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NEA shares strategies for developing family-school-community partnerships

New guide offers success stories and strategies for engaging parents and community

WASHINGTON - November 15, 2011 -

Backed by research that shows parent, family and community involvement in education correlates with higher academic performance and school improvement, the National Education Association (NEA) was joined by Parenting magazine today for the release of “Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0.” Released on Parents Day during the 90th anniversary of American Education Week (AEW), the guide aims to help educators develop more effective partnerships with the most important people in their students’ lives.

Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0.” is a publication from NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign (PSC), the organization’s effort in 17 states to help transform 39 low performing schools.

While there is general agreement that traditional models for involving parents and community members in schools are outdated and don’t reflect the realities of busy families in a tough economy, little guidance has been provided to educators about how to develop more effective partnerships—until now. 

“Educators say that engaging families is their number one challenge and that it is the part of their job for which they feel the least prepared,” said NEA Vice President Lily Eskelsen during the virtual pen and pad to unveil the guide. “NEA is working hard to raise awareness about the important roles that parents, families and communities can play in raising student performance. This guide builds upon NEA’s long advocacy for policies and practices that encourage and enable parents, families and communities to become actively engaged in public schools. And I’m proud to say that we’ll be continuing to collect, disseminate and elevate examples of family, school and community engagement because these examples offer learning opportunities for us all.”  
Parenting Executive Editor Stephanie Wood participated in the call to reinforce the emphasis that Parenting magazine and its Mom Congress on Education and Learning program will place on the importance of strong parent-teacher relationships.  “It’s crucial for both parents and teachers to feel supported in their efforts to help children get the most out of their education,” said Wood.  “The NEA guide provides some wonderful strategies to foster better communication between families, schools and community leaders, in order to give each the tools they need to help kids succeed.”

The Parent-Teacher Home Visit Project (PTHVP) in Sacramento, Calif. is one of 16 successful partnerships highlighted in Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0.” Designed to address the chronic low performance of schools and a pervasive cycle of blame between school staff and community members, PTHVP trains teachers to make home visits to families, which build relationships and foster parent-teacher collaboration to improve student achievement. Evaluations of the program have found that home visits lead to increased student attendance, improved test scores, and reduced suspension and expulsion rates.

“There are other ‘home visits’ but those are usually based on a model where an assessment is being made or a problematic behavior is being addressed,” said Nancy Fong, teacher at Earl Warren Elementary School and a member of the Sacramento City Teachers Association. “But PTHVP visits all students and families because we believe only targeting challenging students perpetuates the cycle of mistrust—the very issue we’re trying to address.”

Among the takeaways for educators and parents from PTHVP and other success stories highlighted in the guide:

  • Build collaborations with community partners - Effective efforts pull in strategic partners and develop community buy-in to help improve student learning and other outcomes.  Sacramento ACT, a faith-based community organizing group, learned through a series of conversations with local families and community members that families felt unwelcome and disconnected from their children’s schools. So ACT approached the school district and the Sacramento City Teachers Association and convinced both to become partners in planning and implementing PTHVP.
  • Use data to set priorities and focus strategies - PTHVP helps to establish positive communication which breaks down barriers and helps parents feel comfortable and confident in providing insight on habits, strengths and special talents. This communication is important to maximizing student academic success—it helps teachers adapt lesson plans accordingly.

  • Agree on core values –The PTHVP model is based on the premise that the family is the expert on the child, the teacher is the expert on the curriculum, but both can learn from the other. Both sides agree that families and educators are equally important co-educators.

The NEA Foundation has supported expansion of PTHVP to other communities and NEA expects to bring the successful model to additional PSC sites in the coming weeks.

“Parents, families, educators and communities—there’s no better partnership to ensure that all students have the support and resources they need to succeed in school and in life,” Eskelsen said.

“Family-School-Community Partnerships 2.0” Collaborative Strategies to Advance Student Learning,” was released on Parents Day during the 90th anniversary of American Education Week (AEW).
For more information on Parents Day and AEW, click here.
To view the full guide, click here.

For more information on NEA’s Priority Schools Campaign, click here.
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The National Education Association is the nation’s largest professional organization, representing 3.2 million elementary and secondary teachers, higher education faculty, education support professionals, school administrators, retired educators and students preparing to become teachers.

About The Parenting Group
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CONTACT: Cynthia Kain  (202) 822-7823,