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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.

Terms of Use ▼

Larry Decker
Florida Atlantic University


Three semester hours. A study of the philosophy, principles, practices, and agencies and organizations involved in or influencing school community programs and initiatives. Special attention is focused on the role of school and community leaders in planning and implementing system-wide and building-level communications and involvement networks.

This course will address the identification and utilization of community resources and the creation of family engagement partnerships, community linkages, and collaborative efforts to provide for the educational, cultural, health, lifelong learning, vocational, and out-of-school needs of students and citizens in a community.

Course Goals and Objectives

  • Establish a vision and goals for proactive leadership in schools, school districts, and agencies to encourage a more responsive school system that serves all students efficiently and equitably.
  • Prepare educational and agency leaders who demonstrate an understanding of the need to and the capabilities that will enable them to:
    • Function in a collaborative manner in the larger community and within the school or school district.
    • Develop a framework and design a process for collaboration at the school site for establishing a school-community partnerships.
    • Identify and evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different partnership programs and collaborative family-school-community efforts.
    • Assess the internal and external school and community environment and determine the most appropriate communication strategies for developing effective home-school-community relationships.
    • Demonstrate systemic/holistic thinking from both a personal, policy, and political perspective.

Required Texts

Mathews, D. (1996). Is there a public for public schools. Dayton, OH: Kettering Foundation Press.

Decker, L. E., Decker, V. A., & associates. (2000). Engaging families and communities: Pathways to educational success. Fairfax, VA: National Community Education Association.

Community Education website:

Course Assignments/Activities/Expectations

It is assumed that individuals enrolled in the course are self-directed learners who will actively engage in collaborative learning. Class participation is expected in (a) doing team projects, (b) making oral presentations in class, and (c) taking part in class discussions and simulations.

Team work is essential to collaboration. Therefore, two or three individuals are encouraged to work together on selected team projects as noted below. Teams will be formed during class. Each team will decide how to complete and present its work and make a class presentation.

A. Required: Reading of required texts and related handouts to enable individuals to discuss the topics or issues identified. Participation in class discussions and activities.

B. Required: Website Reviews – Focus or content areas are listed in Engaging Families and Communities book (pp. 117–121). Can be individual or team project. Teams and content areas (one or two) will be selected during class. Each team should conduct at least the following:

  • An overall assessment for each website based on content. Rank each site on a scale of 1 to 10 (1=low, 10=high).
  • An overview of information available at each site.
  • A review of at least three major articles or specific references from the sites that are judged to be of significance for the study or understanding of the specific content area.
  • Other new websites reviewed and recommended for study related to the content area for School Community Leadership.

C. Required: Team Critique of Mathews Book – Prepare a short (3- to 4-page) paper and present a summary of your team's views that address the following:

  • Does your team agree or disagree with the major themes that are addressed in the Mathews book and why?
  • What does your team see as the relationship between the public and the public schools?
  • What does your team see as the day to day implications for teachers and administrators?
  • What specific action(s) would your team recommend for School Leaders?

D. Required: Research Paper – Select an area of interest that might be used for dissertation research, a professional journal article, or an area that requires research for organizational planning when considering new projects. Individuals should select and maintain a file of at least 10 research-based primary sources and three Internet sites. Analyze the research in the area of study, identifying the major writers and the major themes found in the writings and Internet sites. Following this analysis, develop a written summary (10–15 pages) that presents the information. Graduate level research and writing is expected. APA style is required for all written assignments. Individuals will present their findings to their colleagues during a 15–20 minute oral presentation.

