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Summary of Questions from Webinar 5:
Building Strategic Partnerships to Foster Community Engagement in Education

Responses from Speakers and National PIRC Coordination Center

Questions and Answers
Responses written by Jane Quinn, Director, National Center for Community Schools, The Children's Aid Society

1. What is the name of Jane Quinn's book? Where can we get it?

The name of the book is Community Schools in Action: Lessons from a Decade of Practice (Droyfos, Quinn, & Barkin, 2005). It is available from the publisher, Oxford University Press, or from online or regular bookstores.

Additional information on this book available at http://www.oup.com/us/catalog/general/subject/Sociology/Education/?view=usa&ci=9780195169591

2. What types of professional development or learning opportunities are most successful with the varied role groups involved in community schools?

There are many kinds of learning experiences that can help the various stakeholders in community schools—reading, conferences, study visits to community schools, reviewing videos of community schools, or attending workshops. The following two excellent resources provide extensive Web sites and offer many of these services:

  • The Coalition for Community Schools is an alliance of national, state, and local organizations in education K-16, youth development, community planning and development, family support, health and human services, government and philanthropy as well as national, state and local community school networks.
    Web site available at http://www.communityschools.org
  • The National Center for Community Schools provides practical, innovative training, consultation, facilitation, materials, and advocacy to foster comprehensive community schools and enhance existing school-community partnerships that promote academic achievement, youth development, and family and community well being.
    Web site available at http://www.nationalcenterforcommunityschools.org

3. How do you get permission for health treatment from parents? Do the efforts to address health and other stressors affect student performance?

Most school-based health centers use a relatively standard written parental consent form. You can get samples from the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care, an excellent resource for work in this area. School-based health services have a good track record in contributing to student achievement. For example, they have been shown to boost student attendance, a precursor to student achievement.

Web site for the National Assembly on School-Based Health Care available at www.nasbhc.org

Charles Basch, a researcher at Teachers College, wrote an excellent paper for Equity Matters entitled Healthy Students Are Better Learners: A Missing Link in Efforts to Close the Achievement Gap (2010) in which he traced the causal pathways between seven health issues and student achievement.

Article available in PDF format at http://www.equitycampaign.org/i/a/document/12558_EquityMattersVol6_WebFINAL.pdf

4. How do I find out what schools in my area are community schools?

The Coalition for Community Schools Web site provides a list of local community schools initiatives with brief descriptions of the programs. You might also ask your district office this question.

List available at http://www.communityschools.org/aboutschools/local_initiatives.aspx

5. What are some best practices for family engagement that you use in your programs? Can you provide examples of those best practices in action?

We have an entire chapter in our book on this topic (Community Schools in Action: Lessons from a Decade of Practice, 2005, described above), written by my very knowledgeable colleague Hersilia Mendez. (Also see answers provided by National PIRC Coordination Center below.)

Questions and Answers
Responses written by Michelle Mittler Crombie, Vice President of Community Development, United Way of Lake County, IL

1. In your presentation you mention the need for community partners to have "real influence over people"? What are some examples of this type of influence helping you to reach your goals?

Selecting the right community partners for your work is a similar process to hiring staff—or deciding just about anything. First, you need to know what you want to accomplish and then you need to find the people or groups that will most effectively achieve the goals.

In the planning process, you want community partners who both know the local population and "will give it to you straight." People or groups who will only tell you what they think you want to hear or who have an interest in presenting the population in a certain light could end up sending you in a direction that is neither effective nor efficient. Similarly, when selecting partners to assist in the programming phases, you need to clearly define the desired client outcome and, then, select those partners who are most likely to help you achieve the result you want.

The intent of our programming is to take parents who are not involved in their children's education and change their beliefs about the necessity of parent involvement and ultimately change their behavior. We found that people responded much more positively to those people or groups that they care about and trust. Our job was to find the groups that would provide the greatest influence to the greatest number of people. The key partners for us ranged from a well-loved pastor of a large congregation to a small neighborhood grocery store and more.

