Creating the Profile
When considering data to be gathered in respect to family and community engagement, it is important to seek information and perceptions regarding the unique strengths and needs of all the partners such as families, community members, school staff, and students. Data collected should be disaggregated to reflect a continuum of families and prospective community partners.
According to Anne Henderson, currently at the Institute for Education & Social Policy at New York University, predictors of student achievement related to family engagement are not income or social status. Rather, Henderson and Mapp's research review, A New Wave of Evidence: the Impact of School, Family & Community Connections on Student Achievement points to specific types of partnership as being especially beneficial to children's academic success:
- Involvement programs that link to learning improve student achievement. The more parent and community involvement activities focus on improving student learning, the more student learning improves.
- Speaking up for children protects and promotes their success. Children whose parents are advocates for them at school are more confident at school and take on and achieve more. The more families advocate for their children and support their children's progress, the longer their children stay in school and the better their children do.
- All families can contribute to their children's success. Family involvement improves student success, regardless of race/ethnicity, class or parents' level of education. For involvement to happen, however, principals, teachers, and parents themselves must believe that all parents can contribute to their children's success in school.
- Community organizing gets results. Engaging community members, businesses and organizations as partners in children's education can improve the learning community in many ways.
Recognizing the impact of existing family relationships and community partnerships on student learning is the first step of creating the profile. Collected data reflecting present practices should provide a foundation for developing additional supports. Schools should also identify areas of student need and begin focusing efforts toward strategies which involve family and community. Carefully selecting measures of evaluation for each strategy will clarify the findings. It is important that school leadership, staff, family and community members embrace a philosophy of shared responsibility for children’s learning.
Every school employee, every child’s family, every child, and community members should be invited to share input through surveys, focus groups, interviews, etc. during the process of data collection and analysis. A variety of methods should be utilized to accommodate the diverse group of stakeholders. Family and community input should be embedded in all areas of school improvement, not just family/community engagement. The voice of all stakeholders in this process of engaging partners in children’s learning is critical.
The family, community and school engagement effort calls for a team approach. Representatives consisting of a variety of community partners, family members, school staff and students should, together, carefully analyze and reflect on data. A team approach requires that data be stated in terms families and community members understand, not educator jargon. This analysis will provide a baseline and should include:
- information gathered from surveys, focus groups and interviews related to family and community connections to the school, and
- other data presently available to the school and the community related to children birth to age 21.
Careful analysis of the student population, such as ethnic background, socio-economic status, mobility, English Language Learners (ELL) will inform the team. Many communities have completed a needs assessment or have information on services provided to families, efforts of service clubs or businesses. The agencies involved in such information gathering would be logical partners to include in the team.
- What does research say about effective family and community engagement?
- Why is it important to engage all families and community in support of education?
- The National PTA has developed standards for family involvement. How is your school currently performing with families and communities in reference to these standards?
- What current practices of the school reflect effective collaboration among families and community?
- Do teachers, family, and community share common expectations regarding support for families? (example: building trusting relationships, linking families and community to school, developing leadership among family and community members).
- Have surveys and interviews of families, staff, and community been conducted?
- Were the survey responses representative?
- What types of services are being provided to support families?
- In school?
- In community?
- The following are some specific questions to be considered for analysis.
- What is known about your FAMILIES?
- % working
- % single parents
- % grandparents or other
- % children & families living in poverty
- % cultural, ethnic, racial, linguistic diversity
- % mobility or homeless
- What is known about your COMMUNITY(IES)?
- Economic factors (% agricultural, % professional, % industrial/technical, climate)
- Social foundation (service clubs, community organizations)
- Human services
- Inventory of community strengths/needs
- What is known about your FAMILIES?
For school personnel, parents or community partners who want to access current family engagement research, websites, promising practices, or tools for evaluation, go to the Nebraska Department of Education (NDE) Family and Community Engagement website.
To continue the continuous improvement process, click on:
Setting the Goals