Family and Community Engagement (Preview)

Part 1: Intro & Objectives

Children spend 70% of their waking hours outside of schools, so it’s important for new teachers (and experienced teachers) to understand how to pull those out-of-school resources into the classroom.

Mentors can help new teachers engage families and communities within and beyond their classrooms. This can be as simple as helping the new teacher understand the school’s established partnership system or it can be a more complex process of trying to get a new partnership up and running. Either way, mentors can help new teachers understand more about the families and communities their school serves.


  • Understand various types of parent involvement
  • Understand the value of family involvement among culturally diverse students in school
  • Recognize the perceived challenges to parental involvement and communication

Part 2: Real World Case

New teachers often know that family involvement is important. But they may not know the school and community contexts well enough to know how to involve families. The teacher in this video struggles with this very issue.

Before you watch the video, consider:

  • How do you think family involvement impacts students’ school performance?
  • What questions should a new teacher ask herself as they relate to parent involvement?
  • What do you believe are potential barriers to parental involvement?

After you have watched the video, consider:

  • What resources did Gwen identify with Dana?
  • In what ways could Gwen have helped Dana come up with some solutions herself?
  • How might Dana continue to explore her students’ family backgrounds throughout the year?
  • What knowledge might Dana glean from this project and how might she be able to use that knowledge in future lessons?
  • What barriers and opportunities might Gwen and Dana encounter? In what ways are these similar or different from your situation?

Gwen, the mentor teacher, and Dana, a new teacher, discuss how to get families involved in a “Getting to Know You” project. Dana is struggling to get families to respond to her invitation. Gwen shares some ideas for resources that are available at the school. She also suggests some ways to involve families who might not be able to come to the school during the day.

Part 3: Building Knowledge

Due to copyright law, several readings cannot be hosted on this site. However, we encourage you to ask for assistance locating materials from your library media specialist. Many library services are freely available to educators.

They’re Never Too Old: Family Involvement in Middle and High School

This research brief synthesizes research on how family involvement contributes to middle and high school students’ learning and development. It examines the processes of parenting, home-school relationships, and responsibility for learning outcomes which are critical for academic and social development.

Caspe, M., Kennedy, S., Krieder, H. & Weiss, H. (2007). Family involvement in middle and high school children’s education. Harvard Family Research Project. Family Involvement Makes A Difference Brief No. 3. Retrieved from

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Starting Early: Family Involvement in Early Ed

This research brief summarizes research on how family involvement contributes to young children’s learning and development.

Caspe, M., Lopez, E., & Weiss, H. (2006). Family involvement in early childhood education . Harvard Family Research Project. Family Involvement Makes A Difference Brief No. 1. Retrieved from

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Middle Years: Family Involvement in Elementary Ed

This research brief summarizes research on how family involvement contributes to elementary school students’ learning and development.

Caspe, M., Lopez, E., & Wolos, C. (2006). Family involvement in elementary school children’s education. Harvard Family Research Project. Family Involvement Makes A Difference Brief No. 2. Retrieved from

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Latino Family Involvement in Schools

This study examines Latino parents’ perceptions of their participation in the education of their children, schools’ and teachers’ expectations of involvement, initiatives addressing parental involvement and Latino students’ perceptions of parents’ involvement in their education. The findings reveal that schools lack clear organizational goals and objectives on how to involve their Latino parents. After reading this, consider how your own school’s goals, policies, and programs might invite or ostricize different groups of families.

Zarate, M. E. (2007) Understanding Latino Parental Involvement in Education: Perceptions, Expectations, and Recommendations. Los Angeles, CA. Tomas Rivera Policy Institute. Available on line at

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Get the MOST Recent Research Here!

Check out the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships for the most recent research on family engagement in schools. This Center is directed by Joyce Epstein, one of our “experts”.

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Help for Latino Parents

If you have Latino families and children at your school, you might want to show them this website. It not only has ideas for teachers, but it also has information and resources for parents about how to help children as they develop bilingual and biliterate abilities. You might recognize this one because it was also referenced in the Diverse Learners lesson.

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Creating School Climate that Invites Involvement

Many of the issues related to family and community involvement require a school-wide or district-wide effort. This brief review highlights how schools and districts can partner with their families and communities to ensure that this rich resource is tapped. Enjoy tips from our resident expert, Joyce Epstein!

