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by Karen Abrams, MBA, EdD Candidate ’25
A recent study conducted by the National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools (SEDL) confirms that the involvement of families in their children’s education has a major impact on their achievement in school and beyond. The research, which is the fourth edition of Evidence, finds that when schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and like school more.
One of the key findings of the study is that when parents talk to their children about school, expect them to do well, help them plan for college, and make sure that out-of-school activities are constructive, their children do better in school. When schools engage families in ways that are linked to improving learning, students make greater gains.
Another important finding is that when schools build partnerships with families that respond to their concerns and honor their contributions, they are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement. And when families and communities organize to hold poorly performing schools accountable, studies suggest that school districts make positive changes in policy, practice, and resources.
The study recommends several strategies for integrating the findings into schools, such as recognizing that all parents—regardless of income, education, or cultural background—are involved in their children’s learning and want their children to do well, design programs that will support families to guide their children’s learning from preschool through high school, develop the capacity of school staff to work with families, link efforts to engage families, whether based at school or in the community, to student learning, build families’ social and political connections, focus efforts to engage families and community members on developing trusting and respectful relationships, essentially, embracing a philosophy of partnership and being willing to share power with families.
The study also finds that programs and special efforts to engage families make a difference. For example, teacher outreach to parents was related to strong and consistent gains in student performance in both reading and math. The effective outreach practices included meeting face to face, sending materials home, and keeping in touch about progress. Workshops for parents on helping their children at home were linked to higher reading and math scores. Schools with highly rated partnership programs made greater gains on state tests than schools with lower-rated programs.
Finally, the study highlights that higher-performing schools engage families and community by focusing on building trusting collaborative relationships among teachers, families, and community members. They recognize, respect, and address families’ needs, as well as class and cultural differences. They embrace a philosophy of partnership where power and responsibility are shared.