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The Harvard Family Research Project separated from the Harvard Graduate School of Education to become the Global Family Research Project as of January 1, 2017. It is no longer affiliated with Harvard University.

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FINE Newsletter, Volume VI, Issue 2
Issue Topic: Making it Real—Connected Learning in the Digital Age

We are committed to keeping you up to date on family engagement news. The resources in this section highlight the latest tools and discussions from HFRP and review recent findings in the areas of family engagement policy, strategies, and research, along with family engagement and digital learning. 


W.K. Kellogg Foundation Invests in Family Engagement
Harvard Family Research Project is one of 30 organizations that received a W.K. Kellogg Foundation grant to strengthen family engagement from birth through third grade. Our work will focus on increasing understanding and implementation of family engagement during the transition to school.

Let’s Talk Transition!
Harvard Family Research Project, in partnership with the SEED Lab at the University of Pittsburgh, recently launched a new online discussion board, Let’s Talk Transition!The board will give educators and administrators who serve children in transition (ages 4–6) a forum through which they can share and react to relevant resources related to helping families and children make a positive, successful transition to school. We encourage you to join this important discussion.


Now Is the Time to Seize the Parent Engagement Moment
Parents need information in order to engage, according to California PTA president Colleen You in an article from EdSource. You highlights steps that educators and policymakers can take to encourage family engagement, including instructions to “ditch the jargon and communicate in a clear, straightforward way.” As California implements a number of new education policies, schools have an opportunity to reach out to parents for their input and support.

What Do Parents Need to Know About the Common Core?
Schools are missing out on a valuable alliance when they attempt to implement initiatives without involving parents, according to this Edutopia article by Anne O’Brien. As schools align with Common Core State Standards (CCSS), educators should gain parent support by providing them information about the initiative and identifying and addressing any causes for concern. The author notes that CCSS implementation will only be successful if parents have the knowledge to support their children and schools during this transition.

N.J. Teachers’ Evaluations Would Include Parent Involvement Under Proposed Law
This post on Education Week’s K–12 Parents and the Public blog by Karla Scoon Reid discusses recently proposed legislation in New Jersey to include parent engagement as part of teacher evaluations. If passed, the legislation would require the state commissioner of education to develop guidance for school districts to measure parent involvement in teacher evaluations. The parent engagement component could include student homework completion rates, participation in parent–teacher conferences, and parent responsiveness to teacher communications.

Do Parents Care Enough About School?
The New York Times is hosting a healthy debate about the various factors influencing American schools and student success. A number of commentators, including educators and education experts, are weighing in on whether parents are demanding enough of schools and their children. Some blame society at large for devaluing education, while others raise the issue of poverty and its impact. Keep up with the discussion in The New York Times’ Room for Debate, under the topic of Education.


Cleveland Administrator Launches College Tours for Parents
This video posted on the Education Week K–12 Parents and the Public blog by Karla Scoon Reid focuses on Cleveland School District’s executive director of family and community engagement, Tracy Hill, who is leading Parent University College Tours to acquaint parents with postsecondary options for their children and, sometimes, themselves. Hill has built a successful culture of family engagement in Cleveland schools over the past three years. She believes it is the responsibility of every educator to equip parents with the knowledge they need to make their children’s academic careers a success.

District Leaders Urged to Rethink Community Engagement Strategies
This post on Education Week’s K–12 Parents and the Publicblog by Karla Scoon Reid covers a meeting of 26 school districts, where former Milwaukee School District superintendent Howard Fuller urged district leaders to consider the racial and economic complexities of the families they serve in order to engage them effectively. He also asserted that school leaders should better reflect the communities they serve. The school districts represented at the meeting make up the Portfolio School District Network, which includes major urban school districts such as New York City, Chicago, and Los Angeles. 


National Family Learning Report
The National Center for Families Learning (NCFL) recently released a report on how families spend quality time together based on a survey conducted last fall among 2,000 American adults. Among its key findings, the study found that American families spend the most time together during dinner, but many parents are unsure of how to make their time together count. Nearly 40 percent of parents do not feel comfortable helping their children learn outside of the classroom. NCFL and Toyota used the results to develop the Family Time Machine, a website dedicated to giving parents ideas for spending time with their children in fun, educational ways.

Their Children’s First Teachers: Latino Parents Targeted in Early Education Efforts
This Hechinger Report article by Sara Neufeld highlights The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States, a recent national study reporting that Latino infants and toddlers are at a disadvantage because they are half as likely to be read to as their white peers. Two new initiatives seek to help Latino parents engage in their children’s learning. In Chicago, the Logan Square Neighborhood Association is empowering Latino parents through training mothers in early childhood development and as ambassadors to their community. In addition, as part of her Too Small to Fail initiative, former secretary of state Hillary Clinton recently announced a campaign to promote the importance of early childhood education in Latino communities through Spanish television and other resources.

The Youngest Americans: A Statistical Portrait of Infants and Toddlers in the United States
A 2013 ChildTrends report, The youngest Americans: A statistical portrait of infants and toddlers in the United States, produced findings on the economic hardships, social disadvantages, and changing contexts that young children in America today face as they learn and develop. The study found that one-third of toddlers and infants reside in homes where English is not the first language. Furthermore, Latino infants and toddlers are half as likely as their white counterparts to have their family members read to them, sing to them, or tell them stories.


Take Your Family to School Week Toolkit
In celebration of its Take Your Family to School Week in mid-February, the National Parent Teacher Association rolled out a 2014 toolkit for schools. This toolkit is a resource for schools planning to participate in the celebration next year or for educators and PTA members looking for useful ideas for regular family engagement activities. It includes promotional tools and guides for literacy and math, bullying prevention, and multicultural and career fair events.


Parental Engagement Made Easy for K–12 School with Release of Apps Platform
Schools have a new resource for engaging increasingly mobile-dependent parents, according to this Yahoo Finance article sponsored by MarketWired. The Apps for Education Platform from WillowTree Apps leverages existing IT systems in K–12 school districts to enable them to develop customized apps. Schools can use this platform to give parents immediate access to homework assignments, student grades, school calendars, lunch menus, and more. Four Texas school districts have launched customized platforms so far.

It’s Complicated: The Social Lives of Networked Teens
Sociologist danah boyd’s new book contains helpful insights for parents and educators. In this National Public Radio interview by Elizabeth Blair, boyd summarizes findings from her book, which explores the potential, dangers, and other implications for modern teenagers who live life online. She traveled to 16 states, visited a variety of communities, and interviewed more than 160 teenagers during eight years of research.

Closing the App Gap
According to this Huffington Post article by Leslie Rotenberg, a recent study by Common Sense Media found that there is a “digital divide” between children from high-income homes and children from low-income homes. Children in low-income homes tend to receive less exposure to technological devices and apps, which can be useful learning tools. In response, PBS, in partnership with the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the U.S. Department of Education, is providing free educational apps on devices in Head Start centers, Title I schools, and other organizations that serve low-income communities.

Report on Children’s Media Use in America
Common Sense Media recently released Zero to eight: Children’s media use in America, a report that separates children’s media use by race, income, and parent education. The study identifies a new “app gap” between children from low-income homes and those from high-income homes. Young children from high-income homes tend to utilize educational apps on cell phones, iPods, or iPads at a greater rate than children from low-income homes, where they may not have access to those devices or apps.


This resource is part of the April FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family engagement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the archives of past issues, please visit

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