What Is Family Engagement?

It is widely acknowledged that learning begins at birth and takes place in the home, school, and community. Meaningful family engagement is based on the premise that parents, educators, and community members share responsibility for the academic, physical, social, emotional, and behavioral development of youth. Family engagement is fostered through a deliberate process that is embraced throughout the school. It empowers adults to jointly support student growth, addresses any barriers to learning, and ensures college and career readiness. Foremost, effective family engagement systems, policies and practices are mindful of diverse school-communities that are rich in language, culture, and school experiences. They are responsive to student and family needs.

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Why Do We Engage Families?

The Illinois State Board of Education works to ensure that every student is prepared to succeed in careers and postsecondary education.  Likewise, parents and communities also share the same desires for their children.  When families, schools and communities partner in promoting learning and healthy development for all children, schools thrive and student outcomes increase.  Research indicates that when parents are engaged with their children’s education, whether in school or at home, students do better academically.  Regardless of socio-economic background, students with involved parents are more likely to earn high grades and test scores, enroll in higher level programs, attend school regularly, show improved behavior, and develop better social skills (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).

Where Do Partnerships with Families Happen?

Integrating family engagement efforts with learning and healthy development is important to achieving positive student outcomes. Multiple opportunities exist for districts and schools to partner with families which include but are not limited to:

  • promoting academic, physical, social, emotional, behavioral development and a positive school climate;
  • engaging and re-engaging learners; and
  • addressing barriers to learning.

Family engagement efforts are integrated and/or supported by the 8 Essential Elements for Effective Education. The elements provide a framework for building successful school systems and implementing a continuous school improvement process. The 8 Essential Elements adopted by ISBE’s Statewide System of Support include: Comprehensive Planning, Curriculum, Instruction, Assessment, Leadership, Conditions for Learning, Professional Development, and Family and Community. Families are engaged in activities related to:

  • At-home learning opportunities
  • Promoting family assets
  • State, district, school, and classroom level opportunities
  • Individual educational programming

How to Engage Families

Families are engaged by developing family engagement systems, building welcoming and supportive environments, enhancing communication with parents, and including parents1 in decision making.  Effective family engagement efforts occur on an ongoing basis and are embedded in school policies and practices.

Districts and schools partner with families by developing family engagement systems, building welcoming and supportive environments, enhancing communication and including parents in decision making.  The ways families are engaged occur on a regular basis and are seen across the 8 Essential Elements of effective education.  When families, communities, and schools partner to build educational and support systems for children, those systems are stronger and more effective.

1 The term “parent” includes, in addition to a natural parent, a legal guardian or other person standing in loco parentis (such as a grandparent or step parent  with whom the child lives, or a person who is legally responsible for the child’s welfare).  [Section 9101(31), ESEA.]

Reference

Henderson, A. T., & Mapp, K. L. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools.

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