Discussion Guide

Forging Strong Family and Community Relationships

Research shows that students whose families are involved in their learning have better outcomes at all the important data points: they earn higher grades, graduate at higher levels, enroll in more challenging classes, and are more likely to pursue postsecondary education. In addition, those students display more positive attitudes both in and out of school. Not surprisingly, effective partnerships also lead to greater teacher job satisfaction and teachers and parents who are more optimistic about the future success of students.

A well-planned program for effectively engaging families and communities is often the missing link that is overlooked. Creating a school community that encourages family involvement and includes parent voices in decision making requires that schools and faculties engage in intentional self-examination, careful planning, and routine evaluation of their progress. The process that follows is one approach worth considering.

An implementation template is included here to help you organize the new actions being considered for.

Reading: “Research-Based Practices Forge Strong Family and Community Partnerships,” Tools for Learning Schools, Summer 2012.

  • As participants complete the reading, ask them to pay particular attention to the inset, Epstein’s Framework of 6 Types of Involvement, and review the Eight Elements that Make Effective Partnerships.
  • As a first step in identifying your school’s current level of practice, ask participants to complete the inventory that follows the article and asks them to identify activities presently conducted (they are categorized to be consistent with Epstein’s 6 Types of Involvement). Note that you have the option of adding activities pertinent to your school and to ask participants to also rate the quality of implementation.
  • Compile and review your inventory results.
    • What are the areas of strength and weakness?
    • Single out the areas where you already perform at high levels. What are the elements that make those activities successful? Can they be applied to the areas that are poorly implemented or missing altogether?
    • Epstein’s list includes the elements that strong partnerships have in common. As your faculty begins to plan for the areas that need improvement or creation, these eight elements can be used to improve your level of success.

Tools for Learning Schools (Summer 2009), Learning Forward and the MetLife Foundation

Breaking Ranks Plan for Action template

Organize any new actions being considered for implementation at your school with this implementation template. Consider all general actions, those already begun as well as new ones, and then categorize them according to:

  1. Quick wins: actions that can be implemented this semester or this school year
  2. Moderately difficult undertakings: actions that need summer planning, professional development, or both
  3. Major tasks: actions that will need two years or more for full implementation and may include quick wins and moderately difficult undertakings.
Collaborative Leadership
Specific Strategies/Actions
Specific Strategies/Actions
Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment
Specific Strategies/Actions
List quick wins.
List a few moderately difficult undertakings.
List one or two major tasks.

Professional Development and Communication Planning

Consider your planned school improvement actions and strategies. Identify the teams and team members who will lead the implementation and the development of knowledge, skills, and attitudes needed for success. Discuss and list specific steps and actions that school staff members will take to develop the knowledge, skills, and attitudes of each group below.

Actions to develop the requisite
knowledge for success
Actions to practice the requisite
skills for success
Actions to develop the requisite
attitudes for success
Leadership team / Steering committee
Faculty colleagues
District personnel
Community leaders
(list them)