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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 VII, Issue 4
Issue Topic: Evaluation and Improvement Science in Action


Parent‒Teacher Conferences Get a Makeover
School districts across the country are rethinking the short and sometimes stressful structure of the traditional parent‒teacher conference. This article from Education Week profiles Academic Parent-Teacher Teams, a model that engages parents and teachers in constructive meetings throughout the year to discuss academic data, set 60-day goals, and share learning. Harvard Family Research Project’s own Heather B. Weiss and M. Elena Lopez emphasize the importance of building stronger parent‒teacher relationships in new ways, beyond the traditional conference.

Cyber Walk-Through: Professional Development in Family Engagement
Become familiar with our many professional development resources that promote family engagement! For practitioners looking to improve their practice , HFRP hosted a cyber walk-through to introduce our many available resources, including family engagement cases, an interactive case, and the Create Your Own Case Toolkit. Each of these tools provides ways for educators and practitioners to think critically about family engagement and target key areas for improvement and reflection. The tools are free and available online, with no membership or login required.

Hold the Line: Engagement Practices That Welcome Families in Poverty
“All families want their child to succeed,” says M. Elena Lopez, associate director of Harvard Family Research Project, in the September issue of Education Update from the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development. Drawing upon successful family engagement practices across the country, the article provides suggestions on how practitioners can confront biases about families living in poverty and restructure parent engagement strategies to better meet diverse families’ needs. The piece features HFRP’s case studies and other frameworks to encourage educators to reflect on their outreach efforts.


Something Borrowed, Something New: Libraries as Learning Hubs
Libraries are transforming into innovative, exciting spaces for families to engage in anywhere, anytime learning with their children. As outlined in this article, libraries promote early literacy, provide a variety of resources from books to computer access, and create connections to outside organizations.

Talk, Read, and Sing Together Every Day: Tip Sheets for Families, Caregivers and Early Learning Educators
Studies continue to emphasize the importance of children’s vocabulary on their academic and behavioral preparedness in kindergarten. To help parents, caregivers, and educators support their children’s early language development, the U.S. Department of Education, in collaboration with Too Small to Fail, has released a series of tip sheets. Whether it’s telling stories, singing songs, or attending local cultural festivals and talking about traditions, the tip sheets encourage parents and caregivers to have rich language exchanges with their youngsters.


Don’t Forget the Families: The Missing Piece in America’s Eff­ort to Help All Children Succeed
Family relationships are key to helping children develop character strengths that prepare them for success in school, work, and life, according to a report by the Search Institute. The study surveyed a diverse population of parents of 3- to 13-year-olds. Their findings show that parent‒child relationships were more predictive of children’s character strength development than demographic data like race or ethnicity. In addition to the report, the Search Institute has released a new framework of developmental relationships that outlines five actions parents can take to build character strengths in their children—express care, challenge growth, provide support, share power, and expand possibility.

Using Behavioral Insights to Increase Parental Engagement: The Parents and Children Together (PACT) Intervention in Chicago
Motivating parents to read with their children may be as simple as asking them to set goals and sending them reminders. Researchers tested this idea by giving parents of 3- to 5-year-old children enrolled in a Head Start program in Chicago tablets with a reading application that provided access to more than 500 children’s books. In addition, some parents set weekly goals for reading to their children and were sent daily text message reminders. When those parents met their reading goal, they also received congratulatory texts. According to the six-week study, a working paper released by the National Bureau of Economic Research, parents who received these interventions spent twice as much time reading to their children than parents who did not.


The Family Engagement Partnership Student Outcome Evaluation
A new report by the Johns Hopkins University School of Education finds that students whose families received a home visit from a representative of their local elementary school experienced a 24% reduction in school absences compared to families who did not receive a home visit. The study analyzed data from more than 4,000 children in 12 elementary schools within D.C. Public Schools that participate in the Flamboyan Foundation’s Family Engagement Partnership (FEP), a program that provides training and school support for building effective family‒school relationships. Findings in the report also suggest home visits through FEP may benefit students’ reading comprehension skills.

Generation TX: Supporting Students and Families on Their Pathway to College
Whether it’s writing essays or filling out forms for financial aid, many families struggle to support their children throughout the college application process. Generation TX aims to help more students get into college by sponsoring events, sharing resources, and providing guidance in applying to and paying for school. The website provides a host of resources, including a planning guide, career path information, and financial aid videos.

