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The Definition of Parent and Family Engagement

A systemic approach to education from birth to young adulthood and consists of the following:​​

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. 

The Six Slices of Family 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.

Project Appleseed's Six Slices of Family Engagement

Research has shown that high-impact family engagement is critical for student success, and these standards aim to provide a framework for effective parent 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 parental involvement.

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:


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 

Step Up Family Engagement with Professional Development

Image by Ivan Aleksic

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 raise questions or concerns about their child’s educational experience?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Build school staffs’ skills to build trust and problem-solve with students and families

  • Make it easy to understand how the school and district operate

  • Comply with families’ rights under federal and state laws

  • Connect families to resources that address their questions or concerns

  • Make school staff and families aware of conflict resolution processes and apply them fairly


Goal 2. Address inequitable outcomes and access. Does the school and PTA/PTO remove barriers for families to be advocates for and with students’—particularly those who are most marginalized?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Encourage community and leadership among historically under-represented groups

  • Share understandable, disaggregated data on school progress and practices

  • Recognize and work to eliminate bias in family engagement practices and policies

Slice 5. Share Power

The school partners with families in decisions that affect children and families and together—and as a team, inform, influence and create policies, practices and programs. 


Goal 1. Strengthen the Family’s Voice in Shared Decision Making: Are families partners in making decisions that affect their children at school and in the community? 


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Transparently and accessibly communicate about decision-making processes Ì Build shared knowledge about decisions that affect children

  • Give families and students voice in decisions that affect children

  • Identify and remedy power imbalances

  • Track data and fill gaps for representative input and power in decisions


Goal 2. Build Families’ Connections: Do families have a strong, broad-based organization that offers regular opportunities to develop relationships and raise concerns with school leaders, public officials, and business and community leaders?


School & Parent Group Indicators

  • Connect families to local officials

  • Foster student and family leadership and civic engagement

  • Support the development of an effective family/parent organization that represents all families  


Slice 6. Collaborating with the Community

The school collaborates with community organizations and members to connect students, families and staff to expanded learning opportunities, community services and civic participation.

Goal 1. Build a Strong Foundation for Community Partnerships: Does the school and PTA/PTO have a plan for when and how to engage community partners?


School & Parent Group Indicators:

  • Map community needs and assets

  • Align partnerships to school improvement planning

  • Work with partners to clarify roles and responsibilities


Goal 2. Connect the School with Community Partners: Do family and school leaders work closely with community organizations, businesses, and institutions of higher education?


School & Parent Group Indicators:

  • Understand issues affecting the community and contribute to community-wide solutions

  • Address student and family basic needs through community resources

  • Build staffs’ cultural competence through community partnerships

  • Act as a hub of community life  


Here are some resources for each of the Six Slices of Family Engagement, based on Joyce Epstein's model. These are just a few resources that can help parents and schools collaborate effectively. It's important to find the resources that best meet the specific needs of your school and community:

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