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Family, school, community engagement, and partnerships: Theory & Practice



How can colleges and schools support the inclusion of family, school and community engagement curricula in teacher and administrator preparation programs? The contributions in this book try to answer this question, with contributors describing their experiences, their programs, and their support for the goal of enhancing parental involvement and engagement in Schools and Colleges of Education. The authors and researchers, such as Joyce Epstein, who is the foremost researcher on the topic, have the knowledge and expertise in family, school, and community engagement and partnerships from both theory and best practice perspectives. The book is designed to be interactive, and readers are encouraged to engage themselves in the conversation. Readers are invited to e-mail any of the editors to discuss the questions posed. This book was originally published as a special issue of Teaching Education.
Family, school, community engagement, and partnerships: an area
of continued inquiry and growth
Sarina C. Molina*
Department of Learning and Teaching, School of Leadership and Education Sciences,
University of San Diego, San Diego, CA, USA
(Received 1 August 2013; nal version received 1 November 2013)
This article responds to the theme issue by providing a glimpse of the historical
and contemporary efforts in the area of developing school, family, and commu-
nity partnerships, a long-standing area of need and inquiry in the literature. It
reports on the collective learning from these articles where implications of the
ndings pointed to the importance of elevating the importance of these partner-
ships. Implementation ideas of strong family, school, and community partnerships
are considered along with areas that require continued attention including, but not
limited to providing professional development learning opportunities, inviting
voices from all stakeholders involved, shifting the paradigm of family and
community involvement from a decit model to a resource-rich model, and
promoting a more free owing sharing of research-based practices between the
research community and those who are in the frontlines of these partnerships.
Keywords: family; school; community partnerships; family involvement; com-
munity involvement
Developing sustained and comprehensive relationships with schools, families, and
the community is a long-standing area of need and inquiry for schools and research-
ers alike. There is no curriculum guide that provides a step-by-step approach to
developing powerful connections between schools, families, and communities that
would be applicable in all contexts and surmount the incredible complexity and
unique nature of these settings. These relationships take time, vigilance, a deep
understanding, and a desire to bring together the schools, the families, and commu-
nities together to identify needs, and most importantly, the abundance of hard and
soft resources to support the one unifying mission for all that is, supporting the
aspirations of our children. Such powerful partnerships can support them not only
academically, but also socially and emotionally (Henderson & Mapp, 2002).
The articles selected for this journal provide us with additional layers of these
efforts in local, state, international, and online contexts. Within each of these layers,
there are a multitude of stakeholders that play an important role in the lives of these
children. Part of the success of these partnerships is identifying stakeholders and hav-
ing sustained conversations where their voices and concerns are heard and addressed.
Other areas include supporting leadership initiatives from these different constituents
Teaching Education, 2013
Vol. 24, No. 2, 235238,
Ó2013 Taylor & Francis
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so that these voices can be heard and their negotiations can be more bidirectional in
understanding and inuencing school decisions that affect their children. Most
importantly, it is ongoing collaborative learning opportunities that need to be integrated
into the professional development of teachers, staff, parent groups, families, and
community members on the integral nature of education where assumptions and beliefs
of self- and other are analyzed, confronted, and re-evaluated on an ongoing basis.
Understanding the signicant role that families and communities play in the
success of their children in schools is of paramount importance and begins with
pre-service teacher education and continues through professional development
within the schools, and beyond through collaborative efforts with families and
communities. Pre-service teachers can benet from opportunities to participate in
parentteacher conferences or school-wide events with experienced, veteran
teachers, staff, and administrators who have had success in involving families and
communities in their classrooms and schools.
The articles in this issue explore possibilities for infusing a deeper understanding
of family and community involvement through teacher education coursework and
eldwork experiences, recognize the necessity of a paradigm shift for teachers from a
decit model to a value-based model in order for these partnerships to work, call to
action for stakeholders at all levels not to only talk about the importance of these
partnerships, but to put resources behind these initiatives, and encourage further
research on effective partnerships that demonstrate a link with student learning to be
disseminated to teachers on the forefront of these partnership opportunities.
Teacher preparation
Miller, in her article Preparing educators to partner with families, identies the
need for deeper infusion of topics related to family and school involvement in
coursework and across disciplines. This can be done through reviewing research
and case studies on effective school, family, and community partnership initiatives
that are known to support student learning and specic strategies to obtain resources
to support these initiatives. The focus then should not be on what is successful and
effective, but the pulling together of processes and resources necessary for effective
partnerships. Teacher educators need to scaffold teacher candidate learning through
feedback and ongoing support even on online platforms as Nathans points out in
her analysis of online discussion responses of teacher candidates on Epsteins Six
Types of Parent Involvement. Teacher educators need to help pre-service teachers
bridge theory with practice and begin to see this knowledge from the perspective of
their future roles as teachers, rather than students completing a course. Mehlig and
Shumow, in their article How is my child doing?: Preparing preservice teachers to
engage parents through assessment, provide a compelling argument for situated
learning through role play as one example where pre-service teachers can develop a
context-based protocol for involving parents in understanding their childrens
progress, learning, and areas of strengths and needs through discussions about the
different forms of assessment and what they mean.
