School and family partnerships in the middle grades

Date of Completion

January 1999


Education, Administration|Sociology, Individual and Family Studies




School and family partnerships acknowledge the family's role as educator and the crucial importance of family involvement to children's success in schools. Students perform better, and have better attendance, more positive school attitudes, and fewer disciplinary problems when their families are involved in their education (Epstein, 1992; Henderson, 1988; Comer, 1980; Dornbusch & Ritter, 1988). ^ The problem to be addressed in this study is how suburban middle schools develop and implement school and family partnerships that enable and encourage families to be involved in their children's education. Little research exists on family involvement in suburban, secondary schools. This study will address the need for examination of successful school and family partnership programs in suburban middle schools. There is a dramatic decline in these programs in middle and high schools. Most schools offer families little beyond traditionally ritualistic and limited forms of involvement. A particular problem for middle schools is that, as children become older and advance in grade levels, families become less involved in their schooling. ^ Using Epstein's typology of six types of school and family partnerships, this study examined programs and practices in which families and schools work together to support students' learning and development. Research focused on students', parents' and teachers' perceptions of school and family partnerships; the ways these partnerships were perceived to be beneficial; their impact; and conditions and characteristics of schools and families that hinder and facilitate them. The research design utilized was a multisite comparative case study of three Connecticut public suburban middle schools. Data collection methods used were observations, document analysis, and interviews. ^ The major findings of this study concern the different relationships schools establish with their families; the benefits of school and family partnership programs to students, families, educators, and schools; the three types of partnership practices that most engage families and educators; the absence of shared decision making in the partnership programs studied; the crucial role of the principal in developing partnership programs; the importance of school-initiated leadership of partnership efforts; and the community's role in supporting partnerships. ^