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What are some specific ways to create family-and-community partnerships? In this section, we'll look at a few examples of partnerships in classrooms and schools around the country. We also offer two examples of interactive homework assignments that can draw parents into the teaching process.

Partnerships in action
In the classroom
In schools
How can connecting schools and communities help teachers with lesson planning?
Online poll

In the classroom

Here we see partnership programs in action.

Part 1 of 2 Part 2 of 2

In Part 1, participants discuss a partnership program between a local department of health and a school in Bergen County, New Jersey.

In Part 2, students at Bergen Academy, Hackensack, New Jersey, help develop a survey that will be used to draft a health-based curriculum in the county.


Parents and children work together in an after-school computer laboratory.

Norma Woolsey, a parent-involvement coordinator in McAllen, Texas, talks about a program at a local school where parents were invited to participate in an after-school computer laboratory. This brought the parents into the classroom and allowed them to share skills and experiences with their children.


Some school districts in Texas have written contracts that link students, their families, and the teachers in an agreement to stay connected.
Pablo Perez, the former superintendent of the McAllen Independent School District, McAllen, Texas, describes how his schools have developed a partnership program that includes a written contract signed by teachers, students, and parents. Each person promises to participate in the education process. Parents promise to ask their students questions about their classes; this shows their children they are interested in education, and it engages parents with their children's studies.


A parent talks about the satisfaction she has gotten from being involved in her children's school.
Ruth Poindexter, parent and member of the District 12 Community School Board, Bronx, New York talks about how glad she was to become involved in her children's school. This involvement led to her becoming a parent leader, and to her recent election to the local school board. Parents who become involved in their children's education can often become leaders in the reform of their schools.


Community partnership programs can benefit students.


Tanika talks about her apprenticeship at the hospital.

Tanika Jones, an eleventh-grade student, has taken advantage of a local partnership program to become a "youth apprentice" at a local hospital, where she has gotten a wide range of experiences. She talks about how this has helped her to understand the medical profession. Her school had developed a "school-to-work" program to connect its students with local community businesses and institutions. This creates valuable experiences for students and local employers.


School lessons can be connected to real-life examples and work skills.


Schools and local businesses both can benefit from partnerships.

Mary Charipar, an administrator at Benjamin Franklin High School, talks about the benefits of her school's partnership program with local businesses. Student apprentices get the benefit of real-life exposure to fields they are interested in exploring.

Cathy Kurlan, vice president of the Junior Achievement Program in Rochester, New York, talks about the importance of building links between home, school, and life after school. She talks about making lessons relevant to real life. Community volunteers come into the classroom to make connections between school and life outside of school.

In schools

SchoolAnoka-Hennepin Independent School District 11:
Coon Rapids, Minnesota

This school district has a very successful partnership program. In 1998-99, nearly 7,000 parents volunteered in the district in various projects and programs. The district's Web site includes information to help parents supervise homework and read to their children, as well as a page that assesses a student's learning style. Anoka-Hennepin is a district member of the National Network of Partnership Schools at Johns Hopkins University.

SchoolVineland Public Schools
Vineland, New Jersey

An elementary school in this district, Max Leuchter Elementary, was chosen by WORKING MOTHER magazine as a school that "works for families." The district uses TIPS interactive homework (see "How can connecting schools and communities help teachers with lesson planning?") and has an active Parent Resource Center. The "Archives Alive" program records community history and includes information about local historical sites. Max Leuchter is a school member of the National Network of Partnership Schools.

SchoolNorthland Pines School District
Eagle River, Wisconsin

Schools in this district offer parent hotlines that give information about homework, classwork, and special events for each class. Some classes have their own Web pages on which they describe science experiments and other projects. The schools' calendars are online and include links to sites relevant to the day's lessons and events. Wisconsin is a state member of the National Network of Partnership Schools.

