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California Technical Assistance and Training
CalSTAT Techincal Assitance and Training




Revised: April 2012
Revised by: Dr. Joyce Epstein, Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University


Revisions to the Core Message Area and content on School, Family, and Community Partnerships (SFCP) are based on advances over the past ten years in research, policies, and practical programs of family and community involvement. The literature identifies several major components for developing effective leadership and programs of family and community involvement at the state, district, and school levels. The content of the SFCP Core Message Area is organized to guide educators in new directions to establish basic leadership and program structures and processes, and to continually improve plans and practices to engage all families in ways that link to student achievement and success in school. The research-based approaches ensure that family and community involvement is understood as part of good school organization, linked to school improvement plans (in California, the Single Plan for Student Achievement-SPSA), and focused on goals for student learning and development.   

Background on Core Message Area:
A focus of past (1999 – 2013) federally funded State Personnel Development Grants (SPDG), awarded to the California Department of Education was to communicate common messages to the field about selected topics. These common, or core messages, articulate critical research findings and essential components of effective application. All core messages have been identified by experts in the field and have been approved by the California Department of Education, Special Education Division.

California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT), continues to utilize these core messages by supporting trainings and technical assistance, ( requests that reflect any or all of the Core Message Areas. After reading the Core Message Area topics on School, Family, and Community Partnerships, just select any of the Resources and Web site links listed after each topic to view the messages and supporting research.

  1. Develop a Partnership Program
    “There is no topic in education on which there is greater agreement than the need for family and community involvement. Yet, most districts and schools still struggle in developing research-based partnership programs that engage all families in ways that contribute to student success in school. Now, research and fieldwork have shown how to organize effective partnership programs that help improve student attendance, behavior, achievement, and other indicators of success in school.”
    Resources and Web sites

  2. Community Connections
    Programs of School, Family, and Community Partnerships are enriched by connections with community partners. School teams and district leaders may reach out to businesses, senior citizens, faith-based organizations, sports franchises, health care organizations, cultural and recreation groups, and other community services and individuals to improve the school curriculum, increase services to families, and extend students’ opportunities to learn. Excellent partnership programs not only obtain community resources, but also enable students to contribute to their communities in service learning and other special projects. 
    Resources and Web sites

  3. Diverse Families
    Some families have always been involved in their children’s education. The goal for excellent partnership programs is to engage all families—including those who would not become involved on their own. This includes improving the clarity of communications with families in languages that parents can understand. Once called “barriers” to involvement, the diversity of families’ backgrounds, languages, and cultures now are understood as “riches” that can be tapped by schools to enable all families to become involved in productive ways with the schools and with their children at all grade levels. 
    Resources and Web sites

  4. Homework
    Of all topics of family involvement, parents most want to know how to guide and assist their children at home—mainly on homework. It is important for schools to focus on improving the homework process so that families are informed and involved in appropriate ways across the grades. This requires every teacher to provide useful information to parents about the homework policy and good ideas about how to make homework a positive part of learning at home. Research has increased and improved on the purposes, designs, and results of homework.  Programs have been developed to help teachers design “interactive” assignments that require students to show, share, and discuss their ideas and their work with family partners.
    Resources and Web sites

  5. Leadership on Partnerships
    Leadership on partnerships is neither top down nor bottom up – but side by side. Top down mandates often are unpopular and punitive. Bottom-up decisions are often inequitable and unmanageable over the long term. Side-by-side—or shared—leadership at the district and school levels helps all participants learn from one another. Studies show, for example, that district leaders for partnership program development help schools improve the quality of their outreach to all families over and above what schools can do on their own. Partnership programs improve when principals, counselors, teachers, parents, and district and state leaders work together to plan, implement, and evaluate their efforts to engage all families in ways that support student success in school.
    Resources and Web sites

