Strategic Approach &
Supporting Research

Beyond Random Acts:

Family, School, and Community Engagement as an Integral Part of Education Reform


Family, school, and community engagement in education should be an essential strategy in building a pathway to college-­‐ and career-­‐readiness in today’s competitive global society. Research repeatedly correlates family engagement with student achievement, yet this strategy is rarely activated as an integral part of school reform efforts. Now is the time to transform family engagement strategies so that they are intentionally aligned with student learning and achievement. (Weiss et al, 2010)

Strategic Approach

Project Appleseed's strategic approach provides the basic framework that illustrates our program’s theory of change. It shows how day-to-day activities connect to the outcomes and impacts the program seeks to achieve.

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Project Appleseed

Education reform is headed towards preparing students for the twenty-­‐first century. Family engagement needs to be aligned with this new direction, which involves disrupting the current state of practice. Educators tend to treat parents and families as bystanders rather than as partners, and often overlook their strengths and their capacity to transform public education. Family and community engagement is siloed into disparate programs that are disconnected from instructional practice and school turnaround strategies. This state of “random acts of family involvement” has to give way to systemic and sustained approaches.


The transformation from random acts of family involvement to an effective strategy to promote student success begins with a broad reframing of what it should look like. Family engagement is a shared responsibility of families, schools, and communities for student learning and achievement; it is continuous from birth to young adulthood; and it occurs across multiple settings where children learn.

As a reform strategy, family engagement should be systemic, integrated, and sustained.


Systemic family engagement is purposefully designed as a core component of educational goals such as school readiness, student achievement, and school turnaround.


Integrated family engagement is embedded into structures and processes designed to meet these goals, including training and professional development, teaching and learning, community collaboration, and the use of data for continuous improvement and accountability.


Sustainable family engagement operates with adequate resources, including public–private partnerships, to ensure meaningful and effective strategies that have the power to impact student learning and achievement.


Community engagement refers to the support, services, and advocacy activities that community-­‐ based organizations—including businesses and faith-­‐based institutions—provide in order to improve student learning and promote family engagement. While an important function of these organizations consists of outreach to community members, they also assume broader roles. Community schools, for example, consist of partnerships between schools and local organizations to provide comprehensive supports such as tutoring and service learning for students, and leadership training, parenting education, and health and social services for families. Community-­‐ based organizations build social relationships and bring together resources to achieve collective goals. They are often the implementing arm of national education initiatives such as those for high quality early childhood education, extended learning, and dropout prevention. Although community engagement is a vital component in education reform, this research will focuses primarily on family engagement.


Title I Compacts and the Parental Involvement Pledge

In a seperate U.S. Department of Education study, a majority of Title I schools indicate that compacts help promote family involvement. Title I principals were asked to rate the helpfulness of compacts in achieving different types of school and family outcomes. Responses tended to differ by school poverty, with the highest-poverty schools finding compacts most helpful.


  • In the highest-poverty schools, 85 percent of principals found Title I compacts helpful in supporting homework completion.About 8 out of 10 principals in high-poverty Title I schools rated compacts as helpful, as did a majority of principals in low-poverty schools.

  • Across all schools, about 30 percent of the principals considered compacts “very helpful”.Principals perceived compacts as having the greatest impact on homework completion, school climate, student discipline, and reading at home—factors that are amenable to intervention by school-family partnership activities.


Data from the Prospects study of student outcomes (1998) provide evidence that when compacts are effectively implemented, positive student outcomes, including higher achievement, result. Schools with compacts were compared with non-compact schools on parental involvement and student achievement. Schools with compacts had higher levels of family involvement in those activities in which parents worked directly with their own children. These activities included parents’ monitoring of homework and reading with their children. The study concluded that, after controlling for other factors, positive student outcomes found in compact schools were associated with the greater involvement of parents in supporting their own children’s learning. Other activities, such as volunteering and decision making, may be valuable in their own right but were not shown to significantly affect learning.











In a second study from the same time period an examination of ten schools found that four aspects of parent involvement in their own children’s education correlated highly with achievement and other outcomes. These were: the parent caring about what occurred in the Title I classroom; the parent encouraging the student to read; the parent keeping track of the child’s progress in school work; and the parent making sure that there was a place for the child to study at home.


Because the data in the first study covered the early 1990s, before the Title I compact requirement, compact schools were ones that initiated the compact on their own and presumably were committed to its success. Now that compacts are required in all Title I schools, achieving this level of commitment in all schools will take more effort. Source: Heid, C., & Webber, A. (1999). School-level implementation of standards-based reform: Findings from the Follow-Up Public School Survey on Education Reform. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education.

Project Appleseed