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REL Midwest Ask A REL Response


February 2019


What research is available on evidence-based practices to engage families in literacy development for students in grades 6–12? Which strategies are effective for supporting language development at home for English learner students?


Following an established Regional Educational Laboratory (REL) Midwest protocol, we conducted a search for research reports and descriptive studies on engaging families in literacy development for students in grades 6–12. We also identified resources focused specifically on at-home support in language development for English learner students. 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

Agronick, G., Clark, A., O’Donnell, L., & Steuve, A. (2009). Parent involvement strategies in urban middle and high schools in the Northeast and Islands Region (Issues and Answers Report, REL 2009–No. 069). Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Institute of Education Sciences, National Center for Education Evaluation and Regional Assistance, Regional Educational Laboratory Northeast and Islands. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This report summarizes efforts to develop and pilot test a protocol for collecting information about parent involvement policies, practices, and programs being implemented at the middle and high school levels. The protocol can be used to expand documentation of strategies selected, adapted, and sustained in future years. The study reviewed the literature on parent involvement practices and programs, and included studies that met screening criteria for the timeframe (1997-2008), intervention strategy (parent involvement policies, practices, and programs), sample (parents of students in grades 6-12), and outcome. Practices and programs encompassed efforts to encourage parent involvement with students at home and school. Relevant outcomes included parent involvement, with or without linkages to student outcomes. A typology of parent involvement practices was created based on the literature review. Information on practices was categorized as either general information exchange or information exchange on individual student performance, special events, volunteer opportunities, parent education, professional development for faculty and staff, home-school coordination and outreach to traditionally hard to reach parents, or parent resource centers. Programs were summarized by their goals, populations reached, content, outcomes, and evidence of effectiveness. The literature review provided a context for understanding the information that was collected from nine urban districts in Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and New York. The project focused on districts that serve large proportions of racial/ethnic minority families and families living in poverty. Each state education commissioner’s office selected one district in the state; a second district in each state was selected at random. A ninth district was selected to round out the diversity of populations served. Interviews on parental involvement policies were conducted with an average of five to six informants from state education agencies, selected districts, and schools. Data from interviews were supplemented with information from public records, including searches of state, district, and school web sites. The pilot districts implemented multiple practices that were supported by state and district policies and were consistent with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and Title I provisions. In general, these practices were not organized into formal programs or articulated in ways that would support rigorous evaluation and identification. Study findings highlight need for: (1) Fully articulated programs that can be rigorously evaluated to determine what works; (2) Systematic data collection on parent involvement programs to promote shared learning and to identify policies, practices and programs that may merit further evaluation; and (3) Rigorous study designs that overcome the limitations of existing evaluations of parent involvement strategies and provide evidence of what works in middle and high schools.”

Carnock, J. T. (2016). From blueprint to building: Lifting the torch for multilingual students in New York State. Washington, DC: New America. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Around 30 percent of families across New York State now speak a language other than English at home, resulting in 240,000 English language learners (ELLs) in the state’s primary and secondary schools who speak nearly 200 different languages. This report looks at New York State’s redesign of policies and practices to better support the education of its long-established, yet still growing multilingual population, highlighting both the bright spots and the emerging challenges of New York’s ELL reforms by charting their inception, design, and early implementation. Unlike other states grappling with how to respond to recent influxes of ELLs for the first time, the Empire State has been experimenting with ELL policy reforms for some time. New York’s reforms offer a rare example of cohesive state-level policy innovation and leadership for multilingual children. The recent reforms, which fall under New York’s new Blueprint for English Language Learners (ELL) Success and update state rules on how schools must serve K-12 ELLs, required districts and school to make several key changes impacting ELLs’ education. These changes included: (1) New instructional rules that expand ‘integrated’ English as a Second Language (ESL) services, primarily through co-teaching models; (2) New requirements that set a district-wide (versus school-level) threshold for offering bilingual education in ELL home languages, including through dual immersion models; (3) Newly specific quotas on ELL professional development for all teachers, mainstream and specialist; (4) Additional district data reporting requirements by DLL subpopulations; and (5) Expanded requirements for family engagement, including extra parent-teacher conferences on ELL linguistic development, and more. As the new strategy rolled out in the 2015-2016 school year, the appointment, election, and increased visibility of linguistically-diverse, state-level leadership further pushed the momentum for serving ELLs. Recommendations for other states to take away from New York’s experience with ELL reforms include the following: (1) Develop and communicate an ELL vision at the state level; (2) Design policies that incorporate home languages as an asset; (3) Design policies that integrate language development and academic instruction across the board; (4) Build statewide systems to develop administrator and teacher competencies with ELLs, equipping them for success in meeting and exceeding regulatory expectations; and (5) Coordinate administrative action with institutions of higher education and the state legislature to ensure policies can be implemented optimally. Even as New York represents an example of strong, state-level policy innovation and leadership, the work is far from finished. Advocates and practitioners in the field have voiced concerns over the rapid scope of change to ELL program design and staffing.”

