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  Emerging Issues in School, Family, & Community Connections
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In January 2001, the staff at the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools began the process of reviewing a broad body of literature related to the process and impact of school, family, and community connections. Criteria were established for selecting literature to be included. An emphasis was initially placed on family and community connections and their impact on student achievement, and then broadened to ensure the most comprehensive picture of the field was captured. Resources made available since 1995, with an emphasis on the most recent works, were selected. Seminal or background pieces previous to 1995 were included if they added a necessary perspective. Although this is primarily a research synthesis, literature beyond research was considered to broaden the narrow picture that research literature alone might provide. This literature included conceptual or theoretical pieces, practice and policy oriented works, and literature reviews. Our scan revealed three types of content: research that investigated the impact of family and community connections with schools, those that explored characteristics and processes of effective family and community connections with schools, and those that identified barriers, issues, and needs in family and community connections with schools.

In order to ensure a balanced and thorough set of literature to work from, our process for locating relevant resources included searching and contacting different types of sources and repositories. We first searched the major education information databases such as Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Education Abstracts. In addition to database searches, we scanned Web sites of organizations and agencies involved in this field for any reports or articles available online. To supplement these results we contacted researchers in the field to request copies of recent works. After compiling an initial set of resources for review, we consulted with our Steering Committee to ensure that we were not overlooking any important authors or studies. Staff at the Center reviewed in depth 166 relevant publications, including articles from journals and other periodicals, books, reports from government agencies and non-governmental organizations, conference papers and proceedings, and dissertations and Master’s theses upon which to base this synthesis. (The body of literature reviewed is captured in full in an annotated bibliography available at Nevertheless, this literature set is not comprehensive. The field of family and community connections with schools is diverse, and although we located and reviewed numerous items we cannot claim it to be an exhaustive list.

Center staff established guidelines for selection and review, based upon the type of literature. As staff reviewed the literature, they addressed questions and recorded their comments in a literature review management database developed to facilitate this process. Staff used the following questions to guide and structure the review of research literature:

• What is the purpose of the study and key questions addressed?
• What type of connection is being investigated, and how is it defined?
• Is student achievement defined and measured? If so, how?
• What is the researcher’s theoretical perspective or assumptions?
• What is the research methodology used?
• What are the results?
• What are the implications of the study for the field?
• What are the limitations of the study?

Staff reviewed the broader literature for emerging models, theories, trends of thought, and trends in practice and policy. Staff used the following questions to guide their examination of the broader literature:

• What are the main points, concepts, theories, or issues addressed?
• What type of connection is being discussed and how is it defined?
• What benefits and impacts of the connection are addressed?
• Is student achievement discussed as an outcome of connections? If so, how is it defined?
• What are the conclusions about the state of current research and knowledge, if any?
• How does the piece relate to the research literature we are reviewing?
• What are the implications for the field?
• What are the limitations of the piece?

After Center staff reviewed the literature, staff worked together to scan for common threads and important issues, emerging trends, and cohesive findings. A “force-field analysis” approach was used to sift through the information and determine the top research issues. An initial list included ten issues; it was then streamlined and collapsed into four main issues, as they appear in this document. The Center’s Steering Committee and an internal peer group reviewed several drafts of this document as it was developed, providing invaluable feedback and support. The staff at the National Center for Family & Community Connections with Schools wishes to thank these individuals as well as others who helped throughout the process of reviewing the literature and writing this synthesis.

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