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.
Developing and designing a strong partnership with each student's family is critical in their engagement and achievement during distance learning.
To determine the needs, concerns, and questions of families when they are in a distance learning setting, send a survey or questionnaire (provide an online and a paper-based option) to the families to complete at the beginning of distance learning. A phone call can also be made to families who are unable to complete an online or paper-based survey or questionnaire. Surveys (or links to surveys) can be distributed via mail, email, text message, or phone call.
Consider using a Google Form or other online survey tool to distribute the survey. Google forms are easily accessible from multiple types of technology devices. The resource linked below, Getting Started With Google Forms, includes a tutorial for using this technology tool. A paper copy of the survey can also be mailed to families if requested.
The following questions are examples of what can be included in your survey. Make sure to include additional questions that are tailored to your students' and families' cultures and experiences:
How many hours per day is your child able to devote to distance learning sessions and/or activities?
Does your child have reliable access to a tablet, laptop, or computer?
Does your household have reliable internet access?
Would you prefer to receive distance learning materials through the mail?
What concerns do you have about your child's social or emotional well-being during distance learning?
What is the most convenient way to get a hold of office and school staff?
Do you feel like you are receiving the support you need from your child’s school in how to help with schoolwork? How could we better support you in learning about how to help with your child's schoolwork?
Do you feel like your child's school provides you with updates and information about your child's distance learning? How could we provide more information to you about your child's distance learning?
Is your child receiving appropriate support to help them to reach their IEP goals?
What are some improvements that you would most like to see your child's school make during distance learning?
How would you describe the amount of schoolwork assigned by your child’s school during remote learning?
Analyze the survey results to create a family partnership plan of action with the school staff or a team of teacher leaders from the campus.
Family partnership plans can be created for individual students, whole classes, or whole campuses based on the purpose of the family partnership plan and the needs of the students.
The resource linked below, Use Google Forms to Autofill Sheets With Data, includes information about how to transfer data from a Google Form into a Google Sheet.
Create a document that includes all aspects of the distance learning family partnership plan. An infographic or newsletter is a great visual way to consolidate information to share with families.
Share the family partnership plan with families electronically or via mail.
Follow up with the families (biweekly), using the same methods that the survey was shared with families, to ensure that the family partnership plan is being implemented to their expectations, and if the family partnership plan needs to be adjusted.
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.
Using Family Partnership Plans to build relationships, problem solve and identify supports for students and families is a foundational tool teachers can use to support all students with disabilities. In particular, it is a crucial tool in supporting students with emotional and behavioral impairments as they often disproportionately struggle in traditional classroom settings and they and their parents often struggle to build positive relationships with educators. In order to effectively use Family Partnership Plan to support all students with disabilities, consider the following modifications:
Teacher knowledge and acknowledgement of students disabilities is a key tool to implement productive Family Partnership Plans for students with disabilities. Before creating these plans, teachers should consult with special education department staff for information or advice on approaching Family Partnership Plans with students with disabilities.
Teachers should take care to research, and visit if possible, resources in the community specifically serving students with disabilities and their families. Knowledge and understanding of these resources can help serve as important parts of Family Partnership Plans. See “Ten helpful special needs resources and organizations” and “Ten Special Needs Organizations You Should Know About” in the resource section below for more information.
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