What’s Next for You
The Four Core Beliefs
It took knowledge, skill, but also a certain disposition and set of values to do this work well.
Using what, we identified four core beliefs necessary to cultivate partnerships.
First, all families have dreams for their children and want the best for them. It is vital for educators to understand that families who send their children to them each day want their children to succeed in school and in life.
Yes, families might say or do things that lead us to think otherwise. But these actions and behaviors are often triggered by stressful factors in their lives and do not reflect their innermost feelings about the importance of education and their desire for their children to become happy and successful adults.
Second, all families have the capacity to support their children’s learning. Regardless of how little or how much formal education they may have or what languages they may speak, all families contribute to their children’s learning.
Families’ knowledge, talents, and life experiences give them plenty of capacity for assisting their children with school skills, and practitioners need all that information to design the best learning opportunities for those children.
Families have knowledge that should be respected, utilized, and developed by school staff. The expression, parents are their children’s first teachers, is so widely used it’s almost a cliché. If we believe it, we need to view and treat parents as the experts that they are.
Third, parents and school staff should be equal partners. All stakeholders supporting childrens’ development should have equal status, value, and responsibility. That means starting from the premise that everyone has something to offer and that everyone should get something positive out of the relationship.
And finally, the responsibility for building and sustaining partnerships between school, home, and the community rests primarily with school staff, especially school leaders. Now, you might see a contradiction between this and the belief in equal partners.
If we’re equal partners, why does this responsibility rest with school staff? Well, many families see schools as powerful and forbidding institutions. The school leader and staff must take the first step, especially when families already feel intimidated.
Certainly, there is a responsibility on both sides, and families must connect with teachers and other school staff on behalf of their children. Everyone who works in the school, especially the school leader, must walk the walk, not just talk the talk, of mutual partnership.
This means exhibiting a real passion for partnership. For the practitioners in this audience, do these core beliefs resonate with you? Which ones push you out of your comfort zone? For the parents and other caregivers, what has your experience been? Do these feel fundamental to you? Would you add anything else? As you continue on your journey, I hope these core beliefs guide you along the way.
Advice & Reflections
Advice for a Superintendent
So what would you say to new superintendents and chancellors coming into their roles about the importance of engaging with their families? What advice would you give them? We need to see our families and communities from an asset-based perspective.
They have information that we don’t have, that’s helpful to our work. Information about their children, information about their communities. I would say this is critical to the success of your students, particularly those whose families may not know, or be somewhat wary of becoming actively involved and engaged.
I think when educators understand that family engagement well-structured can make their job easier, then they’re going to be a ready audience for it. First, is to think of families as assets, rather than as deficits. Right?
Rather than families as the causes of problems, think of them as assets that we need to invest in to empower. Start with that, and the second is to make sure that we are communicating things where it is straightforward, what parents are supposed to do.
We have to get the word out on the kinds of things that are effective and that profoundly transform schools in a positive way. And we have to be able to get that information out to district superintendents and district leaders. Improving family engagement is going to allow you to accomplish the kinds of things that you have on your agenda.
One of my goals in creating this course was to explore what we now know about the influence of family engagement on positive outcomes for children, families, and communities.
We explored various researchers who used different types of methodologies, from qualitative studies using interviews with and observations of stakeholders and their practices, to quantitative, randomized control trial studies that look at causal links between interventions and outcomes.
Another goal was to bring the research to life with the wonderful stories you heard from families, practitioners, and students.
Who better than they to share the influence these partnerships have on their personal well-being, on their schools, and on their communities? As you have experienced this course, I’m sure you’ve developed your own thoughts on the matter.
I hope that engaging families in their children’s education and in school improvement is universally embraced as a key component of effective practice.
I hope that all families, regardless of racial, ethnic, socioeconomic, or educational background, will be embraced as valuable, full partners, and finally, that you, after taking this course, will be champions of and for this work.
Thank you for participating in this experience. I’m excited by the good work I know you’re going to do.
Next Steps and Resources
We’re glad that we made it to the conclusion of this course. We know it’s not the end of learning about family engagement. Below are some resources to continue exploring the topic.
- Harvard Graduate School of Education: Programs in Professional Education
- Scholastic Family and Community Engagement: FACE
- National Association of Family, School, Community Engagement: NAFSCE
- Henderson, Anne T., Karen L. Mapp, Vivan R. Johnson and Don Davies. The New Press, 2007. Beyond the Bake Sale.
- Warren, Mark R., and Karen L. Mapp. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011. A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform.
- Mapp, Karen L., Ilene Carver, and Jessica Lander. Scholastic, 2017. Powerful Partnerships: A Teacher’s Guide to Engaging Families for Student Success.
- Hong, Soo. Cambridge: Harvard Education Press, 2019. Natural Allies: Hope and Possibility in Teacher-Family Partnerships.
- Ishimaru, Ann M. New York: Teachers College Press, 2019. Just Schools: Building Equitable Collaborations with Families and Communities.