Class Assessment

Class Participation – 20%
Critique – 20%
Team Project – Website Review – 20%
Research Paper – 20%
Final Examination (take home) – 20%

Content Areas

Unit I. Concepts, History and Status of School Community Initiatives

  • Education Reform and Transforming Schools
  • School-Community Issues Attitudinal Survey and Community Analysis
  • Knowing Your Community
  • National and State Status and Standards
  • Concepts, Values, and Definitions
    • Philosophies of Education and Relationship to Community Initiatives
    • Programs, Processes, and Practices of School Community Initiatives
    • Parent/Family/Community Involvement (Florida Goal 8)
    • School-Community Relations Strategies
    • Community Schools and Community Education
  • Historical Review of School Community Leadership: International, National, State, and Local—People, Events, and Benchmarks

Unit II. Understanding Your Community

  • Healthy Communities
  • The Status of Children and Families in America
  • Demographics and Socioeconomic Variables
  • Special Considerations and High-Risk Groups
  • The Essential Role of Communities
  • Building Communities and Model Programs
  • Information Sources for Demographics and Community Building

Unit III. School Public Relations – Bridging the Gap

  • What and Why School Public Relations?
  • Identification of Audiences: Internal and External Publics
  • Building Public Confidence
  • Teacher and Staff Morale/Roles: The Internal Environment and Culture
  • Why Image Matters and Barriers to Communications
  • Marketing Communication
  • Working with the News Media
  • Key Communicators
  • Written Communication, Publications, and Newsletters
  • Taking Advantage of Technology
  • Management of the External Environment
  • Planning & Staffing a Public Relations Program

Unit IV. The School and Family Partnership

  • Benefits, Standards, Models, and Principles of Family/Parent Involvement
  • Involving Parents: The Evidence and Barriers
  • Strategies for Reducing Home-School Involvement Barriers
  • Types of Parent Involvement, Examples, and Outcomes
  • Climate Inventory and Needs Assessment
  • Preparing Educators for Family-School Partnership/Involvement
  • Staffing and Administrative Consideration

Unit V. Using Advisory Committees and Volunteer Programs

  • Advisory Committee Guidelines and Effective Meetings
  • Basic Needs of People in Groups
  • Parliamentary Procedure
  • Debriefing and Evaluating Meetings
  • Ways to Destroy Citizen Councils
  • Developing and Coordinating School Volunteer Programs
  • Attracting, Training, and Retaining Volunteers

Unit VI. Community Power Structure and Dealing with Political Realities

  • The Politics of Education
  • Power, Politics, and Policymaking
  • Discovering the Community Power Structure
  • Community Political Process & Needed Political Skill
  • Interest Groups and Finding Common Ground
  • Dealing With Criticism and Achieving Change
  • Politicians' View of Educators
  • Power and Politics for Academic Success
  • When Things Go Wrong & Get out of Hand

Unit VII. Agencies, Partnerships, and Community Collaboration

  • Types Collaboration: Definition and Factors Influencing Success
  • A Continuum of School-Community Partnerships
  • Strategies for and Barriers to Collaboration
  • Characteristics of Successful Coalitions and Collaborative Services
  • Criteria for School-Linked Services/Full-Service Schools
  • Qualities and Skills of Collaborative Leaders
  • Ways Business Can Support Family Involvement and Partnerships
  • Lessons of Successful Programs

Unit XIII. School Safety and Issue/Crisis Management

  • School Safety and Planning for Safety
  • Issue Identification and Management
    • Drugs and Substance Abuse – A Community Issue
    • Community Crime and School/Family Violence
    • At-Risk Students, Discipline, and Gangs
    • Family Support and Parent Education
    • Health Care/Mental Health
    • Youth Unemployment, Dropout, Pregnancy, Welfare, and Family Issues
  • Crisis Management: Prevention, Intervention, and Post-Intervention
  • Crisis Response Planning
  • Resources for Crisis Planning and Risk Management

Unit IX. Planning and Evaluating Comprehensive Home-School-Community Relations Programs

  • The Basic Steps of Planning and Strategy Planning
  • How to Develop a Public Relations Programs
  • Evaluation: An Outcome Orientation
  • Audit/Evaluation Processes/Techniques and Tools

Unit X. Leadership and Staffing Issues and Future Projections

  • Collaborative Leadership
  • Collaboration: A New Kind of Environment
  • Making Friends Before You Need Them

Free. Available online only.

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