2. How do you report success or outcomes to the larger community? How does this process help in sustaining your work?

Because we are in the beginning phases of this project, our reports to the community have been based on antidotes rather than statistics. I believe that in order to sustain a project you need to touch the heart and head. Statistics show people that a project deserves community support; a success story shows that an organization is in touch with real people and can help validate the program to the actual recipients.

We have developed the program so that we administer short pre- and post-tests that measure changes in attitude, skill levels, and increased knowledge. We also are able to track the number of times the program participants in our Computer Learn and Earn program check their student's online records. Over time, we will be able to track any improvement in attendance or grades as well. We also interview service recipients and, with their permission, use them to spread the word to potential community partners and other parents.

3. Do you have any advice about how to invite parents in and engage them as partners and decision makers?

In our focus groups, we asked parents this very question. The reasons they didn't participate fell into three major categories:

  1. They hadn't been asked to do so.
  2. They didn't feel qualified to make decisions or recommendations.
  3. There were big barriers such as lack of childcare, inconvenient meeting times, or no transportation.

The first one is easy—ask people to participate, or ask people who know the focus population to ask others to participate. Our largest focus group by far was one in which a pastor got on the phone and asked members of his congregation to come to an important meeting.

Community partners can play a huge part in the second one, too. The reality is that not everyone is qualified for every position. But, we were successful when we defined the type of representation we wanted and asked a few partners to each recruit one or two parents who meet those criteria. For example, a parent of a recent immigrant has very different things to offer than the parent of an honor student or the caretaker of a chronic truant. We tell the parents that they were selected because we feel that they have something important to share.

Finally, if you know the barriers, you have taken the first step in overcoming them. Most of our parent focus groups were in the evening or on Saturdays with food and babysitting available. Many were at locations close to a bus stop.

4. How did you involve community partners to identify barriers and assess the needs of the community?

First, we selected the partners who really know the focus group participants (see Question 1 in this section) and, then, asked them about their experiences with the people they know best. Many community partners feel intimidated when asked to speak on behalf of a group beyond their circle of influence. Some community partners who have great insight into the needs and barriers for a certain cultural group or neighborhood feel uneasy identifying barriers for the whole town. Ask people about what they know. Talk to the owner of a laundry about what he observes in the families he sees every day and the chair of a social group about what parents who come to the group generally complain about.

Make sure you ask diverse groups the same types of questions so that you understand the needs of and barriers for different groups of people. Spend time crafting the questions so that they ask the questions that will get you the answers that will be valuable to your work.

Frequently Asked Questions and Family and Community Engagement Suggestions and Resources
Responses created by National PIRC Coordination Center

1. What is effective community engagement?

The following resources include descriptions and explanations that define effective approaches to engaging community members, groups, and organizations in supporting student learning.

  • Transforming Schools Through Family, School and Community Engagement (2010), the first webinar in the U.S. Department of Education's Achieving Excellence and Innovation in Family and Community Engagement Series, addresses a central question in redefining family and community engagement: How can stakeholders build the capacity to transform schools through effective family, school, and community engagement? The online archive includes the recorded webinar presentation, presentation slides, text transcript, and resources and links.
    Archive available at http://www.nationalpirc.org/engagement_webinars/webinar-transforming-schools.html
  • The National Family, School, and Community Engagement Working Group (2009) has created a list of characteristics common to effective engagement practices and made policy recommendations to increase engagement.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.hfrp.org/content/download/3444/98778/file/FI_FamilyEngagementRecsForFederalPolicy.pdf
  • The June 2010 Education Innovator from the U.S. Department of Education provides descriptions and examples of meaningful family engagement.
    Newsletter available in PDF format at http://www2.ed.gov/news/newsletters/innovator/2010/0625.pdf
  • The Children's Aid Society created Building A Community School: A Parent's Guide (2001) to foster school-community partnerships. This resource includes a definition for community schools as well as information on research-based practices, suggested strategies, and guidance on creating a community school.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.childrensaidsociety.org/files/upload-docs/parents_guide.pdf
  • The Strengths and Challenges of Community Organizing As an Education Reform Strategy: What the Research Says (Renée, & McAlister, 2011) explores current research on community organizing as a strategy for school reform. The report includes a definition for community organizing for school reform, describes how this approach works in real settings, and describes how this unique approach can bring positive benefits as well as its limitations.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/NMEF_Report.pdf
  • In Community Treasures, Recognizing the Contributions of Older Immigrants and Refugees (Yoshida, Gordon, & Henkin, 2008), the Center for Intergenerational Learning recognizes the valuable contributions older citizens can make in support of student learning. In this resource, the authors document the progress of a program to foster “civic engagement” or volunteering including a definition for “civic engagement,” effective strategies, learnings from the project, and challenges addressed.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.projectshine.org/sites/default/files/Community%20Treasures.pdf