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Reading Help for Latino Kids

Sponsored by Scholastic Books, Lee y Serás is a literacy initiative to help families foster literacy in the home. This interactive website is great for families with little kids. Beautiful site! Great graphics!

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Parent Involvement Fact Sheet

This short, 4-page fact sheet, created by the Michigan Department of Education, summarizes research about the need for and benefits of parent/family involvement.

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It Takes a Village: Serving Culturally Diverse Students and Their Communities

This is a must-have, research-based guide for all schools serving culturally diverse elementary and middle grade students and their communities. It provides effective strategies for raising awareness of the strengths of all cultures and for engaging all families in their children’s education.

Epstein, J., Galindo, C., Greenfeld, M., Hutchins, D., & Sanders, M. (2012). Multicultural Partnerships: Involving all Families. Larchmont, NY: Eye on Education.

Note: Purchase required.

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School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action

This invaluable resource guides school leaders and district and state facilitators to plan, implement, and improve school-family-community partnership programs. It includes workshop PowerPoint and activities in English and Spanish.

Epstein, J., Galindo, C., Greenfeld, M., Hutchins, D., Jansorn, N., Martin, C., Salinas, K., Sanders, M., Sheldon, S., Simon, B., Thomas, B., Van Voorhis, F. & Williams, K. (2009). School, Family, and Community Partnerships: Your Handbook for Action. (3rd Edition). Thousand Oaks, California: Corwin Press.

Note: Purchase required.

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Joyce E. King, Ph.D.

Visit Expert’s Website

Joyce E. King, Ph.D., is a Sociologist of Education. She has studied how teachers can more effectively serve students from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. An expert in this area, Dr. King has published many articles and books on culture, curriculum and teaching, as well as race and education.

Joyce King shares examples of community resources that teachers can connect to and learn from. She also highlights ways parents and community can have equitable relationships with teachers and classrooms.

Joyce Epstein, Ph.D.

Visit Expert’s Website

Joyce Epstein, Ph.D., is Director of the Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships and the National Network of Partnership Schools (NNPS), Principal Research Scientist, and Research Professor of Sociology at Johns Hopkins University. Her book, entitled Promising Partnership Practices and website provide guidance on how schools can engage families in ways that directly link to school improvement plans.

Joyce Epstein explains what an exemplary model for family engagement in schools looks like and how mentors can support beginning teachers with addressing family and community involvement. Next, Joyce offers a variety of ways to engage families for school improvement and she shares advice to beginning teachers for building relationships with their families. Stay tuned as Joyce emphasizes the impact of family and community involvement on student achievement and ways to overcome challenges that may arise.

Baltimore City Schools presents several cases of family-school partnerships in this report. Choose one or two schools to read about and discuss what is working and what you would change to strengthen partnerships.
See resource here: Report

Activity 1

What types of partnership do you have?

Joyce Epstein of Johns Hopkins University suggests that the first step to improving partnerships between families and schools is to evaluate them. Answer these questions to begin to see what you can do to make your school’s partnerships with families more effective.

  • Which partnership practices are currently working well at each grade level?
  • Which partnership practices should be improved or added in each grade?
  • How do you want your school’s family involvement practices to look three years from now?
  • Which present practices should change and which should continue?
  • Which families are you reaching and which are hard to reach?
  • What can be better done to communicate with the latter?
  • What costs are associated with the improvements you want?
  • How will you evaluate the results of your efforts?
  • What opportunities will you arrange for teachers, parents, and students to share information on successful practices in order to strengthen their own efforts?

(adapted from

Activity 2

With a new teacher (one whom you are mentoring or a group of new teachers), list the ways that you currently encourage parent involvement. Ask the teachers to write/discuss the impact these activities have on students’ academic or social behavior. As the group to consider more ways to involve and partner with families.

Part 4: Review & Reflect

Now that you have completed the lesson, consider:

  • How do you reach all students and engage families in your everyday class instruction and interactions?
  • What resources does your school and/or district offer to engage families?
  • How can you guide a new teacher to access these resources?
  • What questions can you ask and what kinds of data can you collect that would help a new teacher understand whether/how he/she is effectively engaging family and community input into his/her class?


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