Family-School-Community Partnerships

Woman and children at community garden

Family-school-community partnerships are a shared responsibility and reciprocal process whereby schools and other community agencies and organizations engage families in meaningful and culturally appropriate ways, and families take initiative to actively supporting their children’s development and learning. Schools and community organizations also make efforts to listen to parents, support them, and ensure that they have the tools to be active partners in their children’s school experience.

Partnerships are essential for helping students achieve at their maximum potential and, while parent and community involvement has always been a cornerstone of public schools, greater recognition and support of the importance of these collaborative efforts is needed.

School-family-community partnerships help to improve academic outcomes.

Research shows that – at both the elementary and secondary level – when schools, parents, families, and communities work together, students:

  • earn higher grades;

  • attend school more regularly;

  • stay in school; and,

  • are more motivated.

This is true for students of all ages, all backgrounds, and across race and ethnicity. Furthermore, a variety of supports cutting across the spectrum of social, health, and academic needs may be necessary for school success. High quality schools have demonstrated track records connecting with community resources and families to improve student outcomes in all domains of development.

Parents who do not speak English or who were educated in other countries may be unfamiliar with expectations for American school involvement.

While the failure of immigrant or non-English speaking families to come to school or meet with teachers is often interpreted by the schools as “not caring” about their children’s education, this is most often NOT the case. Bilingual resources and staff, programs to help parents understand how to support their children’s education, and parent liaisons who can connect the school and families to linguistically and culturally diverse community resources can be highly effective strategies for developing partnerships between schools, families, and the community.

Implementing family and community engagement priorities and strategies early on provides a foundation for future engagement.

Foundations for academic success begin in early childhood and are further developed during elementary school years. Conversely, patterns of failure and disengagement also begin early. For example, struggling readers are likely to continue to experience ongoing difficulties in secondary school. Continuity with family engagement strategies and partnerships with community programs from Pre-K/Elementary School to middle and high school can help support academic achievement throughout students’ school tenure.


Handbook on Family and Community Engagement. (2011 ).

Epstein, J. L. et al. (2009). School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action .  Third edition.  Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press. 

National Network of Partnership Schools’ (NNPS) semi-annual newsletter “Type 2”,  found at  This archive of free, downloadable newsletters shares examples of featured practices of school, family, and community partnerships, solutions to challenges, and guidelines for continuous improvement in program development.

Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education. NEA Policy Brief . (2008).

The Power of Family School  Community Partnerships: A Training Resource Manual.   (2011). National Education Association.

Adelman, H. & Taylor, L. (2007). Fostering School, Family, and Community Involvement. The Hamilton Fish Institute on School and Community Violence & Northwest Regional Educational Laboratory. Available at:

National Family, School, and Community Engagement Working Group: Recommendations for Federal Policy . Cambridge, MA: Harvard Family Research Project; 2009. Available at



Featured Resources

Partnerships for Learning: Profiles of Three School-Community Partnership Efforts cover page

Provides a snapshot of three school–community partnerships in action and illustrates how diverse programs and models take advantage of five core strategies to effectively build and sustain partnerships for learning. Highlights certain aspects of how the partnerships have been applied in the day-to-day lives of schools and community-based programs. 

Parent, Family, Community Involvement in Education cover page

Discusses an updated, more inclusive model of parental engagement: school-family-community partnerships, to include parents, extended family members, and caregivers working in collaboration with business leaders and community groups in goal-oriented activities linked to improved student achievement and school success. Presents specific strategies to engage families and communities in education and examples of successful parent-family-community partnerships.

Handbook on Family and Community Engagement cover page

Provides educators, community leaders, and parents with a survey of the best research and practice related to engaging families and communities in students’ learning and academic, social, and emotional development. Includes chapters on aspirations and expectations, self-efficacy, homework and study habits, engaging families in reading, reading and literacy, college and career readiness, partnerships, and more.

Thumbnail cover - Four Important Things to Know About the Transition to School

Defines transition as a process—not just a one-time event—that begins during children’s preschool years and continues into and through 3rd grade. This transition is also a time when children begin to take part in an increasing number of learning settings, both in and out of school. The article highlights four important things research indicates about the transition to school,  equity issues, smooth transitions to school, the role of families, and partnerships among families, schools and communities.

Margaret Caspe, M.Elena Lopez, Chalatwan Chattrabhuti
Family Involvement in Elementary School Children's Education cover page

Synthesizes the latest research that demonstrates how family involvement contributes to elementary-school-age children's learning and development. Summarizes the latest evidence base on effective involvement—specifically, the research studies that link family involvement during the elementary school years to outcomes and programs that have been evaluated to show what works.


Margaret Caspe, M. Elena Lopez, Cassandra Wolos