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Why Does Family and Community Engagement Matter?

Research and Rationale

This section will highlight the research and rationale for why infusing family and community engagement into instructional practices is essential to school climate, academic achievement and community well-being.

Research over the past 30 years has shown that engaging families in their children's education increases student achievement and decreases dropout rates. Effective family engagement is not a one-time program or the choice of a good school, but rather a set of day-to-day practices, attitudes, beliefs and interactions that support learning at home, at school, after school and during the summer. To ensure that the students of today are ready for the careers of tomorrow, families, schools and community groups need to work together to promote engagement that is systemic, sustained and integrated into school improvement efforts.
- SEDL National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools

Family engagement is....

  • Not a one-time program
  • Not a choice of a good school
  • Not an add-on service
  • A shared responsibility
  • Reinforces learning that takes place in all settings

"The evidence is consistent, positive and convincing: families have a major influence on their children’s achievement. When schools, families and community groups work together to sup­port learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer and like school more." This statement summarizes the conclusions of A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement, the most recent comprehensive review of the research. Key findings include:

  • Students whose families are involved in their learning earn better grades, enroll in higher-level programs, have higher graduation rates and are more likely to enroll in post-secondary education.
  • When families take an active interest in what they’re learning, students display more posi­tive attitudes towards school and behave better both in and out of school.
  • Children do best if parents can play a variety of roles in their learning: helping at home, volunteering at school, planning their children’s future and taking part in key decisions about the school program.
  • Children from diverse cultural backgrounds tend to do better when families and school staff join forces to bridge the gap between home and school cultures.

Family Engagement at a Glance



Compliance based To focus on learning, improvement, accountability and innovation
From an individual parent’s or teacher’s “job” To shared responsibilities
From random acts To systemic approach from cradle to career
From events To results-driven
“Siloed” from instructional practice Comprehensive, with consistent interface with parents over the course of schooling years
From add-on services To purposeful connections to learning
“Random acts” and/or “add on” component Systemic and sustained
From limited data To transparent data systems
Support and funding found across Title I & III, 21st Century, Head Start/Even Start, Individuals with Disabilities Education (IDEA) Act programs Parents as decision makers and access to data

How does family and community engagement link to Iowa professional practice?

The Iowa Teaching Standards make it clear that a quality teacher in Iowa actively partners with parents in the education of their children with the following standards:

  • 1a  Provides evidence of student learning to students, families and staff.
  • 1g  Communicates with students, families, colleagues and communities effectively and accurately.
  • 4e  Connects students' prior knowledge, life experiences and interests in the instruction process. (Parents are a critical resource for this kind of background knowledge of their students.)
  • 5b  Communicates assessment criteria and standards to all students and parents.
  • 5e  Provides substantive, timely and constructive feedback to students and parents.
  • 8e  Collaborates with students, families, colleagues and communities to enhance student learning.
Additionally, the Iowa Standards for School Leaders also address the expectation that principals are proactive in the involvement of parents in the learning of their children:
  • 4  A principal is an education leader who promotes the success of all students by collaborating with families and community members, responding to diverse community interests and needs, and mobilizing community resources.
School districts also participate in a process to update their Comprehensive School Improvement Plan once every five years. One of the seven criteria is Collaborative Relationships. Districts need to provide evidence of the following:
  • Instructional staff follows established procedures to resolve professional conflicts, solve problems, share information about students and communicate student information to parents. 
  • Parents are involved as partners in the educational process. 
  • Positive alliances among school staff, students, parents and diverse community groups are created and nurtured.

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