School/Family/Community Partnerships: Caring for the Children we Share

The following information was adapted from an article by Joyce Epstein (Phi Delta Kappan, May, 1995). In that article, Ms. Epstein addresses various issues about parent/family involvement and explains the six basic levels of parent involvement included in this model.

What Research Says
"In surveys and field studies involving teachers, parents, and students at the elementary, middle, and high school levels, some important patterns relating to partnerships have emerged.

* Partnerships tend to decline across the grades, unless schools and teachers work to develop and implement appropriate practices of partnership at each grade level.

* Affluent communities currently have more positive family involvement, on average, unless schools and teachers in economically distressed communities work to build positive partnerships with their students' families.

* Schools in more economically depressed communities make more contacts with families about problems and difficulties their children are having, unless they work at developing balanced partnership programs that include contacts about positive accomplishments of students.

*Single parents, parents who are employed outside the home, parents who live far from the school, and fathers are less involved, on average, at the school building, unless the school organizes opportunities for families to volunteer at various times and in various places to support the school and their children" (Epstein, 1995)

"The research results are important because they indicate that caring communities can be built, on purpose; that they include families that might not become involved on their own; and that, by their own reports, just about all families, students, and teachers believe that partnerships are important for helping students succeed across the grades.

... A framework of six major types of involvement has evolved from many studies and from many years of work by educators and families in elementary, middle, and high schools. The framework helps educators develop more comprehensive programs of school and family partnerships and also helps researchers locate their questions and results in ways that inform and improve practice."


Epstein's Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement

Type 1 The basic obligations of parents ... refers to the responsibilities of families to ensure children's health and safety; to the parenting and child-rearing skills needed to prepare children for school; to the continual need to supervise, discipline, and guide children at each age level; and to the need to build positive home conditions that support school learning and behavior appropriate for each grade level.
Type 2 The basic obligation of schools ... refers to the communications from school to home about school programs and children's progress. Schools vary the form and frequency of communication such as memos, notices, report cards, and conferences, and greatly affect whether the information about school programs and children's progress can be understood by all parents.
Type 3 Parent involvement at school ... refers to parent volunteers who assist teachers, administrators, and children in classrooms or in other areas of the school. It also refers to parents who come to school to support student performances, sports, or other events, or to attend workshops or other programs for their own education or training.
Type 4 Parent involvement in learning activities at home ... refers to parent-initiated activities or child-initiated requests for help, and ideas or instructions from teachers for parents to monitor or assist their own children at home on learning activities that are coordinated with the children's classwork.
Type 5 Parent involvement in governance and advocacy ... refers to parents' taking decision-making roles in the PTA/PTO, advisory councils, or other committees or groups at the school. district, or state level. It also refers to parent and community activities in independent advocacy groups that monitor the schools and work for school improvement.
Type 6 Collaborating with Community ... refers to the integration of various community agencies and resources to support the school programs.


Type 1
Type 2
Type 3
Type 4
Learning at Home
Type 5
Decision Making
Type 6
Collaborating with Community
Help all families establish home environments to support children as students. Design effective forms of school-to-home and home-to-school communications about school programs and children's progress. Recruit and organize parent help and support. Provide information and ideas to families about how to help students at home with homework and other curriculum-related activities, decisions, and planning. Include parents in school decisions, developing parent leaders and representatives. Identify and integrate resources and services from the community to strengthen school programs, family practices, and student learning and development.
A Few Examples of Practices of Each Type:      
School provides suggestions for home conditions that support learning at each grade level.

Workshops, videotapes, computer- ized phone messages on parenting and child-rearing issues at each grade level.

Teachers conduct conferences with every parent at least once a year with follow-up as needed.

Translators for language minority families.

Weekly or monthly folders of student work are sent home and reviewed and comments returned.

School volunteer program or class parent and committee of volunteers for each room.

Parent room or family center for volunteer work, meetings, and resources for parents.

Annual postcard survey to identify all available talents, times, and locations of volunteers.

Information to families on skills required for students in all subject at each grade.

Family math, science and reading activities.

Summer learning packets or activities.

Calendars with activities for parents and students at home.

Participation and leadership in PTA/PTO or other parent organizations, including advisory councils or com- mittees such as curr- iculum, safety, and personnel.

Independent advocacy groups to lobby and work for school reform and improvements.

Information for students and families on community health, cultural, recreational, social support, and other programs or services.

Information on community activities that link to learning skills and talents, including summer programs for students.

A Few Examples of Outcomes Linked to Each Type: Parent Outcomes    
Self confidence in parenting.

Knowledge of child development.

Understanding of home as environment for student learning.

Awareness of own and others challenges in parenting.

Feeling of support from school and other parents.

Understanding school programs and policies.

Interaction with teachers and ease of communication with school and teachers.

Monitoring and awareness of child's progress.

Understanding teacher's job and school programs.

Familiarity with teachers.

Comfort in interactions at school.

Awareness that families are welcome and valued at school.

Gains in specific skills of volunteer work.

Know how to support, encourage, and help students at home each year.

Discussions of school, classwork, and homework.

Participation in child's education.

Awareness of child as a learner.

Input to policies that affect child's education.

Feeling control of environment.

Feeling of ownership of school.

Shared experiences and connections with other families.

Awareness of school, district, and state policies.

Knowledge and use of local resources by family and child to increase skills and talents or to obtain needed services.

Interactions with other families on community activities.

Awareness of schools role in the community and of community's contributions to the school.

    Student Outcomes      

Respect for parent.

Improved attendance.

Awareness of importance of school.

Student participation in parent-teacher conferences, or in preparation for conferences.

Better decisions about courses, programs.

Increased learning skills receiving individual attention.

Ease of communication with adults.

Homework completion.

Self-concept of ability as learner.

Achievement in skills practiced.

Understanding that student rights protected.

Specific benefits linked to specific policies enacted by parent organizations and experienced by students

Increased skills and talents through enriched curricular and extracurricular experiences.

Awareness of careers and of options for future education and work.

    Teacher Outcomes      
Understanding of family cultures, goals, talents, needs.

Respect for families' strengths and efforts.

Understanding of students diversity.

Knowledge that family has common base of information for discussion of student problems, progress.

Use of parent network for communication.

Awareness of parent interest, in school and children, and willingness to help.

Readiness to try programs that involve parents in many ways.

Respect and appre- ciation of parents' time, ability to follow through and reinforce learning.

Better designs of homework assignments.

Equal status interaction with parents to improve school programs.

Awareness of parent perspectives for policy development.

Awareness of community resources to enrich curriculum and instruction.

Knowledgeable, helpful referrals of children and families to needed services.

From: J.L. Epstein. "School/Family/Community Partnerships: Caring for the Children We Share
Phi Delta Kappan, May 1995, page 701-712.