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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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Recognizing the role that family engagement plays as part of a comprehensive strategy to keep teens in school and ensure that they graduate prepared for the future, AT&T,* United Way Worldwide, and Harvard Family Research Project today unveiled a toolkit that will help schools, educators, community organizations and PTAs develop and execute more effective strategies that engage families in helping at-risk high school students get back on track.

The Family Engagement for High School Success Toolkit: Planning and implementing an initiative to support the pathway to graduation for at-risk students is designed to help nonprofits develop strong parent–school–community partnerships and provide networks of support to keep students on the path to high school graduation. Developed by United Way and Harvard Family Research Project with financial support from AT&T, the toolkit will help local United Ways and other nonprofits:

  • Identify how to spot ninth graders who are at risk of dropping out, considering factors such as attendance, behavior and academic performance.
  • Enlist and enroll the right partners and work creatively to reach parents of at-risk kids.
  • Work with parents, schools, and partners to apply research-based strategies and promising practices to get at-risk students back on track to graduate high school.

The toolkit was developed as part of a family engagement pilot project that AT&T supported with a $2 million contribution to United Way in 2009. This initiative allowed 15 local United Ways to work with their communities to pioneer strategies for bringing families, school leaders, community partners and students together. The toolkit distills the successes, strategies and lessons learned in the 15 pilots to help other communities plan and implement effective family engagement approaches to help kids stay in school.

“Adult caregivers and other family members play a critical role in keeping students engaged and motivated to succeed in school,” said Beth Shiroishi, AT&T vice president of Sustainability and Philanthropy. “This toolkit will help communities across the country develop effective strategies to maximize the powerful asset that families can be when engaged in their students’ education.”

“Community issues are best solved when people and sectors work together,” said Brian Gallagher, president and CEO of United Way Worldwide. “Strengthening education must mean both greater parental engagement and ensuring that entire communities are involved in a young person’s success. The toolkit is an important strategy in meeting United Way’s goal of cutting our nation’s high school dropout rate by half.”

"Research shows that family engagement in education can lead to higher academic achievement and an increased likelihood of high school graduation,” said Dr. Heather Weiss, Founder and Director of the Harvard Family Research Project. “This is particularly true when families receive support from both school and community resources to help them participate in their children’s learning."

The toolkit also helps communities learn to listen more closely to families to determine what might be preventing kids from succeeding. For example, disadvantaged parents and those with language barriers expressed that access to more information—websites, flyers, text messages and multilingual phone calls—helped them feel more equipped to assist their children.

  • In Las Vegas, schools created ninth grade parent orientations as a result of the findings.
  • In Gurnee, IL, United Way is mobilizing partners to organize parent–staff meetings at non-school locations.
  • United Way of Southeast Missouri found recruiting, training and deploying disadvantaged parents to serve as liaisons between schools, families and community organizations helped with students’ educational progress.
  • United Way of Southern Cameron County in Brownsville, TX, discovered that a major predictor to students dropping out of high school was not low-income or limited English proficiency, but more than seven absences in eighth grade and failing two or more sections of the end-of-year assessment. Armed with this new data, the school shifted its focus for ninth grade retention programs, and was able to target the most at-risk kids and get them back on track.

AT&T is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. As evidence of its commitment, AT&T launched Aspire, a $100 million high school success and workforce readiness initiative in April 2008. AT&T Aspire is one of the largest-ever corporate commitments to address high school success and workforce readiness.

The toolkit is available online at

*AT&T products and services are provided or offered by subsidiaries and affiliates of AT&T Inc. under the AT&T brand and not by AT&T Inc.

About AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is a premier communications holding company and one of the most honored companies in the world. Its subsidiaries and affiliates - AT&T operating companies - are the providers of AT&T services in the United States and around the world. With a powerful array of network resources that includes the nation's fastest mobile broadband network, AT&T is a leading provider of wireless, Wi-Fi, high speed Internet, voice and cloud-based services. A leader in mobile broadband and emerging 4G capabilities, AT&T also offers the best wireless coverage worldwide of any U.S. carrier, offering the most wireless phones that work in the most countries. It also offers advanced TV services under the AT&T U-verse® and AT&T | DIRECTV brands. The company's suite of IP-based business communications services is one of the most advanced in the world. In domestic markets, AT&T Advertising Solutions and AT&T Interactive are known for their leadership in local search and advertising.

Additional information about AT&T Inc. and the products and services provided by AT&T subsidiaries and affiliates is available at This AT&T news release and other announcements are available at and as part of an RSS feed at Or follow our news on Twitter at @ATT.

About Philanthropy at AT&T
AT&T Inc. (NYSE:T) is committed to advancing education, strengthening communities and improving lives. Through its philanthropic initiatives and working with other organizations, AT&T has a long history of supporting projects that create learning opportunities; promote academic and economic achievement; and address community needs. In 2010, more than $148.2 million was contributed through corporate-, employee- and AT&T Foundation-giving programs.

About United Way
United Way is a worldwide network in 40 countries and territories, including more than 1,200 local organizations in the U.S. It advances the common good, creating opportunities for a better life for all by focusing on the three key building blocks of education, income and health. United Way recruits people and organizations who bring the passion, expertise and resources needed to get things done. LIVE UNITED® is a call to action for everyone to become a part of the change. For more information about United Way, please visit:

About Harvard Family Research Project
Since 1983, Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has helped stakeholders develop and evaluate strategies to promote the well being of children, youth, families, and their communities. HFRP works primarily within three areas that support children’s learning and development—early childhood education, out-of-school time programming, and family and community support in education. Underpinning all of this work is a commitment to evaluation for strategic decision making, learning, and accountability. Building on the knowledge that schools alone cannot meet the learning needs of our children, HFRP also focuses national attention on complementary learning. Complementary learning is the idea that a systemic approach, which integrates school and nonschool supports, can better ensure that all children have the skills they need to succeed.

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