What is one of the proven predictors of academic achievement? Studies show that a family’s engagement has a direct positive impact on a child’s learning success.
When families are engaged in their children’s school lives, students have the home support they need to develop a lifelong love of learning.
Encouraging family engagement is more than common courtesy. It’s one of the best strategies to create a positive learning environment for all students. Find out what family engagement is, how to nurture it, and how to create a community built on family-teacher relationships in your school.
What is Family Engagement?
Family engagement describes a situation in which families and teachers share the responsibility to help students reach their academic goals. It happens when families commit to making their child’s education a priority, and teachers commit to listening and collaborating with families.
Family engagement in school is different from family involvement, though both support student success. Involvement includes family participation in school events or activities, while teachers provide learning resources and information about their student’s grades. With involvement, teachers hold the primary responsibility to set educational goals. They relate to families and caregivers as an academic advisor for their child rather than their partner in learning.
Think of family involvement as the first step to family engagement. While teachers can offer advice, families and caregivers also have important information about their child that teachers may not know. A student’s learning experience is enriched when both bring their perspectives to the table. With family engagement, home and school come together as a team.
It is essential in family engagement to empower families and caregivers by providing them with ways to actively participate. Promote them as important voices in your school and remove barriers to engagement. You can encourage families to join your school’s family-teacher association or arrange virtual family-teacher meetings for families with transportation issues.
Family Engagement = Student Success
Children with families engaged in their education are more likely to:
- Earn higher grades and test scores
- Graduate from high school and attend post-secondary education
- Develop self-confidence and motivation in the classroom
- Have better social skills and classroom behavior
They are also less likely to:
- Suffer from low self-esteem
- Require redirection in the classroom
- Develop behavioral issues
Researchers found strong connections between family involvement/engagement and student academic achievement across fifty different studies. The earlier educators establish family engagement, the more effective they are in raising student performance. Family partnerships formed during elementary school years build a strong foundation for future student success and continued engagement. When students receive more support, classrooms with engaged families perform better as a whole.
Families encounter different obstacles that get in the way of being involved in school. Scheduling and transportation issues make volunteering or attending teacher conferences tough. Families may feel uncomfortable with staff that show a lack of cultural awareness. If a positive family-teacher relationship is not established early in the year, families may not feel welcome at school.
How to Increase Family Engagement
Luckily, it’s never too late to build the foundations for family-teacher communication. The sooner you do, the better equipped your students will be to reach their academic potential.
Try these family engagement strategies to transform involvement into family partnerships:
- Give families and caregivers your contact information and get to know them early in the school year. When they have questions, they’ll be comfortable reaching out.
- Provide opportunities for families to connect with school. Volunteer shifts, class activities, or family-teacher committees are all great engagement opportunities.
- Share your classroom goals and expectations with families, and ask to hear theirs.
- Connect with families in person or in regular virtual meetings. Use emails and messages to keep families up-to-date on upcoming class events.
- Address barriers to family engagement, such as scheduling conflicts or feeling excluded at school.
1. American Psychological Association. “Parent Engagement in Schools.” https://www.apa.org/pi/lgbt/programs/safe-supportive/parental-engagement/default.aspx
2. Grand Rapids Public School District. “What Is Parental Engagement?” https://www.grps.org/parents/parental-engagement.
3. Wairimu, M.J., Macharia, S.M., Muiru, A. “Analysis of Parental Involvement and Self-Esteem on Secondary School Students in Kieni West Sub-County, Nyeri County, Kenya.” Journal of Education and Practice, November 2016, 7, 82-98.
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7. Henderson, A., & Berla, N. “A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement.” Washington, DC: Center for Law and Education, 1995, 14-16.
8. Learning for Justice Staff. “Family and Community Engagement.” https://www.learningforjustice.org/magazine/publications/critical-practices-for-antibias-education/family-and-community-engagement.