Children move between two influential environments that build attitudes and readiness for learning: the home and the school. Family involvement research clearly demonstrates that children thrive academically when the family and the school agree that they are stronger together than apart. Schools and homes that share philosophies, resources, goals, information, and the hard work of teaching give children the stability, consistency, and encouragement they need for academic success.
Family involvement has proven to work regardless of the educational context, the age of the child, or the family's situation and experiences. From preschool to high school, family involvement accelerates learning, although it takes on different forms. Organizations with strong ties to urban America believe that family involvement can help low income and minority children transcend the educational barriers. Major initiatives such as Head Start, Even Start, and the Comprehensive School Reform Demonstration program require family involvement as a core element, as crucial to academic success as an effective curriculum.
Several family involvement strategies have directly resulted in lower absenteeism, more positive attitudes about school, and improved homework completion. These strategies include stimulating literacy and learning activities at home, communicating high expectations to children about their academic success, and supervising homework. These and many other family involvement strategies ensure that specific tasks are completed while reinforcing relationships between school staff members and families.
As in any relationship, family-school partnerships depend on the willingness and readiness of each partner to collaborate. However, in this "equal" partnership, the responsibility lies more heavily with schools to build the tone and the context within which productive home/school interactions can occur. Schools must meet families more than half way with philosophies and policies that acknowledge the power of family involvement, activities that systematically infuse parents' perspectives and skills into school life, and ongoing evaluation to assess and improve the family program. Two primary roles of the school include giving parents access to information and skills to support their children's education, and recognizing the rights of parents -- and their fundamental competence -- to share in decision-making.
The following five principles of effective family-school partnerships were drawn from research, expert recommendations, and the reflections of school practitioners.