A new document by the National School Boards Association’s (NSBA) School Health Programs, which was funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), aims to cultivate the relationship between schools and families, with an eye toward nurturing healthy students and a healthy school environment.
Families as Partners: Fostering Family Engagement for Healthy and Successful Students, provides an overview of this critical component of student and school success and offers guidance, strategies, and resources for developing and implementing effective family engagement policies and practices.
According to the document, family engagement in schools has been shown to reduce risky behaviors and improve academic achievement and attitudes about school among students.
The publication also suggests that building connections around school and children’s health issues not only serves as a less intimidating entry point for families, but can reap multiple benefits.
“Family engagement is important to a positive school climate, as well as, to the development of promising school health policies and practices that benefit all students and prepare them for a healthy and successful future,” said Anne L. Bryant, NSBA’s executive director.
It should be noted that families come in all shapes and sizes, and the use of the word family is an all-inclusive generic term. Regardless of their makeup, according to the document, “families and school staff share the responsibility to counter unhealthy influences and help students lead healthy, productive lives.”
And coordinated school health—an eight-step model that the CDC developed— is a sensible way to address risky behaviors among students. Not surprisingly, one of the key components in the CDC coordinated school health framework is family involvement.
Families as Partners highlights a handful of well-regarded strategies to bolster family involvement, including the model developed by noted Johns Hopkins University sociology professor Joyce L. Epstein.
Among the steps a district should take is a review of their own policies on family involvement. Chances are districts can build on their existing efforts to address family engagement in health, nutrition, and safety.
In tandem with an internal review, is an external strategy to bring families into the fold, whether it’s through community meetings, surveys, standing committees, or other opportunities where two-way dialogue can occur.
Besides the Families as Partners document, more smart tips and best practices, including a fact sheet on health and learning, sample family engagement policies, and sample surveys to engage families, can be found on the new family engagement webpage on NSBA’s website.