Family Engagement in Education

Matt Weyer 9/24/2018


Girl on compterThe early years of a child's education have been deemed crucial for building family-school connections. Children whose parents and families are engaged in and hold high expectations of their education tend to earn better grades, have higher graduations rates, and are more likely to enroll in postsecondary education. Dr. Joyce Epstein has developed six subcomponents within the family-school connection: parenting and basic obligations, communication between home and school, in-school activities such as volunteering, helping the child learn at home, decision-making (i.e. serving on the parent-teacher association) and community collaboration. 

What the Research Says

There are several pertinent areas for research in the field of family engagement/parental involvement. Four areas will be highlighted: providing access to parents and families, comprehensive services and centers, two-generation strategies and oversight and accountability.

Providing Access to Parents and Families

Parents and families want transparent and effective access to school-related information and resources such as their children's curricula, grades, disciplinary action and supplemental programming. Research has demonstrated that parents with high levels of education and income are more able to access desired information from their children's school and teachers. To increase access and improve student outcomes of children whose parents have low levels of education and/or who live in poverty, specific policies could help. These include, but are not limited to: providing streamlined communication and visibility of school-related information and resources via communication and/or websites, hosting informational meetings and policies to match the language needs of diverse communities.

Home Visiting

When teachers and parents have effectivellines of communication and a trusting relationship, student achievement improves. Home visiting is a strong means to develop such relationships. At the school-level, home-visiting programs allow teachers to meet with a family in the family's home to discuss educational issues such as attendance, literacy and math achievement. An evaluation by Johns Hopkins University found that a family engagement partnership (FEP) utilized in DC public schools was linked to improved attendance (24% higher) and literacy achievement for students in the FEP program compared to those who were not. 

Comprehensive Services and Centers

These centers are considered a one-stop shop for the development and appropriation of services in order to increase family engagement and parental involvement with their children's education. Comprehensive services include but are not limited to: behavioral, educational, and mental health screenings for children, home visitation programs, coordination of community service programs to directly support families, family literacy programming, parenting education and much more. 

Two-Generation Strategies

To break the cycle of poverty and increase the educational attainment and social mobility of underserved groups, two-generation strategies (2Gen) provide services and supports to both parents and children. Examples of support include increasing quality of and access to early childhood care and education, maximizing opportunities for treatment of whole-family mental health and leveraging provisions from the Affordable Care Act. In a 2014 survey, researchers found that 89 percent of Americans favor 2Gen as a means to raise families out of poverty

Oversight and Accountability

This section refers to policies and practices that hold school leaders, teachers and parents accountable for the implementation and sustainability of engagement and involvement practices. Examples include plans for monitoring behavior improvement and discipline, attendance and homework and the requirement of the school to provide families and parents with information regarding community and school resources.  

2017-2018 Legislation Introduced

  • Georgia Senate Bill 30 (Failed): Provides for Sustainable Community School Operational Grants; provides for definitions; provides for planning and implementation grants; provides for applications for grants; requires the development of community school plans; provides for requirements for grant recipients; delineates the purposes for which grant funds may be used; provides for reports.
  • Hawaii House Bill 937 (Enacted): Appropriates funds for the executive office on early learning to enter into contracts with third-party providers for family-child interaction learning programs.
  • New York Assembly Bill 791 (Pending): Establishes family literacy programs for economically disadvantaged families living in poverty areas or areas with low-performing public schools, provides for competitive matching grants to establish a comprehensive program. 
  • Rhode Island Senate Bill 435 (Pending): Requires that the commissioner of elementary and secondary education develop a strategic plan for creating a community school initiative.
  • Wisconsin Senate Bill 282 (Failed): Relates to community school start-up grants; makes an appropriation.

2013-2018 Family Engagement Comprehensive Legislation (Introduced and Enacted)

Additional Resources

NCSL Reports and Resources

Other Resources