  6. Middle and High Schools
    Family involvement changes as students proceed through the grades. Early studies focused on preschools and elementary schools. In the past ten years or so, more research has been conducted at the middle and high school levels.  The studies indicate that age-appropriate and goal-linked programs and practices of family and community involvement contribute to students’ success through twelfth grade. There also are clear examples of activities that enable families to remain important influences in their teens’ education on important outcomes, such as attendance, homework completed, credits earned, on-time high school graduation, and plans for postsecondary education for college or careers.
    Resources and Web sites

  7. Policy
    Federal, state, district, and school policies clearly call for effective programs of family and community involvement. The challenge is to turn good policies into good practices. Educators at all policy levels want to know: How can all partners in children’s education help develop or revise and improve policies for family and community involvement? How can state, district, and school policies be well implemented and customized to meet the needs of different communities and diverse student and family populations? New guidelines and examples of clear and effective policies in states and districts are helping to address these questions.
    Resources and Web sites

  8. Results for Students
    The most important reason for developing more effective, more equitable, and more goal-linked programs of family and community involvement is to increase student learning and success in school. In the “old days,” schools thought only about the parents’ involvement. Now, because schools are accountable for students’ academic achievement, good behavior, and other indicators of success in school, the focus of family and community involvement is on results for students. This important new direction makes family and community involvement central for the success of all school reform efforts. The focus on results means that districts and schools have the responsibility for developing excellent partnership programs and for engaging parents and community partners in ways that support student learning and development.
    Resources and Web sites

  9. Special Education
    The field of special education led the way in engaging parents on purposeful activities such as working with teachers to plan their children’s educational programs, IEPs, transition plans, and learning activities at the appropriate level of challenge. Now, schools that serve students with special needs must build on past successes by developing comprehensive and integrated programs of family and community involvement that serve the whole school. Families with and without students with special needs create a “school community.” This means ensuring that families of students with special needs are represented on school committees and leadership teams, feel welcome at the school, are accommodated as needed to participate in school events and activities, and are guided on productive involvement at home. There still are some separate schools that serve only students with severe special needs. These schools must develop goal-linked programs of partnerships that support students’ success—just as any school must plan and implement an effective partnership program.  The activities in each school’s One-Year Action Plan for Partnerships will be customized to meet students’ needs, interests, and targeted learning goals.
    Resources and Web sites

  10. Stories from the Field: Promising Partnership Practices
    Educators, parents, media, and the public need to see how strong goal-linked programs and practices are designed and implemented. If one school or district or state puts research to work in practice and describes the work clearly, others are more likely to take similar steps to develop their partnership programs. This section provides case studies and examples of hundreds of school, district, and state-level activities to welcome all families and engage families and community partners in ways that help students improve skills in reading, math, science, behavior, and postsecondary planning for college and careers, and other indicators of success in school.
    Resources and Web sites


  • Preservice and Advanced Education on Partnerships
    For several decades, research articles on family and community involvement in schools have ended with a plea to improve preservice and advanced education so that teachers and principals enter their professions with knowledge and skills to work productively with students’ parents and with community partners.  Courses, texts, supplementary readings, and formal syllabi are increasing the options for professors of education to prepare future teachers and administrators to understand that family and community involvement is an essential part of good school organization.
  • Surveys for Research and Evaluation on Partnerships
    Evaluation has been missing from most programs of family and community involvement. Schools may use “exit evaluations” to collect parents’ reactions to workshops. These serve a purpose, but do not help schools understand how well they have organized the components of their partnership programs or their progress in reaching out to all families from year to year. Now, indicators and tested measures are available to enable districts and schools to assess the quality and progress of partnership programs.

    In addition, surveys for parents, teachers, and students in elementary, middle, and high schools are available with reliable subscales and tested items on attitudes and behaviors of family involvement for research studies, dissertations, and general needs assessments.





Last updated: 04/27/2015



California Services for Technical Assistance and Training (CalSTAT)
is a California Department of Education, Special Education Division project supported through the Napa County Office of Education
1450 Technology Lane, Suite 200 Petaluma, CA 94954
Fax: 707-586-2735 | e-mail:

Napa County Office of Education

Last updated: 04/27/2015