Strategies for Engaging Families in Schools

Research shows that the involvement of parents and guardians in schools has major implications for the success of students, but often there is a disconnect between school personnel and families that hinders their involvement.  In many cases, this problem stems from schools expecting families to engage on their terms in predetermined ways without offering much in return to the families. Culturally and linguistically diverse families often have the most trouble engaging in their children’s education; these families don’t feel welcomed or included by the schools their children attend.  Guadalupe Valdés writes about this phenomenon among Mexican-origin families in her book, Con Respeto: Bridging the Distances Between Culturally Diverse Families and Schools, and points out that Mexican-origin families tend to participate in their children’s education in ways that aren’t typically sanctioned by schools.  Efforts on the part of schools to engage culturally and linguistically diverse families often involve attempts to train families to adapt to the school’s culture and norms instead of working to recognize and encourage non-traditional forms of family involvement.

Fortunately, there are many things educators can do to encourage family involvement and create caring, supportive, and welcoming environments for all types of families.  The Build Out-of-School Time Network (BOSTnet) has created a detailed toolkit for engaging families in after-school programs that could easily be applied to a school setting.  Also, José Rosario at Purdue University has developed a resource guide, Engaging Latino Students in their Education, which includes valuable information about how school professionals can involve and connect with Latino families.

For more information and strategies on engaging families in schools check out the following resources:

Education World: Articles on Parental Involvement in Schools

Engaging Families to Improve Achievement: Advice from the Research

National Center for Families and Community Connections with Schools: What Schools Can do to Support Family Involvement

After looking through the resources provided, consider the following:

  1. Does staff at my school view increasing family involvement as the responsibility of the school or the responsibility of the families?  How does this perspective influence the amount of family involvement?
  2. Are some families more welcome than others at my school?  What can I do to make my school more welcoming towards all families?
  3. What strengths and abilities do the culturally and linguistically diverse families with students at my school have to offer?  What am I and others at my school doing to utilize these assets?

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