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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 II, Issue 4
Issue Topic: Celebrating Ten Years of FINE

Harvard Family Research Project Commentary

In this issue’s commentary, Heather Weiss, M. Elena Lopez, and Heidi Rosenberg honor FINE's 10th anniversary by looking at the growth and learning in the family engagement field over the last decade. Family engagement is shifting from a “random acts” approach—numerous social, fundraising, and educational activities that lack broad and deep connections to school improvement goals—to a more systemic, integrated, and sustainable framework of true family engagement. This commentary discusses what that means for HFRP and FINE in 2011 and beyond.

This month, Harvard Family Research Project celebrates the tenth anniversary of the Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE). FINE was originally created to support teacher preparation in family and community engagement in education. Since then, FINE has expanded its research-based resources to reflect the needs of its growing membership, which include schools, districts, researchers, and community-based organizations, in addition to the teacher educators who comprised the original base of the FINE network.

The past decade has provided an opportunity for growth and learning in the family engagement field. We have learned that family engagement needs to align effectively with today’s education reforms. These reforms emphasize systemic approaches, innovation, and evaluation so that students are equipped for the demands of a global economy and society. Family engagement is shifting from a “random acts” approach—numerous social, fundraising and educational activities that lack broad and deep connections to school improvement goals—to a more systemic, integrated, and sustainable framework of true family engagement.

In the coming year, FINE will provide a platform for research and dialogue for this shift in how we do the work of family engagement:

Systemic family engagement is designed as a core component of educational goals such as school readiness, student achievement, and school turnaround. We will be reinvigorating our work in the early childhood/school readiness arena through our involvement in an exciting new Head Start project. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has selected Harvard Family Research Project and the Brazelton Touchpoints Center (BTC) at Children’s Hospital Boston to develop a National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. This is one of is one of four new national centers comprising Head Start’s Training and Technical Assistance System, which will promote evidence-based best practices in Early Head Start and Head Start programs across the country. HFRP and BTC will be joined by their partners, Save the Children, the National PTA, and the Council of Chief State School Officers in developing this innovative work. As part of this work, HFRP and its partners will pay particular attention to the roles of families, schools, and communities in the transitions from early childhood programs to elementary school.

Integrated family engagement refers to the practices of districts and schools to embed family engagement into their structures and processes, including training and professional development, teaching and learning, community collaboration, and the use of data for continuous improvement and accountability. In the coming year, we will disseminate an issue brief that features models of family engagement training to help teachers understand the value of engaging families and how to do so in ways that are integrated into the core of their teaching practice. Through FINE, we will continue to provide our members with promising practices and tools related to sharing data with families and the use of new media and technology to promote stronger family–school communication.

Sustainable family engagement efforts operate with adequate resources, including public–private partnerships, to ensure that meaningful and effective strategies—with the power to impact student learning and achievement—are in place. In the coming year, we will feature strategies to leverage community resources and build capacity for family engagement in high school. We are also developing a planning and implementation toolkit based on an evaluation of a United Way Worldwide initiative to boost high school graduation rates through family and community engagement. In addition, we will continue to collect and review evaluation measures and tools to guide the field. We recognize that evaluation will play a major role in fostering the sustainability of family engagement efforts as policymakers look for evidence of impact, and we will highlight ways that schools and other organizations are examining the linkages between family engagement strategies and student learning outcomes.

HFRP also strives to offer policymakers and education advocates the research base to develop effective policies to promote family engagement as a strategy to achieve student success. HFRP recently helped to facilitate the U.S. Department of Education-sponsored National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement, which was designed to help shape the Department’s family engagement strategy. To help guide the conversations at the forum, HFRP created a framing paper that served as the basis for the panelists’ discussions of how family, school, and community engagement can help strengthen efforts to increase student achievement. In the coming year, FINE will feature some of HFRP’s policy-related work as we delve more deeply into the issues impacting education reform.

Finally, HFRP would like to acknowledge the numerous contributions that past members of our family involvement team have made to FINE over the years. FINE could not have become what it is today without the efforts of Holly Kreider, Maggie Caspe, Ellen Mayer, Kelly Faughnan, Suzanne Bouffard, Helen Westmoreland, and Kelley O’Carroll, nor would it have evolved into its current format without Marcella Franck and Carrie-Anne DeDeo, who were integral to the redesign of the newsletter. We sincerely appreciate all that they have done to help grow this valuable resource.

As we look forward to sharing these ideas with you we thank all those who contributed to FINE, to those who offered the many comments sent to our FINE mailbox, and to our 11,000 FINE members—and thousands more—who use our website. As always, we welcome your ideas. Please contact us at

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