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February 2018

Ask A REL Question:

What does recent research and/or studies on strategies for family engagement say? We are looking for research/studies on early learning as well as K-12.

Response:

Thank you for the question you submitted to our REL Reference Desk regarding research on strategies for family engagement. We have prepared the following memo with research references to help answer your question. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. The references are selected from the most commonly used research resources and may not be comprehensive. Other relevant studies may exist. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

  1. Alvarez Gutiérrez, L. (2015). “Poder en las voces y acciones communitarias”: Immigrant young people and their families’ transformative engagement with high school. Association of Mexican American Educators Journal, 9(2), 31-44.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1085597
    From the abstract: “This research examines how high-school-aged undocumented immigrant Latinas/os and their families resist being marginalized in schools and in communities. These young people and their families are part of a university intergenerational participatory action research collective, Family School Partnership (FSP), located within an urban high school in the western mountain region of the US. The theoretical framework for the intergenerational collective research is rooted in Participatory Action Research (PAR). My analysis focuses upon the disjuncture among the dominant notions of family engagement and the exclusionary practices of schools towards Latina/o undocumented students and their families. Findings suggest that despite the plethora of "inclusive" policies adapted by school districts, undocumented students and their families in my study perceived schools as exclusionary, especially with regards to family engagement and equitable educational opportunities. My research chronicles how undocumented students and families revolutionized their feelings and experiences of powerlessness and exclusion into activist transformative school engagement. This article concludes by discussing future directions that schools could take to increase family engagement with Latina/o undocumented immigrant students and their families and the implications for student academic success.”
  2. Auerbach, S. (2009). Walking the walk: Portraits in leadership for family engagement in urban schools. School Community Journal, 19(1), 9-32.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ847415
    From the abstract: “Family and community engagement are increasingly seen as powerful tools for making schools more equitable, culturally responsive, and collaborative. The commitment of school leaders is vital to school-community connections, yet is poorly documented in the literature and insufficiently addressed in training for administrators. Many school leaders "talk the talk" of school-family partnerships, but how exactly do they "walk the walk," given the competing pressures they face in a massive urban district like Los Angeles? This qualitative study offers contextualized portraits of four school leaders notable for their proactive, community-oriented approach. Data focus on the administrators' role in promoting activities, including an annual conference with elected officials, the Parents as Authors Program, community organizing-style "house meetings" in classrooms, and home visits. Findings suggest these leaders actively pursued family engagement as part of a broader moral commitment to social justice and educational equity for disenfranchised Latino families. Inspired by various family engagement models but distrustful of traditional parent involvement structures in the district, they shaped activities to the needs of their particular communities. Implications for leadership preparation programs are discussed, such as the need for more hands-on experience working with parents and apprenticeships with community-oriented school leaders.”
  3. Baker, T.L., Wise, J., Kelley, G., & Skiba, R.J. (2016). Identifying barriers: Creating solutions to improve family engagement. School Community Journal 26(2), 161-184.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1124003
    From the abstract: “Reframing notions of parent involvement (being present in the school building) to parent engagement (viewing multiple constructions of how parents are involved) is the purpose of this paper. The authors highlight the knowledge gained from data collected from a series of family and staff focus groups regarding parent and staff perceptions of barriers to family involvement and from families' suggestions as to what could be done differently to increase engagement. Using applied thematic analysis, five themes common to both families and staff are discussed: providing opportunities for involvement, improving communication, welcoming families into the building, making time, and moving from involvement to engagement. Findings show that, generally, parents and school staff agree on barriers to parent involvement but offer contrasting solutions. While parent solutions directly address the barriers identified and support parent engagement, staff frequently offered disconnected solutions, reiterating parent involvement—the necessity of parents being present in the building, rather than parent engagement—multiple constructions of how parents are involved.”
  4. Douglass, A. (2011). Improving family engagement: The organizational context and its influence on partnering with parents in formal child care settings. Early Childhood Research & Practice, 13(2).
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ956369
    From the abstract: “Family engagement is widely considered a key component of high-quality early care and education (ECE). While most efforts to improve the quality of family engagement focus on teacher training, strong evidence from health care research suggests that the organizational context is a critical determinant of the quality of client-professional relationships. The importance of the organizational context for effective programs and quality improvement in child care has been largely neglected in both research and policy. This study examined the influence of the organizational context on the quality of family partnerships in four ECE programs involved in the Strengthening Families initiative in one state and tested the theory of a "relational bureaucratic" organizational system as a determinant of high-quality family partnerships in formal child care settings. Results showed that (1) a "relational bureaucratic" organizational context was associated with high-quality family partnership practices and (2) a "conventional bureaucratic" context was associated with low-quality family partnership practices. The "relational bureaucratic" organizations shared several key characteristics, including administrators who model and support caring and responsive staff relationships within the organization and the use of specific structures and processes to promote a caring and responsive professionalism. Results point to the importance of a relationship-centered organizational system as a key ingredient for effective partnerships with families, with implications for policy and practice.”
  5. Ferrara, M.M. (2015). Parent involvement facilitators: Unlocking social capital wealth. School Community Journal, 25(1), 29-51.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1066216
