Three Prerequisites for Effective Family Engagement

Over the past twenty years, I’ve had the privilege to work with educators, policy members, researchers, families, and community members to explore the benefits of and the strategies to ensure strong partnerships between families, schools and communities to support student achievement and school improvement.

Surveys of teachers show they overwhelmingly agree that family support and engagement are critical to children’s success in school, yet many are still desperate for resources and training to build effective partnerships with families. That’s why I’ve spent the last eight months working with Scholastic to create a three-part family engagement workshop series for schools and school districts.

Over the years, I’ve learned that there are a few prerequisites for the development of authentic and meaningful family and school partnerships – the elements that educators, school leaders and policy-makers should be thinking about as they move forward. Three stand out:

  1. Family engagement must be a high priority component of school and district work. Many used to think of it as an add-on, but educators are now rightfully beginning to look at it as an essential part of successful teaching and learning practice.
  2. Educators must be trained to integrate family engagement into their instructional practice. Both pre-service and in-service programs for educators must provide that training.
  3. We must shift our mindset about families. Unfortunately, many educational institutions still think it’s wise to keep families at arm’s length and out of the business of teaching and learning. But educators must think of families as true partners in the enterprise – co-producers and co-creators of effective school systems that serve all children.