SchoolYsleta Independent School District
El Paso, Texas

This district was formerly one of Texas's "low performing" districts. When parents and educators worked to develop a program of higher standards and other reforms, the school became the first urban district in Texas to be "recognized" for its massive improvement on statewide standardized tests. The Web site features a "parent involvement" section, as well as links to educational resources and an overview of the district's activities. Texas is a state member of the National Network of Partnership Schools.

Community-Based Partnerships
There are also a number of community-based organizations where citizens have become actively involved in the reform of their schools. These include:

SchoolRight Question Project
Cambridge, Massachusetts

The Right Question Project (RQP) is an organization that helps traditionally disengaged people build skills to get involved in issues that affect them. Its educational methodology prepares people to more effectively advocate for themselves; participate in decision-making processes pertinent to them and their families; and hold those decision-makers and decision-making processes accountable. Project areas include economic self-sufficiency, healthcare, public education, citizen participation and community building, self-advocacy and accountability, and campaign finance reform.

RQP's family involvement activities center on teaching parents to more effectively support, monitor, and advocate for their child's education. Through its Question Formulation Technique, RQP trains parents to develop critical-thinking skills and to begin engaging schools in joint problem-solving processes. This methodology has been used among parents in Rhode Island, Kentucky, New Jersey, and with the Massachusetts Parent Training and Empowerment Project.

SchoolNational Coalition of Advocates for Students
Boston, Massachusetts

The National Coalition of Advocates for Students (NCAS) is an education advocacy organization working to achieve equal access to a quality public education for students who are most vulnerable to school failure. NCAS's constituencies include low-income students; members of racial, ethnic, and/or language minority groups; recent immigrants; migrant farm workers; and those with disabilities. NCAS informs and mobilizes parents, educators, and communities working toward school improvement.

Sixteen member organizations collaborate on the Mobilization for Equity (MFE), training parents to engage in local school reform. They advocate for ten critical-equity issues including parent participation in decision-making processes. In partnership with the Florida Department of Education's Bureau of School Reform, Improvement and Accountability, NCAS operates the Florida for the Children Campaign. It provides training about the U.S. public school system to parents of limited-English proficient students and supports full implementation of the Florida language rights consent decree. Similarly, the National Asian Family/School Partnership Project brings together schools, Asian families, and Asian communities to improve the academic success of Asian students. NAFSPP works with the parents of these students and the staff of ethnic Asian CBOs to establish learning environments that support the students and the meaningful participation of their parents. The Project plans to expand to include a Trainer of Trainer Institute, a national media campaign, student assessment tool development, and community-coalition building. The Clearinghouse for Immigrant Education (CHIME) is a clearinghouse of educational issues for recent immigrants. It is intended to serve students, parents, school staff, and other community members. Counseling in Today's World -- Leading through Diversity to Achieve Excellence develops the skills of school counselors to work effectively with students and families. The School Opening Alert Campaign provides information to parents in heritage languages about U.S. public schools and immigrant students' legal rights. Publications promoting family involvement activities address parents, advocates, policymakers, practitioners, educators, and community leaders and are available in diverse languages.

SchoolPrichard Committee for Academic Excellence
Lexington, Kentucky

The Prichard Committee for Academic Excellence is an independent, nonpartisan organization of Kentucky parents and citizens whose mission is to give Kentuckians a voice in education reform efforts. The Prichard Committee advocates for every student's success; informs the public, legislators, governors, and other education officials; and mobilizes local parents and citizens.

In response to the 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act, the Prichard Committee sponsored the Commonwealth Institute for Parent Leadership. The Commonwealth Institute trains parents for leadership roles. Focusing on standards and assessment, projects teach parents how to use test results to improve student achievement. The Prichard Committee also convenes small groups of parents and teachers in a semistructured format, opening avenues of family-school communication, building parent involvement, and improving the child's educational outcome. Numerous publications include guidebooks on school-based decision-making and school law, a quarterly newsletter, and a monthly newspaper column. There is also a toll-free telephone line open for questions.


Workshop: Making Family and Community Connections
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