    From the abstract: “This case study provides an overview of a family outreach intervention that supports student retention in school through a school-home communication link. This intervention structure, which employs staff appropriately called parent involvement facilitators (PIFs), is one that school districts have employed to facilitate family engagement in schools and to help parents build their sense of efficacy to support their children's success in school. The intention of the PIF is to provide direct services to families whose child or children are identified as at risk of not completing high school. What has not been studied is how this outreach program works in terms of family support, especially for those in an urban setting with language complexities, and how it helps provide social capital to the family and also to the PIF in this reciprocal process of working together to help the children complete high school.”
  6. Garcia, M.E., Frunzi, K., Dean, C.B., Flores, N., & Miler, K.B. (2016). Toolkit of resources for engaging families and the community as partners in education. Part 1: Building an understanding of family and community engagement (REL 2016-148). Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED569110
    From the abstract: “The Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education is a four-part resource that brings together research, promising practices, and useful tools and resources to guide educators in strengthening partnerships with families and community members to support student learning. The toolkit defines family and community engagement as an overarching approach to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and students' ongoing learning and development. The primary audiences for this toolkit are administrators, teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers in diverse schools and districts. Part I is designed to guide educators into building awareness of how their beliefs and assumptions about family and community engagement influence their interactions with families and the community and how knowledge about the demographic characteristics of the families in their schools can inform educators about what might support or hinder family engagement with schools.”
  7. Garcia, M.E., Frunzi, K., Dean, C.B., Flores, N., & Miler, K.B. (2016). Toolkit of resources for engaging families and the community as partners in education. Part 2: Building a cultural bridge (REL 2016-151). Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED569111
    From the abstract: “The Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education is a four-part resource that brings together research, promising practices, and useful tools and resources to guide educators in strengthening partnerships with families and community members to support student learning. The toolkit defines family and community engagement as an overarching approach to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and students' ongoing learning and development. The primary audiences for this toolkit are administrators, teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers in diverse schools and districts. Part 2 is designed to tap into the strengths of families and community members and help families establish active roles in the school community in support of student learning.”
  8. Garcia, M.E., Frunzi, K., Dean, C.B., Flores, N., & Miler, K.B. (2016). Toolkit of resources for engaging families and the community as partners in education. Part 3: Building trusting relationships with families and the community (REL 2016-152). Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED569112
    From the abstract: “The Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education is a four-part resource that brings together research, promising practices, and useful tools and resources to guide educators in strengthening partnerships with families and community members to support student learning. The toolkit defines family and community engagement as an overarching approach to support family well-being, strong parent--child relationships, and students' ongoing learning and development. The primary audiences for this toolkit are administrators, teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers in diverse schools and districts. Part 3 is designed to show how cross-cultural and two-way communication enhances family and community engagement.”
  9. Garcia, M.E., Frunzi, K., Dean, C.B., Flores, N., & Miler, K.B. (2016). Toolkit of resources for engaging families and the community as partners in education. Part 4: Engaging all in data conversations (REL 2016-153). Washington, D.C: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Pacific.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=ED569113
    From the abstract: “The Toolkit of Resources for Engaging Families and the Community as Partners in Education is a four-part resource that brings together research, promising practices, and useful tools and resources to guide educators in strengthening partnerships with families and community members to support student learning. This toolkit defines family and community engagement as an overarching approach to support family well-being, strong parent-child relationships, and students' ongoing learning and development. The primary audiences for this toolkit are administrators, teachers, teacher leaders, and trainers in diverse schools and districts. Part 4 is designed to help educators learn which student data are important to share with families and community members and how to share such data in a meaningful way.”
  10. Halgunseth, L. (2009). Family engagement, diverse families, and early childhood education programs: An integrated review of the literature. Young Children, 64(5), 56- 58.
    http://www.buildinitiative.org/Portals/0/Uploads/Documents/Family%20Engagement%20Halgunseth.pdf
    From the abstract: “The two most influential environments in which young children develop are their homes and their early childhood education programs. In 2005, 60 percent of all U.S. children under age 6 spent some time in the care of persons other than their parents, including 62 percent of White children, 69 percent of Black children, and 49 percent of Hispanic children. Considering that children's time is often divided between these two settings, there is a clear relationship between strong program-family partnerships and children's academic success. While educators have long known about the importance of family engagement for children's learning, some may feel frustrated by perceived low levels of engagement with some families they serve. Perceptions of low engagement may be due to differences in cultural values or languages spoken between program staff and families. They may also result from a program's approach to family engagement. Some programs focus on getting families to change rather than recognizing their strengths and abilities to support children's learning. Using ecological and social exchange theories as frameworks, this article: (1) defines family engagement; (2) describes ways to strengthen relationships between programs and families; and (3) provides evidence-based practices that can strengthen family engagement and improve learning for all children.”
  11. Lowenhaupt, R. (2014). School access and participation: Family engagement practices in the new Latino diaspora. Education and Urban Society, 46(5), 522-547.
    http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/0013124512468003
    From the abstract: “This article describes how schools shape family engagement practices in the context of the New Latino Diaspora. Building on critical scholarship that has called for more culturally appropriate definitions of family engagement, this study seeks to develop a theoretical understanding of how school practices influence immigrant families' access to and participation in schools with little tradition of serving immigrant communities. Drawing on a statewide survey of practice in schools serving the New Latino Diaspora in Wisconsin, analysis includes descriptive statistics and textual analysis of survey comments from school principals and teachers working with immigrant students. Findings illustrate how considerable efforts to ensure access to Spanish-speaking families through interpretation and translation fall short of increasing family participation in key aspects of schooling. Given the influx of immigrants to new destinations across the United States, this work offers important insight into how schools receive newcomers in these contexts and identifies implications for research and practice.”
  12. Sheridan, S.M., Knoche, L.L., Edward, C.P., Bovaird, J.A. & Kupzyk, K.A. (2010). Parent engagement and school readiness: Effects of the Getting Ready Intervention on preschool children’s social-emotional competencies Early Education and Development, 21(1), 125-156.
    http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1012&context=cyfsfacpub
    From the abstract: “Research Findings: Parental engagement with children has been linked to a number of adaptive characteristics in preschool children, and relationships between families and professionals are an important contributor to school readiness. Furthermore, social–emotional competence is a key component of young children's school readiness. This study reports the results of a randomized trial of a parent engagement intervention (Getting Ready) designed to facilitate school readiness among disadvantaged preschool children, with a particular focus on social–emotional outcomes. Two hundred and twenty children were involved over the 4-year study period. Statistically significant differences were observed between treatment and control participants in the rate of change over a 2-year period on teacher reports for certain interpersonal competencies (i.e., attachment, initiative, and anxiety/withdrawal). In contrast, no statistically significant differences between groups over a 2-year period were noted for behavioral concerns (anger/aggression, self-control, or behavioral problems) as a function of the Getting Ready intervention.
    Practice or Policy: The intervention appears to be particularly effective at building social–emotional competencies beyond the effects experienced as a function of participation in Head Start programming alone. Limitations and implications for future research are reviewed.”
  13. Smith, J. Wohlstetter, P., Kuzin, A.C., & De Pedro, K. (2011). Parent involvement in urban charter schools: New strategies for increasing participation, School Community Journal, 21(1), 71-94.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ932201
    From the abstract: “Decades of research point to the benefits of parent involvement in education. However, research has also shown that White, middle-class parents are disproportionately involved. Charter schools, as schools of choice, have been assumed to have fewer involvement barriers for minority and low-income parents, but a 2007 survey of charter leaders found that parent involvement remains a significant challenge. This qualitative study utilizes Epstein's model of family involvement to examine parent involvement programs at twelve charter schools across six U.S. states. Findings suggest that parent involvement "activities" in the study sample of urban charter schools fit Epstein's typology fairly well. However, the "strategies" used to implement these activities and to attract hard-to-reach parents are fairly innovative: Study schools offered wrap-around services, incentives, and contracts to enhance and ensure participation; utilized technology for advertising parent volunteer opportunities; and involved parents in the decision-making and governance of the school. Overall, these strategies were linked with increasing parents' self-efficacy and comfort level in participating in their children's education.”
  14. Stefanski, A., Valli, L., & Jacobson, R. (2016). Beyond involvement and engagement: The role of the family in school-community partnerships. School Community Journal, 26(2), 135-160.
    https://eric.ed.gov/?id=EJ1124001
    From the abstract: “Research indicates that partnerships between schools and neighborhood communities support student learning, improve schools, and strengthen families and neighborhoods. These partnerships expand the traditional educational mission of the school to include health and social services for children and their families and to involve the broader community. School-community partnerships typically arise out of a specific need in the community and, as such, differ across a range of processes, structures, purposes, and types of family involvement. In previous work, we developed a typology to more closely examine various school-community partnerships (Valli, Stefanski, & Jacobson, 2013). From that review of the literature, we identified four increasingly complex and comprehensive partnership models. In this article, we reexamine the literature, focusing on the role of the family in those partnership models, and discuss implications for productive family-school-community relations. Our analysis of the literature indicates that the role of parents and families differed considerably across the four models. In contrast to the simple family "involvement" versus family "engagement" dichotomy found in much of the current literature, we found eight distinct ways in which family roles were envisioned and enacted. This article provides a detailed picture of those roles to guide policies and practices that strengthen the family's role in school-community partnerships.”
  15. Tran, Y. (2014). Addressing reciprocity between families and schools: Why these bridges are instrumental for students’ academic success.Improving Schools, 17(1), 18-29.
    http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1365480213515296
    From the abstract: “One instrumental step in promoting overall children's academic success across the trajectory of early childhood, elementary, middle, and secondary grades is purposefully establishing positive linkages for families and schools through a shared partnership. By facilitating an ongoing collaborative approach to sustain family engagement practices both in and out of the classroom, schools can help to build parents' capacity to effectively support their children's academic development. This article is an overview of the literature based on research from the last two decades on the effects of family involvement and home to school partnerships to student academic achievement within a US context. It addresses the sociocultural implications for establishing home and school partnerships with school-wide pedagogical recommendations in supporting diverse families and K-12 educators in the collaborative work for the educational success of all children. Finally, the article identifies methods to proactively engage all families with a paradigm shift on rethinking traditional methods to skills of cultural competence that honors family backgrounds, validates cultural strengths, and corroborates with the contributions that families make to engender academic success for their children.”

