A r c h i v e d  I n f o r m a t i o n

Reaching All Families: Creating Family-Friendly Schools - August 1996

An Introduction to
Reaching All Families

This booklet presents accumulated knowledge and fresh ideas on school outreach strategies. With them, schools can reach out to all families and help involve them in their children's education.*

Some of the strategies are widely used, such as the fall open house and parent-teacher conferences. Others, like parent resource centers and positive phone calls, are much less common. Within each strategy, suggestions for action are made. These are based on broad experience, which can help even seasoned teachers, principals, and district officials do a better job of making their schools family-friendly.

Many parents prepare their children well for school on their own and contact the schools as needed. Working with such parents requires little effort. But there are many others who want to help their children learn more, yet do not come to school. This fact should not be taken as evidence that they do not care about their children's education (Chavkin & Williams, 1989; Epstein, 1983; Moles, 1993).

Job and family demands leave little free time for many parents. Others who stay away tend to be racial and ethnic minorities, and those who have less income and less ease with the English language. Their children are more often at risk of failing in school (Smith et al., 1995). In growing up they may also have had negative school experiences. Involving such hard to reach families is a challenge.

It may seem surprising, but surveys show that most parents, regardless of their background, want guidance from the schools on ways to help their children learn better (Chavkin & Williams, 1989; Epstein, 1986). Thus parents look to schools for help even if they do not or cannot make the first contact themselves. Making parents feel welcome in the school is the first step to helping them.

A new National Education Goal calls on every school to promote partnerships and increase parent participation in the growth of children. Reaching and involving all parents and families is important if the United States is to educate all students to high standards, such as those recommended by the Goals 2000: Educate America Act.

The strategies in this booklet focus on ways principals and teachers can communicate with all families about:

The section on homework and home learning offers many suggestions. Studies show that activities initiated by the school to change the home educational environment can have a strong influence on school performance, especially in schools serving low-income and minority families (Graue, Weinstein & Walberg, 1983; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Leler, 1983; Moles, 1993).

The different strategies are designed to build on each other or fit special circumstances; none of them is a cure-all by itself. Some are ways of introducing the school to families early in the school year. Others focus on ongoing communications or how to contact special groups of parents. Strategies to help workshops reach more families successfully also are discussed.

Strategies which encourage two-way communication through personal contacts are highlighted. If families are to be involved as true partners in their children's education, it is important to provide ongoing opportunities to hear their concerns and comments as well as providing them information. Together, teachers and parents make a great team to help children get a good start for life.

Schools which participate in the federal Title I program may be able to use Title I funds to pay for activities related to some of the strategies in this booklet. These activities include training for parents to help improve their children's achievement and to learn about child rearing issues, creating school-based parent resource centers, training and supporting parents to enhance the involvement of other parents, and reducing transportation and child care costs so parents can participate in school-related meetings and training sessions. For more information on the parent involvement aspects of Title I call 202-260-0965. Section 1118 of the Improving America's Schools Act of 1994 describes these efforts. Schools should contact their local education agency for assistance.

Most of the strategies in this booklet are adapted from Parent Involvement Fact Sheets and Parent-School Collaboration: A Compendium of Strategies for Parent Involvement. Both of these booklets were published by the Massachusetts Department of Education, and are used with permission. These materials were originally developed with extensive input from schools and parent involvement experts. They have been widely distributed to schools, including those with Title I federal programs.

This booklet is produced in collaboration with the Partnership for Family Involvement in Education, a joint endeavor of the U.S. Department of Education and more than 400 family, education, community, religious, and business organizations dedicated to developing family-school-community partnerships for learning to high standards. A publication of the Partnership, Strong Families, Strong Schools, (U.S. Department of Education, 1994) provides additional examples on how schools can reach out to families. For more information on the Partnership call 1-800-USA-LEARN.


Chavkin, N.F., & Williams, D.L. Jr. (1989).
Low-income parents' attitudes toward parent involvement in education. Journal of Sociology and Social Welfare.

Epstein, J.L. (1983).
Effects on parents of teacher practices of parent involvement. Report No. 346. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University, Center for Social Organization of Schools.

Epstein, J.L. (1986).
Parents' reactions to teacher practices of parent involvement. Elementary School Journal 86, 3 (January).

Graue, M.E., Weinstein, T., & Walberg, H.J. (1983).
School-based home instruction and learning: A quantitative synthesis. Paper presented at the American Educational Research Association meetings, April 1983.

Henderson, A.T., & Berla, N. (1994).
A new generation of evidence: The family is critical to student achievement. Washington, DC: National Committee for Citizens in Education.

Leler, H. (1983).
Parent education and involvement in relation to the schools and to parents of school-aged children. In R. Haskins and D. Adams (eds.) Parent education and public policy. Norwood, NJ: Ablex.

Moles, O.C. (1993).
Collaboration between schools and disadvantaged parents: Obstacles and openings. In N. Chavkin (ed.) Families and schools in a pluralistic society. Albany: State University of New York Press.

Smith, T.M. et al. (1995).
The condition of education 1995. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement, National Center for Education Statistics.

U.S. Department of Education. (1994).
Strong families, strong schools: Building community partnerships for learning. Washington, DC: author.

Family Friendly Resources From the
Office of Educational Research and Improvement

Books in the Helping Your Child Series

Helping Your Child Be Healthy and Fit
Helping Your Child Get Ready for School
Helping Your Child Learn History
Helping Your Child Learn Math
Helping Your Child Learn Science
Helping Your Child Learn Responsible Behavior
Helping Your Child Learn to Read
Helping Your Child Use the Library
Helping Your Child Succeed in School
Helping Your Child With Homework

Easily reproducible two-page fact sheets from the Learning Partners Series

Being Responsible!
Get to School Safely!
Let's Be Healthy!
Let's Do Geography!
Let's Do History!
Let's Do Math!
Let's Do Science!
Let's Get Ready for School!
Let's Read!
Let's Succeed in School!
Let's Use the Library!
Let's Use TV!
Let's Write!
Let's Do Art!
For single copies, call the National Library of Education at (800) 424-1616.

* Many family forms exist today and biological parents are often not the main caregivers to children. The term families is used in this booklet to refer to the various settings for child rearing today. The term parents is also used here in an inclusive sense.
[Acknowledgments] [Table of Contents] [Introducing School Policies and Programs]

This page was last updated January 8, 2002 (jca)