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FINE Newsletter, Volume V, Issue 3
Issue Topic: Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement

Family Involvement News

We at Harvard Family Research Project are committed to keeping you up to date on what's new in family engagement. This list of links to current reports, articles, events, and opportunities will help you stay on top of research and resources from HFRP and other field leaders.


Family Engagement in Transitions: Transition to Kindergarten
This resource, produced by the National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (co-authored by HFRP’s Christine Patton and M. Elena Lopez), discusses the importance of families’ support for their children’s learning and development as children transition to new environments. The resource positions the transition to kindergarten as a pivotal point for establishing the kinds of practices that can help sustain gains children have made in their early learning settings, and offers examples of successful program practices that Head Start and Early Head Start staff can use to help children and families with this transition.


3 Innovative Ways to Connect with Parents via Cellphone Voice Service
This blog post describes three new calling technology platforms educators can use to connect with parents: iPadio, which allows users to create podcast-inspired “phonecasts”; Voki, which allows users to share messages using animated avatars that speak with the user’s voice; and Google Voice, which can record and transcribe messages and forward both audio messages and transcripts via email. Teachers can also use the platforms to record and live-stream lessons.

Teaching Secrets: Learning from Parents
The author of this article, a middle school teacher, offers suggestions for how teachers can build positive relationships with their students’ parents. Drawing from her own experiences, the author describes the benefits of using methods such as parent surveys, home visits before the beginning of school, and weekly communication using a variety of mediums.

360 Degrees of Family Engagement
This resource, produced through a partnership between the Georgia Department of Education and Bright from the Start: Georgia Department of Early Care and Learning, outlines a “360 Degrees of Family Engagement” process to help schools create and sustain family engagement strategies. The process is guided by the “360 Crosswalk,” a framework for family engagement that draws from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs; Head Start’s Parent, Family, and Community Engagement Framework; as well as National PTA standards, and recommends a comprehensive and data-sensitive approach to family engagement.


Bringing Attendance Home: Engaging Parents in Preventing Chronic Absence
This toolkit, created by Attendance Works to help families promote better school attendance among their children, provides age-appropriate tips for parents whose children attend elementary, middle, and high school. The toolkit includes research about the relationship between parent involvement and children’s school attendance; materials to share with parents about the importance of good attendance; and interactive exercises to use with parent groups to help them think about the consequences of poor attendance on their children’s future.

Engaging Families in Out-of-School Time Programs Toolkit
This toolkit, created by BOSTnet, contains tools, strategies, and resources for out-of-school time practitioners looking to engage families. The lessons are drawn from BOSTnet's Engaging Families Initiative, and strategies are provided for programs that are just starting to involve families as well as for those who want to improve already existing practices.

After-School Data: Six Tip Sheets on What Cities Need to Know
This set of six easy-to-read tip sheets from The Wallace Foundation helps city agencies, after school program providers, intermediary organizations, and others understand how to select, collect, and apply data to strengthen their decision making and improve program quality. One tip sheet focuses specifically on “using data to improve programs.”

District Data Team Toolkit
This Toolkit from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education helps districts establish, grow, and maintain a culture of inquiry and data use that can inform decisions that impact teaching and learning. The Toolkit is designed around a theory of action, the Data-Driven Inquiry and Action Cycle, which provides a foundation for effective data use. While not specifically focused on family engagement, the Toolkit can be used to help districts develop the necessary data infrastructure to gather and apply data within their family engagement practices.


Research-Based Options for Education Policymaking: English Language Learners and Parental Involvement
This policy brief, published by the National Education Policy Center, outlines recommendations for improving the learning experiences of the fast-growing population of English Language Learners (ELL) in the United States. ELL students are often concentrated in schools with low instructional capacity, and their learning opportunities are further diminished by the communication barriers between schools and families. In light of these challenges, the authors provide recommendations to policymakers, as well as district and school officials, to encourage ELL parental involvement.   

Continuous Improvement in Education
This white paper by the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching offers examples of how continuous quality improvement methodology is being applied in education toward the goal of making education more efficient, effective, and equitable. The authors argue that schools and districts need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset in order to use data to meaningfully inform and change practice to improve outcomes.


Global Learning: Parents as Allies in Immersion Programs
This blog post addresses parents’ perspectives on Chinese language immersion classes and notes that Chinese language teachers are often used to an educational system that is closed off to parents and they don’t know how they can best utilize the offers of parental involvement that come from their students’ families in the United States. The author discusses various ways that Chinese language immersion teachers and programs can better understand parents’ perspectives and expectations and create opportunities for families to engage with the program in meaningful ways.

Can Parents Save American Education?
In this blog post, the author notes that there is a general consensus that parental involvement in children’s education is necessary, but argues that there are divergent perspectives on what parent involvement looks like. Drawing on the findings from a recent survey of Kansas City–area parents, the author discusses the ways that parents understand and describe their own parental involvement efforts, and suggests that schools and other stakeholders need to understand better how parents view their involvement in order to create effective and meaningful ways of engaging them in their children’s education.

A New Era of Classroom Transparency
Written by middle school teachers, this article provides an overview of how advances in information technology are creating new ways for both students and their parents to access classroom learning experiences. The authors argue that online learning management systems can help increase collaboration among teachers and make their work more transparent. These online tools allow students to track their own learning, giving them more autonomy over and accountability for their progress. This technology also enables parents to keep tabs on their children’s learning and provides vital feedback to teachers.

Parents, More Than Teachers, Are the “Silver Bullet” for Students in Poverty
In this blog post, the author warns educators of the dangers of blaming “poverty” for low educational achievement, arguing that this focus can lead schools to see poor students’ academic struggles as inevitable and uncontrollable. The author grew up in poverty from childhood in the care of a supportive father who had never attended school beyond eighth grade but nevertheless set high expectations for his daughter’s academic achievement. She uses her own experiences as a student, and later as an educator, to emphasize the importance of parents in ensuring students’ academic success.

Five Ways to Improve the Quality of Early Care and Education
This set of tips from Child Trends 5 offers five ways to improve early care and education opportunities for young children. Tips include: focus first on children’s safety, health, and happiness; support the early care and education workforce; use observations and assessments to support every child’s needs across all developmental domains; create a culture of continuous quality improvement; and build partnerships to support quality. 

Click here to access other articles and resources in this FINE Newsletter, "Creating a Culture of Continuous Improvement."

This resource is part of the September 2013 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement 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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Published by Harvard Family Research Project