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What We Stand For: Family Engagement

Engaging Families to Improve Student Achievement

A White Paper by Tyler Whitmire for Stand for Children Leadership Center

Children whose families who are involved in their education are much more likely to succeed in school and in life than children whose families are less engaged.

Specifically, children from more-involved families are more likely to earn higher grades and test scores, enroll in higher-level programs, graduate high school and go on to college, and have better social skills. They are also less likely to have behavioral problems and have easier transitions from home to kindergarten. The relationship between family involvement and improved achievement prevails across differences in family income and racial/ethnic background, but appears to be particularly important for low-income students and African American and Hispanic students.

In light of this evidence, strategies to engage families are an important lever for improving student achievement. Unfortunately, efforts to strengthen family engagement have been undermined by confusion about the definition of effective family engagement, a lack of high-quality evidence regarding effective parental-engagement strategies, and the prevalence of scattershot and low-impact strategies, such as fundraisers and generic newsletters. Many educators see family engagement as a feel-good “extra,” not as a crucial piece of a larger initiative to close the achievement gap and improve student outcomes.

To effectively leverage the power of parental engagement to improve student learning, educators and policymakers must prioritize family involvement as a core function of public schools, focus energy on the highest-impact forms of parent engagement, and demand evidence of results from such efforts.

The rest of this paper is available as a PDF download:


Tyler Whitmire is currently developing and managing Stand for Children Leadership Center’s new family engagement program: Stand University for Parents. She recently contributed a chapter on family engagement to the book The Achievable Dream: College Board Lessons on Creating Great Schools.

About Stand for Children Leadership Center

Stand for Children Leadership Center is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit that provides leadership development and training to everyday citizens. Our mission is to ensure that all children, regardless of their background, graduate from high school prepared for, and with access to, college and career training. To make that happen, we:

  • Educate and empower parents, teachers, and community members to demand excellent public schools.
  • Advocate for effective local, state and national education policies and investments.
Ensure the policies and funding we advocate for reach classrooms and help students.

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Why Stand?

A message from Stand Leadership Center board member John Legend.