Schools can no longer operate in isolation as they work to guarantee educational success for all students and contribute to the well-being of families and communities. Stakeholders from state education agencies, district offices, local school boards, schools, and the community are all responsible for working together so all children can succeed. This public investment in student learning is returned to the taxpayer multiple times through healthy, productive workers (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1998a; U.S. Department of Education, 1994). Recent changes to policies and programs in social services, health care, economic and youth development, and education present a new climate and new opportunities to develop school-community partnerships (Council of Chief State School Officers, 1998b).
Common problems hamper effective partnerships, such as: including workgroups that are too large or too small; selecting the "obvious" choices and the "usual suspects" for the team; selecting participants from top-down, rather than from the bottom-up; failure to clarify expected levels of participation; and "reinventing the wheel" rather than building on past successes (Blick, 1998).
There is guidance for stakeholders. Guidance comes in the forms of "lessons-learned," standards for involvement, etc. based on experiences and effective results (National PTA, 1997; U.S. Department of Education, 1996; Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, 1997; Dianda & McLaren, 1996). The most important policy that increases and retains the involvement of culturally diverse families is using staff who have the skills to outreach to families with diverse needs, making it easier for all parents to participate in partnerships, according to research (Inger, 1992; Cavarretta, 1998). Effective partnerships do not look the same, can be formed in all kinds of schools from preschool through high school, and have written policies at both the district and school level backed up with district support (Davies, 1996).
Blick, C. (1998, October). Students, parents and community members as partners in strategic school-community planning. Classroom Leadership (0n-line), 2(2). Retrieved October 13, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/classlead/9810/1oct98.html
Cavarretta, J. (1998, May). Parents are a school's best friend. Educational Leadership, 55(8) 12-15. Also available on-line (a brief abstract): http://www.ascd.org/readingroom/edlead/abstracts/may98.html
Council of Chief State School Officers. (1998a, Summer). State education agency support for school-community collaboration in the mid-Atlantic states. Issue Brief: Ensuring Student Success Through Collaboration (On-line). Retrieved October 13, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ccsso.org/collpub.html
Council of Chief State School Officers. (1998b, Summer). What every educator should know about the changing social policy landscape and efforts to ensure student success. Issue Brief: Ensuring Student Success Through Collaboration (On-line). Retrieved October 13, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://www.ccsso.org/collpub.html
Davies, D. (1996, February). Partnerships for students success. (Available from: Center on Families, Communities, Schools and Children's Learning, 3505 North Charles Street, Baltimore, MD, 21218).
Dianda, M., & McLaren, A. (1996, July). A pocket guide to building partnerships for student learning. Washington, DC: National Education Association (On-line). Retrieved October 13, 2000, from the World Wide Web: http://www.nea.org/partners/pocket.html
Inger, M. (1992). Increasing the school involvement of Hispanic parents. ERIC/CUE Digest #80 (On-line). Retrieved October 10, 2000 from the World Wide Web: http://npin.org/library/pre1998/n00313/n00313.html
National PTA. (1997). National standards for parent/family involvement programs. Chicago, IL: Author.
Partnership for Family Involvement in Education. (1997, December). A compact for learning: An action handbook for family-school-community partnerships. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education. Also available on-line: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/Compact/
U.S. Department of Education. (1996, August). Reaching all families: Creating family-friendly schools. Washington, D.C.: Author. Also available on-line: http://www.ed.gov/pubs/ReachFam/ispp.html
U.S. Department of Education. (1994, September). Strong families, strong schools. Washington, DC: Author.