Castro, M., Expósito-Casas, E., López-Martín, E., Lizasoain, L., Navarro-Asencio, E., & Gaviria, J. L. (2015). Parental involvement on student academic achievement: A meta-analysis. Educational Research Review, 14, 33–46. Retrieved from

From the abstract: “This paper is a quantitative synthesis of research into parental involvement and academic achievement through a meta-analysis of 37 studies in kindergarten, primary and secondary schools carried out between 2000 and 2013. Effect size estimations were obtained by transforming Fisher’s correlation coefficient. An analysis has also been conducted of the heterogeneity of the magnitudes grouped according to different moderator variables, and a study of the publication bias affecting meta-analytical studies. The results show that the parental models most linked to high achievement are those focusing on general supervision of the children’s learning activities. The strongest associations are found when the families have high academic expectations for their children, develop and maintain communication with them about school activities, and help them to develop reading habits.”

Fredericks, L., Shtivelband, A., Espel, E., & Withington, A. (2015). Culture and language revitalization for Native American students: An annotated bibliography. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This annotated bibliography has been prepared to inform educators, tribal leaders, researchers, and policymakers about research-based efforts to identify promising practices related to reclaiming and revitalizing Native American language and culture at all stages of education, from early childhood to postsecondary education. The articles described in this bibliography provide examples of how some Native communities approach teaching languages and cultural traditions to their youth while simultaneously preparing students for life in the modern technological age. The 75 articles selected for review are categorized into eight topic areas related to Native American culture and language preservation: (1) Community College Partnerships; (2) Culture-Based Education and Culturally Responsive Teaching; (3) Early Childhood Education; (4) Family and Community Involvement/Engagement; (5) Language Revitalization and Immersion Efforts; (6) Mentoring and Peer Tutoring; (7) Policy Considerations; and (8) Teacher Preparation and Support.”

Good, M. E., Masewicz, S., & Vogel, L. (2010). Latino English language learners: Bridging achievement and cultural gaps between schools and families. Journal of Latinos and Education, 9(4), 321–339. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This qualitative study grounded in critical inquiry and cultural-ecological theory explores barriers to academic achievement for Latino English language learners (ELLs). Parents and teachers were purposefully selected from a rural school district in the Rocky Mountain region to participate in focus group interviews. Findings included barriers related to communication gaps; culture clashes; poorly articulated ELL plans; lack of teacher preparation in multiculturalism, language acquisition, and ELL instructional strategies; and a lack of support systems for families transitioning to a new environment and culture. Recommendations address systemic planning, professional development, ELL program articulation, parental involvement, and culturally responsive support for families.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Jesse, D., Northup, J., & Withington, A. (2015). Promising education interventions to improve the achievement of Native American students: An annotated bibliography. San Francisco, CA: WestEd. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “The purpose of this annotated bibliography is to identify interventions, and supporting research that may benefit educators in their efforts to close the American Indian/Alaska Native (AI/AN) achievement gap. It examines promising programs, policies, practices, and processes related to improving academic and nonacademic outcomes for AI/AN students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade. Collectively, the articles relate to a broad range of indigenous peoples, including American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, and Pacific Islanders. Studies touch on Indians living on reservations, students in Bureau of Indian Education schools, students in tribally controlled schools, and English language learners. The 32 articles are categorized as follows: (1) School Improvement; (2) Literacy, Mathematics, and Science; (3) Language and Culture; (4) Behavioral and Social-Emotional Interventions; and (5) Parent, Family, and Community Involvement.”

Jensen, K. L., & Minke, K. M. (2017). Engaging families at the secondary level: An underused resource for student success. School Community Journal, 27(2), 167–191. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Parent engagement in education has been shown to have positive effects on students’ academic and social/emotional success. However, much of the research has focused on younger students. Less attention has been given to parent engagement at the secondary level, especially with respect to how parents choose to engage and how adolescents perceive this engagement. This article reviews the literature on parent engagement at the secondary level, focusing on its importance to academic achievement, high school completion rates, and social-emotional functioning. Factors influencing parents’ decisions to become engaged are discussed, including parental self-efficacy, role construction, and specific invitations from the child. Parent engagement remains important at the secondary level, though parent behaviors appear to change to match the developmental needs of students. Implications for practice and future research are discussed.”