2. How does policy help to support school-community engagement?

Providing the structural supports needed to foster community engagement includes both policy and school-based and community-based leadership. The following resources provide information, examples, and strategies for developing policy that supports community engagement and leadership.

  • Beyond Random Acts: Family, School, and Community Engagement As an Integral Part of Education Reform (Weiss, Lopez, & Rosenberg, 2010) was created for the U.S. Department of Education's National Policy Forum for Family, School, and Community Engagement to start conversation and help shape the role of policy in supporting family-school-community engagement efforts.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.hfrp.org/content/download/3809/104680/file/PolicyForumPaper-120710-FINAL.pdf
  • Boston Public Schools has woven expectations for parent engagement into their school improvement process as can be seen in their framework for improvement—Seven Essentials of Whole-School Improvement. Family and community is listed as one of the core essentials. Each of the seven core essentials outlines expectations for schools, evidence in the classroom and around the school, and expectations for central administrators.
    Framework available in PDF format at http://www.bostonpublicschools.org/files/Seven%20Essentials%20of%20Whole%20School%20Improvement.pdf
  • Constituents of Change: Community Organizations and Public Education Reform (Mediratta, 2004) describes efforts to engage community members, parents, youth, and educational leaders in fostering systemic policy change and creating school-based improvements. The resource includes explanations of effective strategies, a framework for change, and real-life examples.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/Constituents_of_Change.pdf
  • Washoe County School District (NV) provides guidance to staff on family and community engagement expectations in their districtwide policy—Washoe County School District Administrative Regulation: Parent Involvement: Encouraging and Supporting Parents' Active Role in Their Children's Education. By clearly defining expectations and actions as well as the district's philosophy, this document helps to create a structure of support for engagement.
    Policy available in PDF format at http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/docs/pdf/11601.1REGrevised10-23-07.pdf

3. What are some best practices and examples of engagement in community schools?

The following resources describe real situations where family-school-community partnerships provide support to student learning and foster a culture that encourages collaboration across all stakeholder groups.

  • The U.S. Department of Education video, Secretary Arne Duncan Takes a “Listen and Learning Tour to Orlando, chronicles Secretary Duncan's visit to Lake Nona YMCA Family Center and his discussion with families, staff, and community members about the design and benefits for this community-based school.
    Video available at http://www.ed.gov/blog/2009/07/secretary-arne-duncan-takes-listening-and-learning-tour-to-orlando/
  • In their video—Lake Nona YMCA Family, the Central Florida YMCA uses the words of families, community members, and school staff to illustrate a collaborative community-school partnership that provides full services to students, their families, and the larger community.
    Video available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BwjyHMG7tFM
  • In Partnerships for Learning: Profiles of Three School-Community Partnership Efforts (2010), the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) provides three site-based profiles to create a snapshot of school–community partnerships in action and illustrate how diverse programs and models effectively build and sustain partnerships for learning. Each profile highlights certain aspects of how the partnerships have been applied in the day-to-day lives of schools and community-based programs.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.hfrp.org/out-of-school-time/publications-resources/partnerships-for-learning-profiles-of-three-school-community-partnership-efforts
  • Partnering for Success: The Creation of Urban Schools That Work Better (Hirota, Hughes, & Chaluisan, 2008) provides information on a long-term study of New Century's school-based partnership strategies using 5 case studies. It describes challenges, strategies, and a framework for using this approach in other locations.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.annenberginstitute.org/vue/pdf/VUE21_Hirota.pdf
  • In the HFRP report created for the United Way Worldwide, Community Partnerships to Support High School Success (2011), the authors describe effective strategies for creating school-community action plans that address the needs of students and families as part of a process to increase high school graduation. This report includes information on 15 United Way-School partnerships.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.hfrp.org/content/download/3852/105515/file/UWW-CommunityPartnerships-020911.pdf
  • In Building Partnerships to Reinvent School Culture (Mediratta, Shah, & McAlister, 2009), the authors describe the program activities and characteristics that make the Austin Interfaith project successful in engaging the larger community and families in supporting student achievement.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.annenberginstitute.org/pdf/Mott_Austin.pdf
  • In Partnerships for Joint Use, Expanding the Use of Public School Infrastructure to Benefit Students and Communities (Vincent, 2010), the author provides detailed information and examples of three types of strategies for joint use of school facilities: (1) shared use of school or district owned facility, (2) co-creation and shared use of newly built or remodeled facility, and (3) formal partnerships between a school or district and another entity.
    Report available in PDF format at http://media.cefpi.org/CCS_Partnerships.pdf

