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The Six Slices of Family Engagement

Definition: Parent and Family Engagement: Reflecting a systemic approach to education from birth to young adulthood, this definition consists of the following principles:

  • First, family engagement is a shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to reaching out to engage families in meaningful ways and in which families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.

  • Second, family engagement is continuous across a child’s life and entails enduring commitment but changing parent roles as children mature into young adulthood.

  • Third, effective family engagement cuts across and reinforces learning in the multiple settings where children learn— at home, in prekindergarten programs, in school, in after school programs, in faith-based institutions, and in the community. 


Source: National Association for Family, School and Community Engagement

Project Appleseed aligns with the PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, working to provide training and resources to school leaders, families, and communities to improve family-school partnerships. The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships are a set of guidelines created by the PTA to help improve the partnership between schools, parents, and other organizations to support student success. The Standards are based on the foundational research on the Six Types developed by Dr. Joyce L. Epstein at Johns Hopkins University. upon which Project Appleseed's Six Slices of Parent Involvement were adopted in 1995.

Six Slices of Family Engagement

Research has shown that family engagement is critical for student success, and these standards aim to provide a framework for effective family engagement in schools. The standards have been used by various organizations, including PTAs, schools, districts, and the U.S. Department of Education, for accountability and support for strong family engagement.

Virtual Town Hall: The updated National Standards for Family-School Partnerships help families and schools build strong partnerships. Watch as the @NationalPTA, @AASApage, @AFTunion, @NEAToday, @NAESP and @SchoolBoards join together on Project Appleseed’s 28th Annual #NationalParentalInvolvementDay 2022 for a virtual townhall about the revised Standards and hear from leaders in the field. U.S. Education Secretary Miguel Cardona was a special guest.

Tune in to discover how using the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships can enhance your efforts to help children and communities thrive. Hear about the latest updates to the National Standards for Family-School Partnerships, discover our newest resources, and learn directly from leading researchers and practitioners in the field. Access it here on YouTube.

The National Standards for Family-School Partnerships are intended for a wide range of users, including:

  • Education leaders at the school, district, and state level looking to improve and monitor family-school partnerships

  • PTA/PTO and other family and community leaders seeking to advocate for stronger partnerships at their schools

  • Families, educators, and youth interested in identifying and promoting effective family-school partnerships

  • Researchers studying the effects and implementation of family-school partnerships

  • Policymakers and private funders looking to invest in community-building through family-school partnerships.

Slice 1. Welcome All Families

The school treats families as valued partners in their child’s education and facilitates a sense of belonging in the school community. 


Goal 1. Build a Community of Belonging: When families engage with the school and PTA/PTO, do they feel respected, understood and connected to the school community?


School & Parent Group Indicators:

  • Learn about families and foster respectful attitudes

  • Provide time, training, and resources for relationship-building

  • Facilitate opportunities for restoration and connection, especially with historically marginalized families and students

  • Use culturally and linguistically responsive engagement practices

  • Invite families to contribute to the school community


Goal 2. Create an Inclusive Environment: Do the school’s and PTA/PTO's efforts encourage engagement with and among the diversity of families in the community?


School & Parent Group Indicators:

  • Encourage school staff to see engaging all families as part of their responsibilities

  • Create an accessible, family-friendly campus and/or virtual school

  • Track family engagement data and regularly examine it to identify gaps in access  

  • Learn about and remove barriers for families to participate fully 


Slice 2.  Communicate Effectively

The school supports staff to engage in proactive, timely, and two-way communication so that all families can easily understand and contribute to their child’s educational experience. 

Goal 1. Exchange Information Between School and Families: Are families able to receive and share information in culturally and linguistically sustaining ways?


School & Parent Group Indicators:

  • Learn about and meet families’ communication preferences

  • Address access by providing interpretation, translation, and/or accommodations

  • Coordinate information-sharing across communication outlets

  • Gather family input and report back with how input was used

  • Foster transparency and enable families to follow-up

  • Co-create engagement plans for times of crisis  


Goal 2. Facilitate Parent-Teacher Communication:

Does the school and PTA/PTO promote communication between families and teachers?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Co-develop communication expectations with families and staff

  • Provide time, training and resources for parent-teacher communication

  • Solicit teacher and family feedback on how communication is going and what could be improved 

professional developmnet training sessio

What are three essential aspects of​ parent engagement? 

Connect, engage and sustain.

Slice 3. Support Student Success

The school builds the capacity of families and educators to continuously collaborate to support students’ academic, social and emotional learning.


Goal 1. Team-Up For Student Success: Are families, students and educators on the same page about how students are progressing?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Support educators to partner with families and students to set social, emotional, and academic goals

  • Provide an understandable and accurate picture of student progress, using multiple measures (classwork, rubrics, observations, assessments, etc.)

  • Ensure accessible, regular, two-way communication about student learning and well being


Goal 2. Support Learning by Engaging Families: Are families valued partners in their children’s learning at home and at school?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Get to know students and families and their strengths

  • Invite families to contribute to classroom learning

  • Provide families guidance and activities to support social, emotional and academic learning at home

  • Promote learning and enrichment outside of school

  • Help families and students plan for the future  

Slice 4.  Speak Up for Every Child

The school affirms family and student expertise and advocacy so that all students are treated fairly and have access to relationships and opportunities that will support their success. 


Goal 1. Navigate the School System: Are families knowledgeable and able to rai