Many lessons were learned during the past year of remote learning, but one remains particularly relevant as classrooms around the country reopen: Schools and families can’t effectively support students without being in partnership with each other.
The critical role of family-school partnerships, particularly in historically underserved communities, was well documented even before the pandemic struck. Decades of research show that family involvement — including supporting at-home learning, participating in school activities and monitoring children’s academic and social activities — pays dividends across the developmental continuum. It’s particularly beneficial for lower-income students for whom school may be one of many competing demands (e.g., jobs, sibling baby-sitting) on their family’s time.
Traditional strategies, though, aren’t always effective. The pandemic strained what was already a tenuous school-family connection in many communities.There is a growing sense of mistrust in schools among Black, brown and Asian families that the pandemic has only amplified, leading many parents of color to pull back from in-person learning. And while schools may be trying to increase communications with families, more frequent one-way outreach is not a recipe for building trust.
For years, researchers like Harvard University professor Karen Mapp, have cautioned school leaders about the limitations of the one-way communications families traditionally receive. “The heart of this work [of engaging families] involves treating families as true partners,” said Mapp in an interview. She advises schools and organizations to shift the role of parents from spectators of the work schools do to co-designers of students’ learning and wellness. To do this right, schools must share power with families and acknowledge that every family has strengths and resources to offer, while remaining mindful of barriers to engagement (i.e., work demands, language and culture differences).
Read the full article about family-school partnerships by Mahnaz Charania at The 74.
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