Designing a Family Partnership Plan helps teachers to explore the assets that families bring to the table and the qualities of ideal partnerships. Learning about what it takes to develop effective partnerships will provide you with the support you need to create your own partnership plan. Strong partnerships with students' families can help teachers to optimize student achievement. This strategy will help you to assess your level of family-school partnership and provide you with the opportunity to focus on asset-based narratives as you explore critical considerations when engaging with families. Recognizing that parent involvement is a key factor in student success and considering the perspectives of your students' families about their involvement will make you a more effective partner.
Identify what version of family-school partnership exists at your school using the Four Versions of Family-School Partnerships resource (Fortress, Come-if-We-Call, Open-Door or Partnership), and the component of a partnership school that you'd like to focus on. It would be ideal to do this with a grade/department colleague.
When you send your beginning of the year newsletter to families (or update and share your personal web page), share a family questionnaire with your students' families, and be sure to reflect on what they share. Consult this Parent School Partnership survey to learn more.
Collect contact information for your students' families and set up listening conferences with families to learn what they'd like you to know about their child, what their hopes for their child for the upcoming school year, and how they'd like to be involved in the learning that will take place in your class. If you are a middle or high school teacher and the number of students makes it challenging to have individual listening conferences, invite your grade level colleagues to share the responsibility with you, or brainstorm another way to gather this information (i.e. shared Google Docs).
A Parent-School Partnership Survey gives teachers the opportunity to gather family opinions on how well their child(ren)'s school has met their family's and child(ren)'s needs and how they feel about their involvement and/or the involvement of other parents at the school. Access a Parent-School partnerships survey in the resource section below.
Taking family feedback into consideration, develop a schedule and mutually beneficial ways to check-in with families regularly about their students and the learning take place in your class outside of progress report and report card conferences and curriculum nights.
Plan ways to regularly invite families to contribute to the learning taking place in your class throughout the year, both virtually and in-person (i.e. to read to/share with students, be a guest speaker, share expertise). These opportunities should venture beyond inviting family members to serve as chaperones on field trips.
The parent questionnaires linked below provides an opportunity to gain insight to areas of student strength/challenge, family routines, and ways for parents to share their skills with students, such as this questionnaire from Boston Public Schools. They also sends the message that family input is welcomed and valued. The questions can be posed to students of all ages and can be asked orally to the student during the 1:1 conference or filled out by the students during a quiet work period. Like the parent questionnaire, there is a message that input from the learner is essential to the teacher and that his/her ideas and perspectives are valued. It also gives the teacher pertinent insight into how the student perceives him/herself as a learner and individual.
Home visits can provide you with additional opportunities to connect with families. Conducting home visits can help to address challenges with work schedules, childcare availability, and transportation that may prevent family members from participating in school events. If conducting home visits is not currently a part of your school's practice, consider connecting virtually with families through platforms like FaceTime, Skype, Google Hangout, Zoom, and/or choosing a few families to visit either at their homes, or at a mutually agreeable location in the community (i.e., library or community center) to get started.
Many school leaders recognize that parents have a positive impact on the school and student learning, but they are not sure how to meaningfully partner with their families. Despite best intentions, schools struggle to overcome barriers to family engagement, especially for traditionally marginalized communities. Teaching for Change developed the Tellin' Stories approach to engage families and staff using the power of story to connect people from diverse backgrounds, to pass on valuable information and experiences, and to organize collective action. The most gratifying aspect of Teaching for Change's work is that parents, educators, community members, and partner organizations are redefining the vision of school communities by helping those who are traditionally excluded from the decision-making process become a central part of it. Although this resource was designed to help schools connect with families of color, lower income families, and families from other marginalized communities, this approach can be effective with all families.
The recognition and empowerment of parents as decision-makers is an effective way to partner with families in support of student learning. The resource linked below will teach you how to form Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTTs), and support you as you create teams where parents are valued as engaged, knowledgeable members of the academic team. It also equips teachers to reach out to parents to collaboratively build and improve your partnership plan as well as help to inform the teaching and learning in your classroom.
To get started, consider surveying the family members of your students to see who might be interested in collaborating with you in support of the teaching and learning in your classroom, and find ways to consistently and authentically engage that group of family members. Once you form an effective team in your classroom, your team can become a model for the school to emulate. The resource linked below equips teachers to reach out to parents to collaboratively build and improve your partnership plan as well as help to inform the teaching and learning in your classroom.
For students whose parents are not fluent in English, teachers and/or schools should do their best to provide the following resources:
Contact information for bilingual staff to whom families can reach out when they have a question for the teacher or school.
A spoken translation service for teachers to use for parent phone calls and conferences.
If your school does not provide a translation service, consider using a tech tool like Google Translate to send text messages or emails to parents in their preferred language.
Alternatively, consider asking a bilingual colleague or friend to help you facilitate a phone call or meeting.
A written translation service for teachers to translate parent materials (i.e. syllabi, permission slips, notices about upcoming deadlines) into languages spoken by families
If your school does not provide a translation service, consider using a tech tool like Google Translate to send documents to parents in their preferred language.
Family-level "bilingual buddies" who can help non-English-speaking parents navigate instructional materials. Bilingual parents can be given the opportunity at the start of the year to volunteer to support parents who don't speak English.
What are ways that your students' families can contribute to the learning in your classroom this year?
Bloomz is a tool that teachers and schools can use to keep families informed about what's happening in the classroom and at the school (i.e., celebrations, projects, field trips, assessments, deadlines). It helps support this strategy by providing teachers with a way to sustain the family partnership.
Remind is a tool that teachers and schools can use to keep families informed about what's happening in the classroom and at the school (i.e., celebrations, projects, field trips, assessments, deadlines). It helps support this strategy by providing teachers with a way to sustain the family partnership.
Building relationships with parents is an essential part of education. Parents can provide important information to help you understand children. They can also work with you to reinforce learning from school in the home. When teachers and families work together, children learn more and enjoy school. Teachers who engage parents in their classes can better meet the needs of their children. When parents come from other cultures, and do not speak your language, building relationships can be challenging. The good news is that there are many ways to overcome challenges, and working with parents can bring special opportunities and rewards to your classroom. Consult the resources below to learn more about how to build a parent-friendly school, building solid parent-teacher relationships, how to involve parents, and how to communicate across language and culture
Parent Friendly Schools: Starting the Conversation published by the Iowa Parent Information Resource Center
Critical Practices for Anti-Bias Education: Family and Community Engagement | Teaching Tolerance (pgs. 14-17)
Parent Involvement: Nine Truths You Must Know Now published by the Parent Institute
Communicating Across Language and Culture published by Family Connections
Let's Show What Happens When Parents and Teachers Work as a Team published by Education Post
3 Ways to Improve Parent–Teacher Communication published by ASCD