How Can We Work Together? Building Reciprocal School/Family Partnerships

These videos include an introduction and four curriculum units which may be used separately and in any order to facilitate inclusion in existing pre-service education courses or professional development programs. Each video segment includes interviews with educators and parents designed to provide authentic perspectives on family/school partnership experiences.

This curriculum has been developed in response to an extensive body of research that establishes the fundamental importance of reciprocal, respectful professional/family partnerships in the academic success of children and youth. The findings of this research are reflected in state and national educational organizations’ policies, professional preparation and accreditation standards. Beginning teachers cite preparedness for working with families as the weakest area of their pre-service training. In response to the finding that the amount of direct contact with families predicts positive family-centered beliefs and practices, this curriculum includes reflective assignments requiring direct contact with families. Just as every teacher’s training should include supervised experiences with students, so should every teacher’s training include supervised experiences with families. These competencies are of particular importance in our diverse and ever-changing society.

Curriculum Document:

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Video Segments


Just as understanding child development enables the creation of effective classroom learning communities, so too does understanding of family processes enable the creation of effective school/family partnerships. The idea that a teacher could be an effective professional without direct pre-service experience working with children would be considered preposterous. Equally preposterous is the idea that teachers can be effective professionals without direct pre-service experiences working with families.

School children in the United States have two primary socialization agents – their family and their schools. In most American schools there is a fundamental disconnect between these two primary agents. Educators ask the question: “How can schools get families to support our values and practices?” Families ask the question: “How can we get schools to support our goals and needs for our children?” A partnership approach requires the question: “How can we work together to promote the educational growth and achievement of this student?” Until educators are willing to meet families and community members where they are culturally, physically, emotionally, and intellectually, they will not be able to establish trusting, reciprocal partnerships with them.

School Climate and Culture

This unit will emphasize the relationship between families and educators as the key to a positive school climate and culture that facilitates the growth, development, and academic success of all children. Effective school/family collaboration requires that parents and educators share common goals, see each other as equals, and support the students' education wholeheartedly.

Culture and Families

This unit will assist participants in understanding culture as a complex interactive process, identifying their personal cultural assumptions and practices, recognizing the uniqueness of individual families, and understanding the ways in which race, ethnicity, language, sexual orientation, and disability influence cultural values and beliefs.

Communication and Relationship Building

This unit will assist participants in building on family and community strengths to foster positive partnerships, using effective communication strategies to learn about the daily lives, beliefs, and practices of others, and developing strategies to enhance effective family collaboration in individualized educational planning.

Family Systems and Parenting

This unit will assist participants in gaining insight into the nature of families and parenting as a cultural and developmental process, understanding the basic concepts of family systems theory, observing and understanding care giving roles, and developing effective strategies for identifying and building on family strengths.

Additional Info

  • Resource Topic: Leadership
  • Source: SERC, CT CSPD
  • Year of Publication: 2013
  • Resource Type: file: .PDF, Video