What is a family-school partnership supposed to look like?
Before we talk about “what” a family-school partnership looks like, we must understand “who” is involved. We must know the culture of our school, community, and families. There are many great resources available and studies with documented research to help educators develop effective family-school partnerships. Thanks to social media and Twitter, we can share best practices immediately.
The truth is, we shouldn’t jump to “what” we should be doing until we acknowledge and understand our school’s culture and the community’s culture. We understand the importance of knowing our students before teaching them. The same is true of families and our school community. We can’t expect to engage families and our school community until we “know” them.
Before defining what our school’s family-school partnership should look like, we must know the following about our families and community:
Faith-based Organizations: How many are there? Who are the leaders? What services do they provide to our students and families?
Address: Where do our students live? Who do they live with? Are there public housing developments in our community?
Daycare and Afterschool Providers: Where are students when they aren’t in school or at home?
Community Needs: What are the results of the most recent community needs assessment? (Contact the local United Way office for this information.)
Community Data: Review the most recent Census information for the community. What is the average age of our community? Highest educational attainment level? Number of persons below poverty level? Mean travel time to work? Link to Census Quick Facts by State and County/City
School History: When was our school founded? Did our school previously serve another population? Who were the previous leaders?
School Support Groups: Who are the leaders and members of each and every school support group? How have they served our school, students, and staff in the past?
Languages Spoken: What are the languages spoken by our families? Do we have access to translator(s)?
Mobility: How often do our families move? How often do we enroll new students during the school year? How often do our current students enroll in another school within our district?
Community Agencies: What community agencies exist? What are the services they provide to our students and families?
We can build effective relationships and partnerships with our families and school community when we first seek to understand and know them better.
There are several great resources for families and educators to determine “what” an effective family-school partnership should look like.
1. In Beyond the Bake Sale, four versions of partnerships are described within five domains: building relationships, linking to learning, addressing differences, supporting advocacy, and sharing power. The four levels of achievement provide a rubric for educators and families to assess their schools:
2. The National PTA details six standards (link here) for family-school partnerships:
Welcoming All Families
Supporting Student Success
Speaking Up for Every Child
Collaborating with Community
3. Project Appleseed also provides six similar themes (link here) in The Six Slices Framework: