Since 2007, the Redwood City School District (RCSD) and Redwood City 2020 have partnered with the Gardner Center to examine how participation in community school programs shapes students’ outcomes. This brief summarizes the research literature and describes a 2011-2012 study that focused on family engagement practices as well as the factors that promote or inhibit family engagement in five of the district’s community schools. Gardner Center researchers conducted a total of 50 interviews and focus groups with school staff, families, and students. At each school, interviews included the principal, community school coordinator, teachers, the afterschool coordinator, and where the position existed, a family engagement specialist. Researchers conducted two parent focus groups at each school as well as one or two student focus groups. The findings from this study underline the importance of establishing a shared understanding and consistent school-wide messaging about family engagement. Intentionally linking school programs and activities to explicit family engagement goals is also essential. Findings also highlight the importance of acknowledging parent support of students at home and viewing families through an asset-based perspective. Lastly, this research suggests that school leaders may benefit from exploring negative cultural attitudes and biases among families, teachers, and staff.
Westrich, L. and Strobel, K. (2013) A study of family engagement in Redwood City community schools. Stanford, CA: John W. Gardner Center for Youth and their Communities.