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 ▼

FINE Newsletter, Volume VI, Issue 1
Issue Topic: How Families Can Enrich Digital Media Learning Experiences for Their Children

We are committed to keeping you up to date on family engagement news. The following resources highlight the latest tools and discussions from HFRP and review recent findings in the areas of family engagement policy as well as family-school partnerships.


Bridging Worlds: Family Engagement in the Transition to Kindergarten                
Margaret Caspe explores some of the most crucial aspects of the transition to kindergarten in this new teaching case. Using the story of Nicole and Maya, the case study helps practitioners work through essential questions, such as, What are the connections and missed connections in the transition process? How do adults’ beliefs and assumptions about their roles impact a young child’s learning and development? The case also includes expert commentaries, discussion questions, and instructor notes.

Parent-Teacher Conferences: Is There a Better Way?
In this short but instructive episode of #PTchat on Bam! radio, Dr. Joe Mazza, lead learner at Knapp Elementary in suburban Philadelphia, speaks with guests Heidi Rosenberg, Senior Researcher at Harvard Family Research Project, and Elissa Malespina, South Orange Middle School Librarian and Owner of ELM Educational Technology Consulting, who help map a plan for meaningful parent-teacher conferences. This podcast surfaced numerous helpful recommendations for teachers, including the following: set a positive tone for conferences by starting out with the child’s areas of achievement, make sure that conversations are two-way, both from the teacher’s side and parent’s side, and share actionable information with families.


Parent Voices for World-Class Education
In this transcript of remarks made by U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to the National Assessment Governing Board Education Summit for Parent Leaders, he encourages parent leaders to raise their voices for excellence and demand a “world-class education” for children in the United States. He highlights results from the recent Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) exam to make the point that, in academics, students in the United States are falling behind their peers worldwide. He shares the story of District 15 in Louisville, Kentucky, where educators and parent leaders are successfully engaging more than 15,000 parents as the district transitions to higher standards.

Obama’s Homework Assignment
In this New York Times op-ed, Thomas Friedman reacts to Arne Duncan’s remarks to the National Assessment Governing Board Education Summit of Parent Leaders. He congratulates Duncan for going beyond a typical “feel-good speech” and encouraging parents to challenge educational complacency by demanding more from their leaders and from their children. Friedman goes on to recommend that President Obama introduce Duncan’s ideas in his State of the Union address in order to spark a national discussion.


Harvard Shares Professional-Development Methods to Support Family Engagement           
This post on Education Week’s K-12 Parents and the Public blog by Karla Scoon Reid discusses concerns within the education field that family engagement is often not reinforced in a cohesive and structured way. The post highlights HFRP’s December FINE issue, Innovative Approaches to Preparing and Training Educators for Family Engagement, which presents new professional development methods for teachers to learn how to promote family engagement. The blog looks at a number of articles in the newsletter, including Professional Development in Family Engagement: A Few Often-Overlooked Strategies for Success, by Christine Patton and Shannon Wanless, who discuss numerous reasons why it is important for teachers to continue to learn and practice family engagement skills on an ongoing basis throughout their careers.

Parents: Resolve to Find New Ways to Support Student Learning
Families should look to the start of the New Year as an ideal time to make resolutions about becoming more involved in their children’s education, according to Karla Scoon Reid in this post on Education Week’s K-12 Parents and the Public blog. The article offers parents a number of New Year resolutions from representatives of the National PTA, Harvard Family Research Project, National Center for Families Learning, and Parents for Public Schools. HFRP Associate Director, M. Elena Lopez, recommends that families “find learning opportunities outside of school …. and plan monthly learning excursions to a library, museum, or even a community center.” She also stresses the importance of families and children being jointly engaged in the learning activity.

Grooming Parents to Take the Lead
This video on the Education Week website showcases the Governor’s Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership, a six-day training camp for parents in Louisville, Kentucky. The institute aims to give parents the skills to become active partners and leaders in their local schools. Children as well as parents benefit: some of the parents have been inspired to ensure that laws have been enacted to help children; others have testified before the U.S. Congress; and still others have gone into the education field themselves. One of the administrators calls the program “...a very powerful force in giving parents the knowledge and power to improve their own families and to improve the lives of other families as well.”

Great Education Needs High Standards and Involved Families
Otha Thornton, president of the National PTA, discusses the importance of family–school partnerships and “rigorous and coherent academic standards” for improving student achievement in this NBC News Education Nation blog post. He cites the recent results of the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA) released by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), showing that, compared to their peers worldwide, U.S. students scored slightly above average in reading, average in science, and below average in math. The article outlines six recommendations for how schools and families can partner to support student success.

Social Entrepreneurs’ Goal: No More Playing Hooky
This Forbes article highlights the new education-technology software, Kinvolved. Founded by social entrepreneurs Alexandra Meis and Miriam Altman, Kinvolved connects teachers and parents through real-time information sharing. Kinvolved allows teachers to provide parents with information about student attendance and behavior by using text messages and email. The founders are currently piloting Kinvolved in several schools and have plans to expand the technology to focus on improving student behavior and academic performance.

This resource is part of the February 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

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