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The eight 'p' philosophy for effective school-family partnerships

Establishing effective school-family partnerships isn't always easy. These eight strategies can help your school take steps to build those partnerships. School administrators, teachers, and parents all play a role.

1. Priority

Both schools and families must give top priority to establishing partnerships. This includes partnerships between schools and families, and between teachers and parents. All parties must view partnerships as essential. Otherwise, they won't work well to serve the educational needs of children.

This is an age of accountability at all levels. Making partnerships a top priority is more important than ever. Schools that adopt a philosophy of supporting partnerships helps ensure they will stay a top priority.

2. Planning

Building effective partnerships between schools and families doesn’t just happen. The school must develop a plan. This involves assessing a school's strengths and weaknesses. It also involves assessing parents' specific needs and characteristics. Likewise, parents should plan how they want to be involved in their children’s education.

3. Proactive and persistent communication

Regular communication must occur between parents and schools in order to surface issues. Teachers should use a variety of methods to communicate with parents. This lets parents know they are an important part of their children’s educational experience.

Parent-teacher communication should be culturally appropriate. Bring translators and interpreters to meetings if necessary. It's important for parents and teacher to touch base early in the school year with an eye to building a relationship. This provides a foundation if difficulties occur later on.

4. Positive communication style

Both parents and teachers respond best when the communication between them is positive and focuses on strengths. Negativity is often perceived by the other as an attack. This doesn’t result in effective solutions. Conveying positive messages helps make communication easier when problems occur. Sharing good news or offering sincere compliments contributes to positive communication.

Other factors contribute to positive communication. One is the habit of asking each other for advice on how to address a child's specific educational needs. This makes each party feel their opinions are valued. When communicating negative issues, focus on the facts to help avoid blaming.

5. Personalization

Parents are much more likely to be responsive when school communication is personal. Communication should focus on their children's successes, challenges, and needs. Also encourage parents to tell teachers about their children's unique characteristics and needs.

Teachers value details on children’s unique personalities, health, and home environment. That will help them better understand the context from which the child comes to school.

6. Practical ideas

Both parents and teachers value practical suggestions for how children can learn best. Teachers need to help parents understand the important role they play in their children’s school success. They also should give parents ideas and resources for helping their children succeed in school. Likewise, parents should give teachers practical suggestions for helping their children learn.

7. Program monitoring

It takes a sustained effort over time to establish effective partnerships involving parents. First, set benchmarks, or standards, for your program fostering parent-involvement partnerships. Then, develop an action plan to track how well you're meeting those benchmarks. You need to watch what's working and what's not. Identify barriers and what to do about them. Talk to parents regularly to track your progress.

8. Process

Building relationships between schools and families is an ongoing process. It requires continual attention and shared responsibility to be most effective. Besides monitoring your program, you should evaluate attitudes and atmosphere in your school. Make sure your school welcomes and supports partnerships between families and schools!

Madge Alberts, Program Coordinator emerita in Children, Youth and Family Consortium

Reviewed by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for school success

Reviewed in 2018

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