Family Engagement

Authentic family engagement—where families work directly with teachers and establish mutual accountability for student growth and outcomes—can dramatically improve the academic, social and emotional growth of students. CEI helps school leaders implement/refine best practices in family engagement, including:

  • Providing clear and consistent public information about the school, its mission and vision, curriculum, staff, schedules, programming, and expectations for student learning and behavior.
  • Establishing clear, consistent and effective modes of principal-family and teacher-family communication, both in print and web-based.
  • Developing engaging “back to school” and “orientation to curriculum” sessions that allow families to meet teachers and gain insights to what their students are studying in middle school.
  • Holding family group meetings by grade level, subject area and area of interest where teachers and school leaders can share information effectively, allow families to meet one another and ask questions, and grow a shared understanding of the school’s goals for student learning.
  • Establishing forms of public celebration for student and school accomplishments such as culminating events, newsletters that highlight accomplishments, and graduation ceremonies.
  • Working with the school’s Parent Coordinator to invite parents to share their ideas, talents and knowledge with the school so that they can share “ownership” of the learning community.[1]

CEI also provide training to teachers on effective forms of teacher-family communication that extends beyond academic discussions, including the following:

  • How to use multiple forms of communication—in-person, phone, email, other—to engage with families around student learning and development.
  • How to use the positive behavior system (PBS) approach in communicating student progress and growth.
  • How to use examples of student learning to demonstrate student progress, abilities, and needs so that families clearly understand their student’s growth and developmental needs.
  • How to solicit family input into student strengths and needs, learning styles, out-of-school learning opportunities.
  • How to provide suggestions and share ideas to support student learning at home.
  • How to avoid judgments and seek collaborative solutions.
  • How to design action plans with families and maintain clear plans for continued communication.[2]

[1] For a detailed list of strategies to build strong parent engagement, please see Fariña, Carmen and Laura Kotch (2014). A School Leader’s Guide to Excellence: Collaborating our Way to Better Schools, Updated Edition. Portsmouth: Heinemann, 151-176.

[2] These strategies are adapted, in part, from the Harvard Family Research Project’s Parent-Teacher Conference Tip Sheets (October 2010). Available at