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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 VI, Issue 3
Issue Topic: Expanding Opportunity: The Potential of Anywhere, Anytime Learning

Family Involvement News


Survey: Most Teachers Want Involved Parents, but Don’t Have Them
Teachers want parents to be more involved, according to an online survey conducted by the University of Phoenix College of Education. The survey revealed that 76 percent of teachers said that less than half of their students’ parents were involved in the classroom. Out of more than 1,000 K–12 teachers in the United States surveyed, 97 percent said they wanted parent involvement. Most teachers wanted parents to communicate with them regularly, while a smaller percentage wanted parents to volunteer in the classroom.

Family Engagement Is Much More Than Volunteering at School
In this article from the New America Foundation’s EdCentral, Laura Bornfreund shares what she learned at a recent conference on family engagement: “Deeper family engagement” requires more than sporadic volunteerism or outreach. Linking family engagement efforts to learning and building trust are two important, long-term components of school–family partnerships. Bornfreund also discusses two initiatives focused on engaging families in schools that are producing promising results.

Kids Will Run Show at Parent-Teacher Conferences: Farina
New York Schools chancellor Carmen Farina recently announced plans to encourage more student-led parent-teacher conferences, according to Kathryn Cusma and Michael Gartland at the New York Post. Farina believes that this approach will enable important dialogues between parents and children. However, not all New York teachers are sure that this plan will be as effective as Farina hopes, citing concerns that the students and parents who would benefit the most from such conferences would most likely not be the ones to participate in them as readily as other, more highly motivated students and families. 


W. K. Kellogg Foundation Announces Family Engagement Grantee Cohort
The W. K. Kellogg Foundation recently announced $13.7 million in grant funding to support family engagement initiatives. Thirty grant recipients from 18 states and the District of Columbia received funding to support a range of family engagement activities and research. The foundation noted the “unprecedented interest and clear demand” surrounding this grant competition, recognizing a growing focus around issues of family engagement across the country. 

District of Columbia Expands Family Engagement Program
District of Columbia Public Schools are boosting family engagement through a new program, according to Karla Scoon Reid on her K–12 Parents and the Public blog for Education Week. Twenty-one schools will implement new parent partnership programs this school year with grant funding from the Flamboyan Foundation. These programs will focus on building school–family partnerships through training administrators and teachers, implementing home visits, and approaching parent-teacher conferences in a new way.


Parent Involvement Is Overrated
In this controversial New York Times article, researchers Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris suggest that parent involvement does not impact students’ academic performance. The authors’ analysis of longitudinal surveys of American families over three decades found a variety of academic outcomes for students from families with different ethnic backgrounds and levels of involvement, leading the authors to claim that current policies emphasizing parent involvement should be revisited and that parents should simply “set the stage then leave it.”

Inflated Research Claims Can Harm Children
In response to the New York Times article “Parent Involvement Is Overrated,” Marilyn Price-Mitchell critiques the methodology and conclusions of authors Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris. Price-Mitchell  notes in this Psychology Today article that present conceptions of “family engagement” and notions of how to measure “success” are more nuanced than Robinson and Harris’ research allows. Furthermore, she cautions against subscribing to their conclusions in the wake of abundant scholarly research to the contrary, and suggests, instead, that refining their research for the sake of improving student learning and family engagement policies is a better approach.

Parental Involvement Overrated? Don’t Buy It.
In this response to Keith Robinson and Angel L. Harris’ New York Times article, “Parent Involvement Is Overrated,” professors Todd Rogers, Lucas Coffman, and Peter Bergman seek to set the record straight by noting the complexity of determining causation and by highlighting their own research on cost-effective policy solutions for engaging families. Increasingly, research is dedicated to determining what policy solutions work best in engaging low-income families to help their children succeed. The authors posit that this approach is promising and sends a necessary message to families and policymakers about the importance of parent involvement.

Why Organizational Ties Matter for Neighborhood Effects
Mario Luis Small, Erin M. Jacobs, and Rebekah Peeples Massengill discuss in this working paper whether child care centers in impoverished communities provide parents access to important resources, including schools. Funded by Princeton University and the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, their research seeks to clarify “neighborhood effects” literature by examining how poverty affects organizational ties and subsequent access to resources. 


Bringing Families into Out-of-School Time Learning
A shift is taking place from “program-centered” to “learning-centered” parent engagement in out-of-school time (OST) learning, according to former HFRP researchers Heidi Rosenberg, Shani Wilkes, and Erin Harris in this article in the Journal of Expanded Learning Opportunities. The authors note that OST programs that take this approach see parents as essential partners. These programs often invite parents to learn along with their children and give them frequent feedback.


Using Text Messaging to Strengthen Family–School Relationships
In a classroom strategy that her school principal calls “one of the fastest ways to connect with parents,” one Denver public-school teacher uses text messaging to reach out to parents during the school day. The teacher’s practical approach is demonstrated in this video produced by the Colorado Department of Education. Parents who opt in may receive pictures of their child during lessons, explanations of the lesson objectives, and information on ways that the parents could expand upon the lesson at home.

What Would Real Engagement Look Like?
Zeal, an online learning system that helps teachers individualize student instruction and engage parents at the same time, is the latest creation of Rocketship Education co-founder John Danner, who discusses his new endeavor in this Education Week article. Created to manage what each student learns, this tool can also serve as a family engagement strategy. Danner and his team are working to make “transparency and convenient communication” the norm by allowing parents to keep up with their child’s progress in the classroom and to ask teachers questions about the learning process and how they can help. 

WISD’s Youngest Students Use Video Games, Apps to Build Skills
Waxahachie Independent School District in Texas is using technology to engage families and students, according to Shelly Conlon at the Waxahachie Daily Light. Schools host “Bring Your Own Device” nights, during which families can learn about apps or games to help improve their child’s learning or their own communication with teachers. These events are part of a district-wide effort to prepare students for college by allowing them to use their own technological devices, which helps to create an environment that is more like the one they will experience in college.


This resource is part of the June 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