Targeting Areas of Low Performance
There are four areas of family and community engagement which, according to the research, have the greatest impact on student learning. Those areas include:
- engagement in activities designed to support the school’s curriculum and standards,
- a home environment that encourages learning,
- a community and a home that holds high, realistic expectations, and
- two-way communication and participation among all parties.
The district should review the findings of the earlier assessments where the school engaged family and community members in the collection of data. If this information is not available, then the district should go back to creating the profile and develop that. After the goals are set, schools would benefit from selecting one or two strategies and focusing on those, with intentional planning and implementation throughout all school activities during the year.
Through careful design and philosophical buy-in from all stakeholders, schools can make a major impact in family and community engagement using minimal financial investment. Staff development activities may be targeted to infuse the benefits and importance of family engagement. Members of the community and families should be included in discussions of their roles in supporting student learning.
Strength-Based Approaches to Healthy Youth Development
Over the past two decades, researchers have addressed the question, "What factors influence youth and help them grow to be healthy, contributing members of a community?"
The research points to two connected--but very different--approaches to prevention. Traditionally, efforts have focused on preventing high-risk behaviors among youth, such as substance abuse, dropping out of school, and violence. Research has now identified those "risk factors" that increase the likelihood that youth will participate in high risk behaviors.
However, in recent years, prevention efforts have also included "the other side of the coin", that is, the factors that help to protect young people from engaging in behaviors that can sidetrack their development into healthy, safe, thriving members of society.
There is a connection between these two divergent approaches to prevention. All students are "at-risk" at some point in their lives, because all students face challenges that must be overcome. At the same time, all students have personal strengths that can help them overcome these challenges. By increasing and strengthening the protective factors in the lives of young people, the less impact the risk factors will have on them. In other words, the more protective factors young people possess, the greater strengths they will have to resist, or mitigate, the affect of the risk factors they face. And the fewer risk factors they face, the greater the chances are that all students will come to school ready to learn. Families play a significant role in promoting strengths and reducing risks for their children.
Research has identified three key protective factors that have a significant influence on healthy youth development. These include:
- developing meaningful relationships with family and friends,
- possessing the life skills necessary to succeed in life, both personally and professionally, and
- having opportunities for meaningful participation in the family, school, and community.
In the near future this web page will address several frameworks that identify these risk and protective factors.
Positive Behavior Supports
Academic achievement is the result of school personnel and families working together to provide a continuum of support for all learners. School-wide positive behavior support (PBS) is a broad range of systemic and individualized strategies for achieving important social and learning outcomes while preventing problem behaviors with all students. More information about this initiative may be found at the National Technical Assistance Center for Positive Behavior Interventions and Support. For specific information about families and PBS, visit the website.
Attendance: Keeping Kids in School
If a child is not regularly attending school, it stands to reason that student will not gain as much benefit from the educational process as a child who attends school regularly. Therefore, when creating a school profile, it is important to break down the district’s attendance data to consider possible areas of low attendance, such as with a particular age group or at a particular time of the year. Once this attendance data is analyzed, a district is encouraged to work with their families to set objectives to promote more regular attendance for the students.
A district should also address issues that relate to children who “disengage” from school, resulting from such issues as cultural differences, different learning styles, or fear. Families can be an asset in promoting regular school attendance. The National PTA notes a number of ways that families can promote student learning. The National Dropout Prevention Center provides information to educational entities regarding research and strategies to prevent dropouts.
Everyone benefits when the community and the family are engaged in meaningful support of children’s learning. Learning begins at birth, with parents as the child's first teacher. Over the years, schools have tried multiple practices to close the achievement gaps. Research shows that developing natural partnerships with the family can be a powerful tool in supporting student success. Every family wants their child to succeed in school and in life. When equipped and informed, most will do what they can toward that goal. Every community wants and needs competent, prepared young citizens to become workers and leaders. A community’s economic future depends on the strength of its school system, so businesses and organizations should be encouraged to become a supporting partner. School staff has an extensive workload to accomplish all that is assigned. Having partners in the learning process will, in the end, lighten their load. Forming a community of helpers, in the education of our youth, is a benefit to all, especially the children.