive school climate to prevent school absenteeism. J Community Psychol. 2020;48(8):2678-2691. doi:10.1002/jcop.22444
5 Provinzano KT, Sondergeld TA, Knaggs CM. Community schools as a sustainable comprehensive school reform strategy: A transformative mixed methods perspective. Midwest Educ Res, 2020;32(1) 3-30.
6 Soule NE, Curtis HL. High school home visits: Parent-teacher relationships and student success. Sch Comm J, 2021;31(2), 131-153.
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