4. Where can we get more information on the White House Office of Faith-based and Neighborhood Partnerships (FBNP)?

The FBNP Initiative is designed to provide information and services through centers located in ten different governmental agencies and focuses on four priorities: (1) strengthening the role of community organizations in the economic recovery; (2) reducing unintended pregnancies, supporting maternal and child health, and reducing the need for abortion; (3) promoting responsible fatherhood and strong communities; and (4) promoting interfaith dialogue and cooperation. The following Web sites provide more information on these efforts:

In February 2010, the Brookings Institute convened a forum on partnerships between government and faith-based and neighborhood groups. Panelists and participants represented governmental agencies and a wide range of stakeholders.

5. Can you tell us more about the faith-based partnership programs in Orlando, FL and Racine, WI? Who can we contact for more information?

These projects are examples of partnerships that respond to President Obama's call for interfaith service projects and have been recognized by the Corporation for National and Community Service.

Information on this effort available at http://www.nationalservice.gov

The Resource Center for the Corporation for National and Community service provides resources and tools to help organizations plan an event, maximize resources, develop partnerships, and take action in over 25 topic areas.

Resources and tools available at http://www.nationalserviceresources.org

  • Orlando, FL: Project Downtown (Orlando, FL) was organized by the Homeless Services Network of Central Florida to help the homeless. It draws on the resources of a wide range of faith-based groups, including a collaboration with Muslim Americans.
  • Kenosha and Racine Counties, WI: The Center for Community Partnerships at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside sponsors mentoring programs in Kenosha and Racine Counties. This program draws on volunteers and resources from varied community groups and service organizations.
    Information on this project and tools for mentoring available at http://www.uwp.edu/departments/community.partnerships/mentorkr/

6. What resources and tools will help us in fostering school-community partnerships?

As schools and community groups seek to work together collaboratively to support student learning, the following resources can help in those efforts.

  • SEDL's resources on collaborative actions teams can help to foster school-community partnerships.
  • Developed by the National League of Cities, Institute for Young, Education, and Families, The State of City Leadership for Children and Families (2009) describes the role municipal leadership plays in developing innovative ideas and breakthrough solutions for building great communities, including ensuring that every child has an opportunity to learn and grow.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.nlc.org/File%20Library/Find%20City%20Solutions/IYEF/state-city-leadership-rpt-sep09.pdf
  • Engaging Older Youth: Program and City-level Strategies to Support Sustained Participation in Out-of-School Time (OST) 
(2010), a report from HFRP, examines programs with high participation and retention rates to identify the characteristics found to be the most successful in retaining older youth. Programs in the study are part of citywide OST initiatives. The report also details the influence of these initiatives on programs and identifies the types of city-level services that are likely to support participation.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.hfrp.org/out-of-school-time/publications-resources/engaging-older-youth-program-and-city-level-strategies-to-support-sustained-participation-in-out-of-school-time
  • A deliberative dialogue strategy can foster the depth and quality of communication among stakeholders that establishes meaningful interactions between the school and the community. The following resources support this approach:
    • SEDL's Speak Up! Engaging Policymakers with Educators and Communities in Deliberative Dialogue provides information and examples on how to use deliberative dialogue.
      Resource available at http://www.sedl.org/pubs/catalog/items/pol21.html
    • Everyday Democracy (formerly Study Circles) provides discussion guides and other tools on topics related to community engagement in education.
      Resources available in PDF format at http://www.everyday-democracy.org/en/Page.ResourceRoom.aspx
    • The April 27, 2010 PTA podcast on Deliberative Dialogue highlights the Queens NY Community PTSA efforts to engage a wide range of stakeholders in exploring important issues and challenges to the school community.
      Podcast available at http://www.ptanewsroom.org/pta_radio.html
  • Partnerships for Learning: Promising Practices in Integrating School and Out-of-School Time Program Supports (2010), created by HFRP, helps school and OST program leaders, decision-makers, and funders, to understand and implement effective OST–school partnerships for learning.
    Report available in PDF format at http://hfrp.org/publications-resources/browse-our-publications/partnerships-for-learning-promising-practices-in-integrating-school-and-out-of-school-time-program-supports
  • The Great Schools by Design, Schools as Centers of Community: John A. Johnson Achievement Plus Elementary Schools (2006) video case study and discussion guide, developed by the American Architectural Foundation and KnowledgeWorks, highlights an example of a school transitioning from a derelict empty building to a highly successful community school and provides guidance for using the video to inform others on how to replicate this process.
    Guide and video available at
  • SEDL's Working Systemically in Action: Engaging Family and Community (2010) provides detailed information on a process, strategies, and tools for embedding family and community engagement into a systemic approach to district and school improvement.
    Guide available in PDF format at http://www.sedl.org/pubs/catalog/items/family126.html

7. What are the indicators of a successful community school?

The following resources provide information on indicators of or strategies for identifying program success:

  • The Coalition for Community Schools has developed numerous resources to support family-community-school interactions such as
    • Strengthening Partnerships: Community School Assessment Checklist (2000) was created by the Coalition for Community Schools to help users (1) assess the quality of their programmatic efforts; (2) create an inventory of supports and resources for students, families, and community members; and (3) catalog existing and possible funding sources.
      Checklist is available in PDF format at http://www.communityschools.org/assets/1/AssetManager/csassessment.pdf
    • The web-based Community Schools Evaluation Toolkit provides an array of useful tools that can help determine the effectiveness of program implementation.
      Toolkit available in PDF format at http://www.communityschools.org/resources/community_schools_evaluation_toolkit.aspx
    • The toolkit Rationale for Results Framework lists specific indicators and effective strategies for achieving goals.
      Toolkit available in PDF format at http://www.communityschools.org/assets/1/AssetManager/CS_Results_Framework.pdf
  • In Parent Involvement Council 2008 Needs Assessment: Summary of Parent, Staff, and Administrator Survey Results. A Report Prepared for Washoe County School District, Christiansen, Rye, Maitoza, and Boswell (2008) provide an in-depth analysis of the district's policy in action. The authors provide extensive detail and highlight the various types of data collected and an analysis of programmatic efforts, including community engagement.
    Report available in PDF format at http://www.washoe.k12.nv.us/docs/parents/PIC_overall_report_FINAL_9-16-08.pdf
  • The Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provides numerous resources for schools in need of improvement, including detailed guidance and indicators on expectations for family and community engagement in school improvement. This resource, Parent and Community Education and Involvement Advisory Council Family and Community Engagement Standards (2010), uses the PTA's National Standards for Family-School Partnerships to frame actions, expectations, and indicators of engagement.
    Resource available in PDF format at http://www.doe.mass.edu/sda/framework/level4/PCEIstandards.pdf
Questions on this page
Responses by
Jane Quinn, Director, National Center for Community Schools, The Children's Aid Society

Responses by
Michelle Mittler Crombie, Vice President of Community Development, United Way of Lake County, IL

  Click to view a list of the 4 questions.

Responses by
National PIRC Coordination Center

  Click to view a list of the 7 questions.
This webinar series is funded in part by the U.S. Department of Education's Parental Information and Resource Center program. The content of this webinar series does not necessarily reflect the views of the U.S. Department of Education.