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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response

April 2018


What does the research say about the evidence-based practices to best support a K–12 school district’s approach to supporting and enhancing the social-emotional well-being of families?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports, descriptive studies and information briefs on best practices for K–12 school districts to support the social-emotional well-being of families. For details on the databases and sources, keywords, and selection criteria used to create this response, please see the Methods section at the end of this memo.

Below, we share a sampling of the publicly accessible resources on this topic. References are listed in alphabetical order, not necessarily in order of relevance. The search conducted is not comprehensive; other relevant references and resources may exist. For each reference, we provide an abstract, excerpt, or summary written by the study’s author or publisher. We have not evaluated the quality of these references, but provide them for your information only.

Research References

Fehrer, K., & Leos-Urbel, J. (2015). Oakland Unified School District community schools: Understanding implementation efforts to support students, teachers, and families. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “In 2010, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) launched an initiative to transform all district schools into full service community schools. The community school design provides integrated supports to students and fosters a school climate conducive to academic, social, and emotional learning. Interventions span in-school and out-of-school time, and include students’ families, to ensure that all students have the supports needed to be ready to learn and to develop the skills, habits, and mindsets that provide a foundation for academic and social success. These supports are delivered in strategic partnerships with community-based organizations, and coordinated through various structures including a Community School Manager at each school. As OUSD continues to scale community school implementation, leaders want to document and assess their current efforts with an eye to improving policies and practices that will help all schools reach the initiative’s goals. This report and four related briefs present findings from the first year of a planned three-year collaboration between OUSD and the Gardner Center to study the district’s community schools, drawing on qualitative interviews with key stakeholders in five community schools as well as analysis of district administrative data.”

Hayakawa, M., & Reynolds, A. (2016). Strategies for scaling up: Promoting parent involvement through family-school-community partnerships. Voices in Urban Education, 44, 45–52. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Flexibility, creativity, and collaboration are required to successfully meet the needs of each school when scaling up family engagement programs across a diverse range of communities. Flexibility, creativity, and collaboration are required to successfully meet the needs of each school when scaling up family engagement programs across a diverse range of communities. Established in 1967 and initially implemented in Chicago, the Child-Parent Center (CPC) is a center-based early intervention that provides comprehensive educational and family-support services to economically disadvantaged families from preschool through third grade. Each CPC is located within or near an elementary school building. Receiving a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant in 20121 [sic] allowed further expansion of the CPC P-3 model across thirty-seven schools in four urban and suburban communities of various sizes in Illinois and Minnesota. In the work implementing the Child-Parent Center Preschool to Third Grade (CPC P-3) program, there have been a variety of barriers, along with strategies to overcome these challenges. As intervention researchers and implementers of the Midwest expansion of CPC P-3, the authors have worked with schools across diverse demographics and have identified some major barriers frequently experienced by schools, which are presented in this article.”

Quezada, M. S. (2016). Strengthening relationships with families in the school community: Do school leaders make a difference? Voices in Urban Education, 44, 23–32. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Many family engagement programs logically focus on providing training and support for parent leaders, giving them the skills and knowledge necessary to effectively partner with schools. Even with comprehensive parent leadership training, sustainable family engagement initiatives cannot truly take hold without buy-in, shared understanding, and a structure for parent engagement at the school level. School principals can play a key role in family engagement by believing in the leadership capacity of parents and viewing families as partners in their school community. This article discusses how the recipients of an Investing in Innovation (i3) Development grant from the U.S. Department of Education created the i3 Project 2INSPIRE Family, School & Community Engagement Program. The new program, which involves ten schools at three districts in southern California, offers professional development for school leaders, teachers, office support staff, and parents. As a result of the program, vital relationships between teachers, office staff, and parents have formed. The i3 Project 2INSPIRE schools are working with families to forge those important relationships and partnerships needed for school and student success.”

Riccio, J., & Miller, C. (2016). New York City’s first conditional cash transfer program: What worked, what didn’t. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report summarizes the findings of a long-term evaluation of Opportunity NYC—Family Rewards, an experimental, privately funded, conditional cash transfer (CCT) program to help families break the cycle of poverty. Family Rewards was the first comprehensive CCT program in a developed country. Launched in 2007 by New York City’s Center for Economic Opportunity, it offered cash assistance to low-income families to reduce immediate hardship, but conditioned that assistance on families’ efforts to build up their ‘human capital’ to reduce the risk of longer-term and second-generation poverty. The program thus tied a broad array of cash rewards (financial incentives) to prespecified activities and outcomes in the areas of children’s education, families’ preventive health care, and parents’ employment. It operated as a pilot program for three years, concluding, as planned, in August 2010. Six community-based organizations, in partnership with a lead nonprofit agency, ran Family Rewards in six of New York City’s highest-poverty communities. MDRC evaluated the program through a randomized controlled trial involving approximately 4,800 families with 11,000 children; half of the families could receive the cash rewards if they met the required conditions, and half were assigned to a control group that did not participate in the program and could not receive the rewards. This report distills previously published findings and some longer-term updates on the program's effects on a wide range of outcomes, covering two to six years after families entered the study (depending on the data source). Family Rewards transferred over $8,700, on average, to families during the three-year period in which it operated. By the end of the study, it had produced some positive effects on some outcomes, but left many other outcomes unchanged. For example, the program: (1) Reduced current poverty and material hardship, including hunger and some housing-related hardships (especially for families in severe poverty), although those effects weakened after the cash transfers ended; (2) Did not improve school outcomes for elementary or middle school students; and (3) Substantially increased graduation rates and other school outcomes for ninth-graders who entered high school as proficient readers, and increased their likelihood of subsequently enrolling full time in four-year colleges.”

Sipes, L., & Ruiz de Velasco, J. (2017). Expanding learning opportunities for youth and their families in the Mission Promise Neighborhood: An interim assessment. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and Their Communities. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “San Francisco’s Mission Promise Neighborhood (MPN) is a federally-funded Promise Neighborhood initiative that supports community-based organizations, schools, and other public agencies to work in defined neighborhoods and build integrated supports for children and youth from cradle to college and career. Since 2013, the Gardner Center has partnered with MPN to support implementation and ongoing assessment of the initiative. This report draws on perspectives from school principals, family engagement staff, teachers, and community partners regarding the ways in which implementation of MPN supports has advanced the initiative’s goals. Specifically considered are the following key programmatic and operational components of the MPN model: 1) the efforts to support strategic coordination of school-level supports and school-community partnerships by promoting collaborative leadership; 2) the resources of a Community School Coordinator and a Family Success Coach (FSC), and 3) the integrated academic, social, emotional, and health supports at each focus school. Interviews probed for contextual factors that mediate achievement of goals as well as other ongoing challenges and areas for improvement. Student achievement and behavioral data drawn from the administrative records of the San Francisco Unified School District (SFUSD) as well as MPN survey data were incorporated in the assessment. The object of this research is to draw lessons to support continuous improvement and scale-up efforts, and to inform policymakers and other researchers interested in Promise Neighborhood strategies across the country.”

Varlas, L. (2008). Full-service community schools. Info Brief. Number 54. Alexandria, VA: Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Community schools are organized around two common goals: helping students learn and succeed and strengthening families and communities. Full-service community schools extend these guiding principles. They are centers of their communities, providing high-quality after-school opportunities, comprehensive early childhood education, real-world learning approaches, and physical and mental health services for adults and young people in the neighborhood. They provide services designed to remove barriers to learning, make community assets fully available to address the needs of learners, and build bridges between schools, families, and communities based on mutual investment in the comprehensive well-being of communities. Full-service community schools embody the values set forth in the 2007 report of the Commission on the Whole Child, ‘The Learning Compact Redefined: A Call to Action’. With the Whole Child Initiative, ASCD proposes a broader definition of achievement and accountability that promotes the development of children who are healthy, safe, engaged, supported, and challenged. Supporting the core requirements to truly educate the whole child, the Coalition for Community Schools identifies five areas for program and service development in community schools: quality educational services, youth development programs, family support services, family and community engagement, and community development.”


Keywords and Search Strings

The following keywords and search strings were used to search the reference databases and other sources:

  • Comprehensive wellness plan

  • Conditional cash transfers

  • “Cradle to career” family

  • Family empowerment program

  • Family school relationship

  • Family support services

  • Harlem Children’s Zone

  • “Well being” family

Databases and Search Engines

We searched ERIC for relevant resources. ERIC is a free online library of more than 1.6 million citations of education research sponsored by the Institute of Education Sciences (IES). Additionally, we searched IES and Google Scholar.

Reference Search and Selection Criteria

When we were searching and reviewing resources, we considered the following criteria:

  • Date of the publication: References and resources published over the last 15 years, from 2002 to present, were include in the search and review.

  • Search priorities of reference sources: Search priority is given to study reports, briefs, and other documents that are published or reviewed by IES and other federal or federally funded organizations.

  • Methodology: We used the following methodological priorities/considerations in the review and selection of the references: (a) study types—randomized control trials, quasi-experiments, surveys, descriptive data analyses, literature reviews, policy briefs, and so forth, generally in this order, (b) target population, samples (e.g., representativeness of the target population, sample size, volunteered or randomly selected), study duration, and so forth, and (c) limitations, generalizability of the findings and conclusions, and so forth.
This memorandum is one in a series of quick-turnaround responses to specific questions posed by educational stakeholders in the Midwest Region (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio, Wisconsin), which is served by the Regional Educational Laboratory (REL Region) at American Institutes for Research. This memorandum was prepared by REL Midwest under a contract with the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute of Education Sciences (IES), Contract ED-IES-17-C-0007, administered by American Institutes for Research. Its 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.