Family and Community Engagement Matters for Every Child
Why is family engagement in schools important?
All families want the best for their children. Families know their children better than anyone and can be a valuable resource to teachers. When families, schools and communities partner together, much can be accomplished and every child can get the support he or she needs to succeed.
Over 50 years of educational research has confirmed the connection between family engagement and student success. Students get better grades. They behave better. They have a more positive attitude. They are more likely to graduate. They are more likely to go to college. Schools also do better when they engage families and communities as partners.
All schools interact with families. Every school sends report cards home, holds open houses, and solicits volunteers. So what, exactly, do we mean by “family and community engagement?” The National Association of Family, School and Community Engagement (NAFSCE) shares this definition:
• Family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development. Family engagement is continuous across a child’s life and entails enduring commitment but changing parent roles as children mature into young adulthood. Effective family engagement cuts across and reinforces learning in the multiple settings where children learn: at home, in prekindergarten programs, in school, in after-school programs, in faith-based institutions, and in the community.
Sharing responsibility for learning and achievement
Shared responsibility means working together in partnership for the best interest of the child. For example, the school may communicate classroom homework expectations to families so parents can monitor it. The school can also make sure that it is welcoming to all so families feel a part of the school community. Families, on the other hand, can share the responsibility for learning by finding opportunities in the community which can enrich a child’s classroom learning. They can also be their child’s advocate when they feel a need isn’t being met. The school-family partnership is strengthened when each stakeholder takes responsibility for doing their part and the students benefit.
Continuous family and community engagement from birth to young adulthood
When the strands of family, school, and community are woven together with caring and frequent communication, they form a safety net to catch struggling children and offer support before it is too late. Families, teachers, peers, guidance counselors, and countless other people affect a child’s life. To do their jobs well, these people must learn from a child’s past and be invested in the child’s future. Family, school, and community partnerships that support children from birth to young adulthood can help make that possible.
Family and community engagement
across multiple settings
One of the best ways stakeholders can reduce achievement gaps is to fill every child’s life with rich learning opportunities in and out of school. There are many ways schools can facilitate learning outside the classroom. They can work with parents to align out-of-school-time learning with class work. They can offer supports like after-school homework help. They can also be a crucial link between families and community resources such as public libraries, museums, and community centers.
It takes more than high quality classroom instruction for all children to reach their potential. A truly outstanding educational system must take advantage of every opportunity to educate its children.