Strong Family and School Partnerships: A Cornerstone for Student Success

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Research shows that strong relationships between families and schools are foundational for student achievement. This is especially the case for students who have been historically underserved based on their race, ethnicity, and/or income. Despite this awareness, less than half of U.S. states require pre-service teachers to explore effective family and community engagement practices in their credentialing programs.

Preparing pre-service educators

To bridge this gap and prepare pre-service educators to successfully implement high-impact family engagement practices in their future careers, Eastern Kentucky University’s Department of Teaching, Learning, and Educational Leadership partnered with the Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence. The goal of the partnership was to provide professional development workshops for elementary education majors on the development of effective and authentic family engagement practices. Specifically, sessions were designed to build and enhance the capacity of educators in the “4 C” areas (Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships):

  • Capabilities – Allows families to gain a new skill or new knowledge linked to learning.
    • Connections – Strengthens family connections to school/classroom/content.
    • Cognition – Provides transparency into the classroom so families have knowledge of daily routines.
    • Confidence – Gives families confidence in supporting academic success.

Family engagement

Scores of research studies show that families want to know more about how their
children are doing in school. Rather than simply focusing on communicating school rules and procedures, EKU pre-service educators developed skills related to cultivating equitable partnerships between home and school by designing curriculum units that centered family engagement as an important and essential practice. Students created products within their curricular units to share useful and actionable information with families and to provide families with a look into the classroom. The three student work examples below demonstrate how teachers can help families:

  • Gain new knowledge linked to learning
  • Connect to classroom content
  • See into the classroom
  • Support their student’s academic success

Family engagement should not be an add-on — a bothersome, time-consuming activity done in addition to teaching and learning. Instead, family engagement should be considered an integral part of effective teaching and school improvement—an essential component of every child’s education. Teacher preparation programs can play a significant role in ensuring that pre-service teachers acquire the knowledge and skills needed to create strong and thriving relationships between families and schools.

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About the Author

Dr. Sonja Yow is associate chair of the Department of Teaching, Learning, & Educational Leadership at Eastern Kentucky University. She teaches courses in gifted & talented, social studies, and cultural competence across undergraduate and graduate programs.

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