Families are often described as the lifeblood of a community while schools are described as the heart. When the two work in tandem there is no limit to a child’s social, emotional, and academic development.
As educators we often consider each other’s expertise and abilities as assets. We turn to one another for support, advice, and inspiration. We ask each other- How in the world did you teach that concept with manipulatives? Which books do you use to model inferential reading?
When it comes to families, do we extend this assets-based perspective? Families enter schools with personal learning experiences, dreams and goals for their children, as well as knowledge, abilities, and priorities. As teachers, our responsibility to engage families is often glossed over, yet it is a powerful indicator of student success.
Decades of research indicate that engaging families in schools has lifelong benefits for children, teachers, and entire communities. Schools that invest in family engagement demonstrate higher rates of student growth across multiple measures. The Austin-based National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools found that students with involved parents, no matter what their income or background, are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, pass their classes, attend school regularly, have better social skills, show improved behavior, and graduate and go on to postsecondary education.
When families are integral to a school community, teachers develop a deeper understanding about students which translates into better teaching and learning. When teachers communicate with families in culturally responsive ways and seek to positively problem solve, perspectives shift. Teachers and families naturally engage in collaboration and goal setting by examining student data, curriculum, and grade level standards. Research tells us that the ways in which families demonstrate the importance of education to their children is one of the biggest predictors of student achievement.
So as educators, the question is not- How can we afford to invest time and resources in meaningful family engagement? The question becomes- How can we afford not to?
A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Annual Synthesis 2002. National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools. Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp.