Family-School Partnerships: 9 Beliefs and Attitudes for Success
By Abner Oakes
ISA's National Director of Outreach and Engagement
Just as beliefs, attitudes, and context significantly impact students’ educational experience, they also have a tremendous impact on the relationship among home, school, and community. Successful collaborative relationships with families are based on a number of beliefs about families and the perceived benefits of family-school relationships. Beliefs associated with positive family-school partnerships include:1
- Family-school relationships should be focused on student progress and success. The reason for educators and families to cooperate, coordinate, and collaborate is to enhance learning opportunities, educational progress, and school success for students. Therefore, family-school interactions focus on what each partner can do to improve the development and learning of children and youth.
- Families are equal partners in attaining educational goals for students. Educators view families and creating family-school relationships as essential for children’s optimal academic, social, and emotional learning.
- Both in- and out-of-school times are recognized as influencing students’ school performance. When student concerns are described, the reciprocal influence between family and school contexts is considered. Decisions made at school affect home, and vice versa.
- Sharing information about child behavior across settings is valued. Each partner recognizes that he or she sees the child primarily in one setting and understands how the child is reacting in the other setting. Differences in child observations are expected (e.g., the child does not behave the same way in home situations) and are valuable for assessment and intervention planning.
- Collaboration has a positive impact on student learning. Educators believe that home and school can accomplish more than either home or school can accomplish alone. They also believe in equality (the willingness to listen to, respect, and learn from one another) and parity (the blending of knowledge, skills, and ideas to enhance positive outcomes for children)2.
- Families should be active partners in decision making. Educators believe in the value of making decisions with parents. They avoid such practices as making decisions in separate meetings prior to meeting with parents. Educators recognize parents’ expertise and seek input from them on a regular basis. Educators believe in including parents when addressing concerns about student learning.
- Problems are solved mutually and without blaming each other. When students are experiencing school difficulties, school personnel and parents understand that two-way communication is necessary. Families and school personnel realize that they see the children’s behavior in their respective settings and, therefore, withhold judgment until both sides have had an opportunity to provide input. Blame is not attributed to only the family or only the school.
- Problem solving is based on a positive, strength-based orientation. Families and school personnel operate from a non-deficit model and they focus on strengths of individuals (educators, parents, student). School personnel view parents as resources for addressing educational concerns. Collaborative problem solving efforts help to foster optimism about what school personnel and families can accomplish by working together.
- Family-school relationships are cultivated and are sustained over time. Family- school relationships are an ongoing process. Families and educators work together within and across school years to address mutual concerns and provide mutual support for enhancing the learning progress of children and adolescents. Thus, educators realize that working as partners with parents this year will strengthen the partnership in subsequent years.
1Liontos, Lynn Balster. At-risk families & schools: Becoming partners. Eugene, OR: ERIC Clearinghouse on Educational Management, College of Education, University of Oregon, 1992.
2Welch & Sheridan, 1995. Educational partnership: Serving students at risk. Fort Worth, TX: Harcourt Brace