Additional Organizations to Consult

  • National Association for Family, School, and Community Engagement: http://www.nafsce.org/
    From the website: “NAFSCE is the first membership association focused solely on advancing family, school, and community engagement (FSCE). Our Mission: Advancing high-impact policies and practices for family, school, and community engagement to promote child development and improve student achievement. Our Vision: A world where family engagement is universally practiced as an essential strategy for improving children’s learning and advancing equity.”
  • The National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools: http://www.sedl.org/connections
    From the website: “The Center links people with research-based information and resources that they can use to effectively connect schools, families, and communities. It emphasizes connections that directly impact student achievement in reading and mathematics, as well as connections that contribute to the students' overall success in school and in life. The Center reviewed emerging findings and research to develop an online database, annual conferences and annual reports to help advance procedural knowledge and to link research findings to practice.”

Search Strings. Family engagement early learning OR family engagement K-12 OR family engagement strategies

Searched Databases and Resources.

  • ERIC
  • Academic Databases (e.g., EBSCO databases, JSTOR database, ProQuest, Google Scholar)

Reference Search and Selection Criteria. The following factors are considered when selecting references:

  • Date of Publication: Priority is given to references published in the past 10 years.
  • Search Priorities of Reference Sources: ERIC, other academic databases, Institute of Education Sciences Resources, and other resources including general internet searches
  • Methodology: Priority is given to the most rigorous study types, such as randomized controlled trials and quasi-experimental designs, as well as to surveys, descriptive analyses, and literature reviews. Other considerations include the target population and sample, including their relevance to the question, generalizability, and general quality.

REL Mid-Atlantic serves the education needs of Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania.

This Ask A REL was prepared under Contract ED-IES-17-C-0006 by Regional Educational Laboratory Mid-Atlantic administered by Mathematica Policy Research. The content does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of IES or the U.S. Department of Education, nor does mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the U.S. Government.