Giving Compass' Take:

• Karen Mapp explains how family engagement impacts student success and how schools can leverage research to improve engagement. 

• How are schools in your community working to engage families? How can funders help schools to improve their engagement efforts? 

• Learn about five ways to foster family engagement

The Every Student Succeeds Act contains a subtle difference from previous legislation when it comes to connecting families with schools: The phrase “parental involvement” has been changed to “family engagement.”

Subtle, but important, said Karen Mapp, who pushed for this change during her time as a consultant for the U.S. Department of Education in 2013, as ESSA was being crafted.

 How would you describe the state of family engagement in schools today?

I’m very optimistic about what I’m seeing around the country. I’m seeing quite a few school districts realizing that family engagement — and I’m describing that as real, respectful partnerships between families and school staff — they are beginning to see this as an absolutely essential ingredient to not only student improvement, but also school improvement.

What does the research say about why family engagement is important?

It’s hard to summarize because there’s over 50 years of research. Johns Hopkins did a recent study on how, when families and school staff meet through an initiative called the Parent Teacher Home Visit Project — this is a home visit that is very much focused on building trusting and respectful relationships between teachers and parents — their [children’s] attendance rates go up and these are children who are more likely to be on or above grade level by third grade.

Every year there’s more research, both quantitative and qualitative, on the impact of various types of initiatives, because family engagement is a broad label. What I’m also very excited about is, over the past 10 to 15 years, we’ve had researchers working on identifying the most effective forms of family engagement.  What we’re starting to see is, the more the strategy partners families and staff in a way that they’re familiar with the learning and developmental goals and outcomes that the school is trying to reach, those are the kinds of strategies where we see effective results.

Read the full interview with Karen Mapp about family engagement by Kate Stringer The 74.