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Citation:Setisinger, R. M. J. (1996). Nurturing partnerships between schools and families. In P. A. Cordiero (Ed.), Boundary crossings: Educational partnerships and school leadership (pp. 15-30). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, Inc.

The importance of family partnerships in education and a brief history of family involvement in schools are discussed in this chapter. A key factor forcing educators to change their ideas about parent involvement is the increasing realization that the ÒtraditionalÓ American family is a myth. Epstein (1987) argues that it may never have existed. The author discusses Vandergrift and GreeneÕs theory (1992) that parent involvement is most critical (and difficult to attain) with at-risk families. Also cited is Lareau (1987) who contends that low-income parents and parents of diverse cultures are just waiting to be approached; however, part of being approachable is establishing a caring attitude. The author uses Epstein's (1995) model as an approach to family involvement. The author does not advocate a particular type of family connection, but highlights several innovative programs. The programming format is divided into three broad areas: community-based, general models, and individual efforts. Denver Family Resource Schools, San Diego's New Beginnings program, and Child Opportunity Zones are provided as examples. The overriding factor found in the research supporting family involvement is caring, which emphasizes partnership, mutual respect, and the growth of competent, caring, loving, and lovable people (Noddings, 1995). Most pertinent is a set of beliefs about caring on the part of the administrator that he or she must engender to the community. There is a need for administrators to look beyond traditional ways of working with parents and families. Collaborating with parents to develop a clear statement about the goals of family involvement in schools is one step administrators might take. For example, parents could be asked how they want to be involved with their children's education. The author recommends that administrators move from being boundary spanners to facilitators and then to instructional leaders, drawing on different pieces of knowledge for each area.

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