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Citation:Epstein, J. L., & Lee, S. (1995). National patterns of school and family connections in the middle grades. In B. A. Ryan, G. R. Adams, T. P. Gullotta, R. P. Weissberg, & R. L. Hampton (Eds.), The family-school connection: Theory, research, and practice. (pp. 109-154). Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications.

This article describes the National Education Longitudinal Study (NELS:88) base year database to introduce researchers and educators to the richness of the data. The authors analyze NELS:88 and HES (Hopkins Enhancement Survey of NELS:88 Middle Grade Practices) in terms of EpsteinÕs theory (1995) of overlapping spheres of home, school, and community (1995). It provides a profile of NELS:88 participants for empirical analyses on the relationship between families and schools in the middle grades. The NELS:88 data reveal a mix of strengths and weaknesses in the connections between family, community, and school. The authors' analyses suggest that most NELS:88 families were functioning but struggling to guide their children as students. Most middle grade schools were operating conventionally with few major conflicts, but the principals indicated that teachers had difficulty motivating many students, and teachers and students often had difficulty relating to each other. Most students recognized their familiesÕ effort to guide them at home but reported few deep connections between home and school. These findings of the analysis were confirmed across students, parents, and teachers in the data set. Further analyses are needed to determine which practices described in the NELS:88 are worth the time and effort by schools, families, and students to implement. The authors indicated that researchers should not rely solely on the NELS:88 to answer these questions about family involvement in the middle and high school grades, but also look at other national surveys and collect focused data in local state and regional surveys or field studies to assess the effects of particular parent involvement practices over time.

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