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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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Heather Weiss

Our understanding of learning—what it is, where it takes place, and who enables it—is changing and so too are our strategies for promoting it. In 2005, Harvard Family Research Project introduced the concept of complementary learning—the idea that integrating school and nonschool supports in an aligned and systemic way can better ensure learning and positive development for all children and youth.

In this issue, we spotlight one of the central components of complementary learning: family involvement. Our Winter 2005 issue demonstrated how evaluations of new family involvement programs and interventions were building a knowledge base for the field. Today, we and other field leaders see the need and opportunity to move beyond individual programs to continuous and systemic family involvement efforts.

Building these investments in policy and practice requires reframing family involvement within a complementary learning framework. As our Theory & Practice article outlines—and articles throughout the issue illustrate—investments in family involvement are important across ages and settings and through the coconstructed efforts and shared responsibilities of many stakeholders.

In our Questions & Answers article and in his recent book (reviewed on page 19), Rudy Crew, Superintendent of the Miami-Dade County Public Schools, highlights the importance of this shared responsibility. He talks about the role of administrators and teachers in helping parents become “Demand Parents” who understand both their rights and responsibilities when it comes to engaging with and expecting support from schools.

With reauthorization of the No Child Left Behind Act on the horizon and a presidential election underway, now is the time to ensure that family involvement has a voice in policy and in the national conversation about education reform. This issue is designed to spark discussion about how to elevate our collective and research-supported voice at all levels.

In our Ask the Expert features, leaders in policy, practice, and research reflect on the past, present, and future of family involvement and explore opportunities for progress. Other articles highlight initiatives, evaluations, and strategies with the potential to build knowledge and be implemented at scale. Promising Practices features innovative initiatives from local and district to state and national levels, while Evaluations to Watch includes a special feature on the evaluation strategy of the national Par­ental Information and Resource Centers.

This issue reinforces our longstanding emphasis on evaluation for learning and continuous improvement. To move forward in policy and practice, there is a clear need for greater investments in evaluation to understand what works best, for whom, and why. We as a field must address a set of key questions: Where and how should we increase our evaluation investments? How do we evaluate systemic family involvement efforts? How will we share this emerging knowledge? We invite you to join us in addressing these questions and furthering the national conversation about the critical role of families in ensuring success for all children and youth.

Heather B. Weiss, Ed.D.
Founder & Director
Harvard Family Research Project

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© 2016 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project