Tuesday, September 20, 2011

A Handbook for Engaging Families and Communities in Education Reform

A new guide - The Handbook for Family and Community Engagement – illustrates the critical roles families and communities play in promoting student academic success. Funded by The Department of Education (DOE), the handbook provides concrete tools, resources and best practices that be implemented both locally and nationally to achieve positive educational outcomes for all youth. This handbook underscores the Department’s commitment to parent and community engagement as a component of effective education reform, which was highlighted earlier this year when the Department proposed doubling the Federal Title I dollars allotted for parent engagement initiatives.

 In an era rich with discussion about education reform, research has increasingly cited the importance of shared responsibility among schools, communities and families. A recent report from the Harvard Family Research Project suggests that school reform strategies often narrowly focus on bolstering school curricula, investing in professional development for teachers or implementing rigorous methods of evaluation. As a result, this institution-centered approach fails to recognize the power of school, family and community partnerships, all of which have been shown to improve school readiness, student academic achievement and graduation rates. In fact, research suggests that youth who have poor relationships with their families are more likely to drop out of high school, even if they are doing well academically.

The DOE’s Handbook draws upon such research and offers practical ideas and engagement strategies that can be used in various contexts. Specifically, the engagement framework emphasizes the need to build trust by establishing regular communication with parents, articulating clear expectations for parent and community engagement within the school, teaching parents how to utilize performance data as an advocacy tool, and building the capacity of schools to sustain engagement strategies. In addition, several chapters are devoted to articulating the needs of particular family contexts, including: minority families, families in poverty, families of children with disabilities, families in rural communities and Native American families.
For more information about parent engagement strategies, click here.

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