Criteria for eld placement can include schools with high levels of parent and
community participation in diverse contexts. Pre-service teachers can participate in
236 S.C. Molina
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small-scale action research projects involving an analysis of the parent and
community engagement levels of the schools in which they are placed, interviews
with families and community members to deepen their understanding of the context,
and look for ways in which to collaborate with their teachers and schools on
inviting and including voices from families and community members in the deci-
sion-making processes and functioning of the schools. Field experiences beyond the
schools to community organizations and homes could also support a deeper under-
standing of the context and needs and possible opportunities for engagement with
Paradigm shift
Michael Evans, in his article Educating preservice teachers for family, school, and
community engagement: a review of the literature, presents a compelling argument
and urgency surrounding the issues of school, family, and community partnerships
where he states, The next generation of teachers must be capable of preparing
increasingly diverse groups of students for a globalized world, while simultaneously
confronting vast social inequities in the classroom.It is critical for teachers through
their pre-service training and in-service professional development to challenge their
assumptions about their beliefs towards their studentsfamilies and the communities
in which they teach. This shift in perceptions of teachers from the decit model of
thinking to acknowledging the rich resources and funds of knowledge inherent within
these families and communities can only emerge when such critical self-reective
practice takes place through ongoing bidirectional dialogizing with the families and
communities about the education of their children (González, Moll, & Amanti, 2005;
Harvard Family Research Project 2002; Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzales, 1992) and
participation in safe spaces where all stakeholders can come together to hear each
othersvoices. Martinez and Ulanoff, in their article Latino parents and teachers:
key players building neighborhood capital, identied how having a strengths-based
lens can truly dispel the often misguided perceptions teachers may have of families
and communities in neighborhoods they serve and reveal the genuine interest that
families and communities have in the education of their children.
Call to action for all stakeholders
Hands, in her article, Including all families in education: school district-level
efforts to promote parent engagement in Ontario, Canada, notes the importance of
district level policies necessary to support family engagement in terms of training,
money, and time. These resources need to be ltered through pre-service teacher
education and through professional development within the schools including
administration and staff members. When parentsroles are expanded beyond that of
volunteers to valued members with a vested interest in their childrens education,
they can become strong advocates for their children and the schools and bridge dee-
per connections with the community. Swanke, Doktor, Shrestha, and Zeman in their
article describe an online parent community that involve parents with children with
autism and the powerful means in which parents communicated about how to sup-
port their children in schools. If teachers were considered team players and were
included in these conversations concerning their children, they would be more
aware of the needs and struggles of these children and would be able to partner
Teaching Education 237
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more effectively with the parents in providing an optimal educational experience for
their children. These spaces will provide opportunities for mutual learning, collabo-
rative problem-solving, and event planning with families and communities in which
they serve.
Strengthening research and dissemination of research
Lastly, if we are to convince our teachers of the value of schools, families, and
community partnerships, future research needs to forge more explicit connections
between family and community engagement with student learning. Teachers need to
be able to access this information and be provided guidance as to how to go about
implementing effective practices in family and community involvement in their
Though much progress has been made in assessing and addressing the needs in the
area of school, family, and community partnerships, it is clear that much work
remains to be done. From the compilation of articles selected for this special
themed journal, there appears to be a continued need for teachers to be provided
opportunities to think about their thinking and how this manifests into their work
and experiences. Teachers, staff members, administrators in schools, districts, and
states not only need to recognize the importance of these partnerships, but also put
resources behind initiatives that support the professional development and imple-
mentation of these practices. The paradigm of families and communities that
schools serve needs to shift from one that is focused on lack to one that is focused
on strength. Lastly, further research on best practices for creating and sustaining
these partnerships needs to be infused into coursework and professional develop-
ment with all stakeholders involved so that there is a more cogent relationship
between what is learned through research and how such research can be imple-
mented into the classroom.
González, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in
households, communities, and classrooms. New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associ-
Harvard Family Research Project. (2002). Concepts and models of family involvement.
Retrieved the world wide web on January 5, 2013, from
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: Southwest
Educational Development Lab.
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzales, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching:
Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31,
238 S.C. Molina
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... (2) viewpoints about law enforcement authority, offi cials, and judicial procedure; (3) law-abiding idea; (4) enactment of law; (5) opinions about criminals and committing a crime, and (6) relationship between law and nation, society, and individual. Reyes, Alexandrowicz, & Molina (2015) studied vocational high school students and classifi ed attitude toward law into: (1) basic concept about law; (2) evaluation of judicial offi cers and judicial procedure; (3) opinions about attitude toward law abiding; (4) eff ects of law on nation, society, and individual, and (5) opinions about committing a crime. ...
Full-text available
Community engagement professionals (CEPs) often must develop and maintain equitable, high-quality relationships with community partners while supporting student learning and civic development through cocurricular community engagement or for-credit community-based learning programs. Lack of alignment between campus goals and values and those of communities creates challenges for CEPs. Our community partners have expressed the feeling that students were not adequately prepared for community engagement and that it is the university's job to prepare them. To support partnerships in inclusive and equitable ways, CEPs need to be skilled and comfortable with some critical, complex topics before they can train students or provide professional development to instructors. This reflective essay examines specific strategies for CEPs doing this work, informed by the literature, feedback from community partners and social justice training professionals, and classroom experience. Topics addressed include social identity, systems of privilege and oppression, cultural humility, and institutional-community power dynamics.
Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms
  • N González
  • L Moll
  • C Amanti
González, N., Moll, L., & Amanti, C. (2005). Funds of knowledge: Theorizing practices in households, communities, and classrooms. New Jersey, NJ: Lawrence Erlbaum Associates.
Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice
  • L C Moll
  • C Amanti
  • D Neff
  • N Gonzales
Moll, L. C., Amanti, C., Neff, D., & Gonzales, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching: Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms. Theory into Practice, 31, 132-140.