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Closing The Achievement Gap - Banner



“Schools can serve as community beacons in which schools become the
‘heart of the community' and parents and students learn together.”

—Arne Duncan, U.S. Secretary of Education

Examples of Success


It is important for school leaders to recognize and be sensitive to the diversity of family structures * when creating opportunities for parent and family involvement in school activities. Students may be living with grandparents or adults other than their parents. Some students may be homeless and/or living in shelters. Some may be moving frequently as their parent or guardian changes jobs. Foster children may move from family to family during their school years.

One thing that is consistent is the evidence that children's achievement in school and throughout their lives is greatly influenced by parents and families. Research is clear about the significance of the presence of a caring adult in a youth's life—whether that adult is immediately involved in the home life or not. When schools build partnerships that respond to the concerns and honor the contributions of family members, schools are successful in sustaining connections that are aimed at improving student achievement.

A report from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) provides a synthesis of research on parent and family involvement in schools over the last decade. This report, entitled A New Wave of Evidence—The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, states that when schools, families, and community groups work together to support learning, children tend to do better in school, stay in school longer, and have a more positive attitude toward school and learning. Feeling part of a defined community is extremely important to a child's positive self-image.

The report by SEDL also finds that families of all income and education levels and from all ethnic and cultural groups are engaged in supporting their children's learning at home. However, the report states that white, middle-class families tend to be more involved at school. SEDL reports that all families can make a positive contribution to their children's achievement by participating in school activities and that training and encouragement in the types of school participation makes a positive difference. The research also suggests that while children from low socioeconomic groups may have the most to gain from parent and family involvement, special education, English learners, and other student groups also experience significant benefits when their parents and families are involved in their learning.

The research reviewed by SEDL for its report shows that when schools engage parents and families in ways that are linked to improving learning, students make greater gains. School and family partnerships are valued and recognized as essential in closing the achievement gap. Turnabout schools know that change is not brought about alone and welcome the contributions of families, community-based organizations, and community volunteers. Clearly, encouraging more involvement at school from parents, families, and all adults who care is an important strategy for addressing the achievement gap.

Resources & Tools

California Department of Education (CDE) Web Page for Parents and Families
This site contains many links to useful resources and information on: Family–School Compacts, parents' rights, parent handbooks, Clearinghouse for Multilingual Documents, etc.

California Parent Center, San Diego State University Research Foundation
The California Parent Center provides technical assistance to schools and districts statewide in the area of parent involvement. The program also includes training for creating family–school partnerships to increase student achievement.

Center for Mental Health in Schools at UCLA. 2007. A Resource Aid Packet On Addressing Barriers To Learning: A Set of Surveys to Map What a School Has and What It Needs. Los Angeles, CA. (PDF)
"Home Involvement in Schooling," pp. 28–33

Center on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, Johns Hopkins University
The mission of this center is to conduct and disseminate research, development, and policy analyses that produce new and useful knowledge and practices that help families, educators, and members of communities work together to improve schools, strengthen families, and enhance student learning and development.

Parent Information and Resource Centers (PIRCs) are funded by the U.S. Department of Education. They provide both local and statewide services. California has two PIRCs:  Parent PIRC1, Project Inspire at the California Association of Bilingual Education, Covina, CA, and  PIRC 2, Cal-PIRC at Cambridge Academies, Modesto, CA.

Taking Center Stage, Act II: A Portal for Middle Grades Educators
Taking Center Stage, Act II, a California Department of Education Web site, encourages educators to collaborate and find solutions to ensure success and close the achievement gap for all of California's middle grade students. This section helps middle schools face the challenge of finding new ways to involve parents or significant adults as partners in students' learning.

National Dropout Prevention Center for Students With Disabilities
This site has a number of dropout prevention resources for parents of children with disabilities.

To Get Involved

To get involved, contact your local school to find out about joining parent support groups such as the Parent Teacher Association, English Learners Advisory Council (ELAC), School Site Council, other groups, adult education and other programs.

*Note: In an effort to include the wide variety of family structures in this discussion of partnerships to close the achievement gap, the word family will reference not only parents and other members of an immediate and extended family, but also any and all adults who care—whether or not that adult is immediately involved in the student's home life.