You are seeing this message because your web browser does not support basic web standards. Find out more about why this message is appearing and what you can do to make your experience on this site better.

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.

Terms of Use ▼

HFRP summarizes key observations raised in this issue of The Evaluation Exchange. Based on findings from research and evaluation, these themes highlight what the field needs to know and do to move family involvement forward in policy and practice.

1. Families are an essential component of complementary learning. To succeed in school and in life, children and youth need access to multiple supports for learning. These supports can be more effective when connected in an intentional and systemic way. HFRP calls these networks of supports complementary learning. Families are central to complementary learning as contributors, collaborators, and consumers.

2. Recent research warrants a reconceptualization of family involvement, which includes three primary components: Family involvement matters from birth through adolescence but changes as children mature. Family involvement occurs in all the contexts where children and youth live and learn, not only in homes and schools but in out-of-school time programs and many other settings. Family involvement must be a shared and meaningful responsibility among families, schools, communities, and society.

3. Family involvement practices and policies need to move beyond individual programs to more systemic efforts. Family involvement efforts and investments should build on programs in individual schools and communities to implement and study more systemic approaches. Growing initiatives at the district and state levels, including family involvement reforms, policies, and standards, represent potential models.

4. More rigorous evaluation of family involvement policies and initiatives is needed to build knowledge about effective approaches. Although correlational research has made a strong case about the benefits of family involvement, there is a need for more rigorous evaluations of specific interventions and policies to understand what works, for whom, and why. Promising strategies include cost-effectiveness and cost–benefit analyses, large-scale evaluation of federal programs, and family involvement assessments within educational accountability systems.

5. Evaluations are only as useful as the strategies for applying them. To ensure that emerging knowledge does not end up in “digital graveyards,” the field needs to leverage and create new forums and opportunities for researchers, practitioners, policymakers, parents, and others to share and utilize this knowledge. One promising strategy is to create communities of practice—informal networks of stakeholders who regularly share information and build collective knowledge.

6. In research, policy, and practice, a more nuanced understanding of family involvement across cultural, ethnic, and socioeconomic backgrounds is emerging but incomplete. Several researchers featured in this issue are part of a growing movement to develop and use knowledge about the predictors, patterns, and processes of family involvement in traditionally understudied populations. This includes developing and validating measures that are culturally relevant and appropriate.

7. Committed leadership is fundamental to building family involvement, and leadership development is a priority for the field. In schools and other organizations, leaders establish the expectations, opportunities, and incentives for family involvement. They are also largely responsible for using evaluation for continuous improvement. Preparing future leaders to value family involvement and invest in evaluation continues to be a critical issue, from teacher and administrator education programs to state standards to mentoring future family involvement researchers.

‹ Previous Article

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