Jeynes, W. H. (2017). A meta-analysis: The relationship between parental involvement and Latino student outcomes. Education and Urban Society, 49(1), 4–28. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This meta-analysis of 28 studies examines the relationship between parental involvement and the academic achievement and school behavior of Latino pre-kindergarten-college-age children. Analyses determined the effect sizes for parental involvement overall and specific categories of involvement. Results indicate a significant relationship between parental involvement and academic achievement and overall outcomes, but not for school behavior. This relationship between involvement and academics existed both for younger (grades K-5) and older (secondary school and college freshman) students, as well as for certain specific components of parental involvement. Parental involvement, as a whole, was associated with better school outcomes by 0.52 of a standard deviation unit. The significance of these results is discussed.”

Park, S., & Holloway, S. D. (2013). No parent left behind: Predicting parental involvement in adolescents’ education within a sociodemographically diverse population. The Journal of Educational Research, 106(2), 105–119. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Numerous studies have investigated the utility of the Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (HDS) model for predicting parents’ involvement in students’ education. Yet, the model has yet to be thoroughly evaluated with respect to youth who are (a) in high school and (b) from sociodemographically diverse families. Using a nationally representative sample of 3,248 parents drawn from the 2007 National Household Educational Survey, the authors examined the relationship of high school outreach efforts, parent satisfaction with the school, and parental beliefs to 3 types of parent involvement. The analysis largely confirmed the power of the HDS model. Furthermore, the findings suggest that school outreach efforts are particularly important in promoting historically disenfranchised parents’ involvement in the schools, whereas enhancing parenting self-efficacy is crucial for supporting their engagement at home.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.

Redding, S., Murphy, M., & Sheley, P. (Eds.). (2011). Handbook on family and community engagement. Lincoln, IL: Academic Development Institute/Center on Innovation and Improvement. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This ‘Handbook’ offers a broad definition of family and community engagement, seen through the lens of scholars and practitioners with a wide-ranging set of perspectives on why and how families, communities, and schools collaborate with one another. Taken together, the chapters in this ‘Handbook’ sketch out the components of a theory of change for the family and community engagement field. What is family and community engagement ultimately in service of? What do families know and do differently when this work is successful? What educational policies and practices will help us realize these changes? ”

Toso, B. W., & Grinder, E. L. (2016). Parent engagement and leadership opportunities: The benefits for parents, children, and educators (Practitioner’s Guide# 6). University Park, PA: Goodling Institute for Research in Family Literacy. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “This guide discusses incorporating leadership training and opportunities into parent involvement and family literacy programs. By doing this, parents can have a meaningful voice in social and educational issues, and educators can have a better understanding of the benefits of working with and supporting parent as equal partners in schools and communities.”

Walker, J. M. T. (2016). Realizing the American dream: A parent education program designed to increase Latino family engagement in children’s education. Journal of Latinos and Education, 15(4), 344–357. Retrieved from

From the ERIC abstract: “Grounded in Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler’s parent involvement process model, the Realizing the American Dream (RAD) parent education program targets Latino parents’ involvement beliefs and knowledge to enhance their involvement behaviors. Comparison of more than 2,000 parents’ self-reported beliefs, knowledge, and behavior before and after RAD revealed large effect sizes for knowledge, moderate gains in involvement behaviors, and modest changes in beliefs. Postprogram behaviors were predicted by postprogram knowledge and beliefs, prior behaviors and beliefs, and family income. Observational data from 3 sites showed that RAD was implemented with fidelity. Implications for school practice and promoting Latino parent engagement are discussed.”

Note: REL Midwest was unable to locate a link to the full-text version of this resource. Although REL Midwest tries to provide publicly available resources whenever possible, it was determined that this resource may be of interest to you. It may be found through university or public library systems.


Keywords and Search Strings

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

  • “English (second language)” “literacy education”

  • “family involvement” “literacy education” “secondary education”

  • “family literacy”

  • “family literacy” “English (second language)”

  • “family literacy” “middle school”

  • “parent engagement” “literacy development” “middle school”

  • “parent school relationship”

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 2004 to present, were included 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 Midwest) 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.