Ways to Get Involved Beyond Back-to-School Night
Parents can get involved in schools in many different ways! Laura Bay, president of National PTA, shares some tips with PBS Parents for how to stay engaged in a child’s education throughout the year. Whether it’s volunteering at events, joining Twitter chats, or having their children participate in an afterschool enrichment program, parents play an important role in the school community.  


White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
During Hispanic Heritage Month, President Obama and the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics announced the awarding of more than $335 million toward funding for 150 local, state, and federal programs that promote high-quality education for Latino students and their families. The announcement accompanied the release of new reports and tools like the Bright Spots in Hispanic Education online catalog, which highlights programs and organizations focused on Latino education.

English Learner Toolkit
How can schools and districts support English Language Learners and their families in meaningful and effective ways? The U.S. Department of Education and Department of Justice released an English Learner Toolkit to aid schools in fulfilling their legal obligations to identify and provide assistance for this growing population of students. With 10 separate chapters, the toolkit provides key information on topics ranging from creating and evaluating language assistance programs to communicating effectively with families with parents of limited English proficiency.


The Preschool-to-Prison Pipeline
The U.S. Department of Education finds that African American preschool students account for nearly 42% of out-of-school suspensions despite their making up 18 percent of total preschool enrollment. This research and other studies summarized in a report by the Center for American Progress show a disproportionate number of African American and American Indian/Alaska Native students receive disciplinary consequences like suspension and expulsion. Such disciplinary action, often inspired by zero-tolerance practices, leads to a “school-to-prison pipeline” that pushes schoolchildren into the criminal justice system. The report details the effects of these practices on students of color, and provides policy recommendations to improve equity in school systems.

Ask A Scientist: How Does Vocabulary Size at Age 2 Affect Kindergarten Performance?
In this interview with Education Week, Paul Morgan, associate professor in the Department of Education Policy Studies at Pennsylvania State University, discusses his study that looks at the effect of vocabulary size at age 2 on academic performance and behavior at age 5. His longitudinal study found that children with larger vocabularies at age 2 had higher math and reading achievement in kindergarten. Additionally, teachers of students with better vocabularies at age 2 reported that those children had improved behavior and were more able to self-regulate. The interview offers insights into how the study was conducted and advice for families and practitioners. 

Mexican Immigrant Family Life in a Pre-Emerging Southern Gateway Community
A new report from the National Research Center on Hispanic Children and Families provides insights into the family life and parenting practices of immigrant families from Mexico in the United States. The study, which interviewed 120 low-income, Mexican-origin couples, shares information about parents’ cultural identities, social networks, marital relationships, and parenting beliefs and concerns, among other topics. Researchers called for innovative outreach strategies to immigrant families, a better understanding of cultural adaptation, and increased partnerships between research institutions and community organizations.


25 Awesome Apps for Teachers, Recommended by Teachers
Looking for quality apps? The TED Ed blog has compiled a list of 25 apps that can help support teachers in their practice, including apps that can help teachers communicate with students and families. 

Beyond “Turn it Off”: How to Advise Families on Media Use
In the October issue of AAP News, the American Academy of Pediatrics provided key messages that revise guidelines for how pediatricians can advise families on media use. The new messages acknowledge that digital life begins at a young age, and so must parental guidance. Other key messages for parents include that media is just another environment that can have positive and negative effects and that role modeling online etiquette is critical. 


Evaluations Backgrounder: A Summary of Formal Evaluations of Afterschool programs’ Impact on Academics, Behavior, Safety and Family Life (PDF)
Afterschool programs provide myriad learning opportunities and experiences for children’s development, but what impact do they really make on a child? A report from Afterschool Alliance provides a summary of academic and behavioral outcomes for students in afterschool programs across the country. Findings show some afterschool programs are moving the needle on child development outcomes by increasing test scores, boosting parent engagement, and improving student attendance, among other positive outcomes. 

Getting Parents Involved (PDF)
An evaluation of a parent education program implemented in a suburb of Paris, France, found that parent volunteers who attended regular school meetings on how to be more involved in their children’s academic life were more likely to interact with the school by making appointments with teachers and participating in parent organizations. The study also found that students of parents participating in the meetings showed improved behavior and were 34% less likely to receive disciplinary action. Furthermore, students of non-volunteer parents who shared classes with students of parent volunteers also showed marked improvement in conduct.  


This resource is part of the November 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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Published by Harvard Family Research Project