SEDL Synthesis Examines School, Family and Community Connections Among Diverse Populations

December 30, 2003
Austin, Texas

Laura Shankland
Communications Associate
Phone: 512-391-6556

January 12, 2004ÑAustin, TexasÑNo matter their race, ethnicity, culture or income, most families have high aspirations and concerns for their children's success. This is one of the findings included in the latest research synthesis from the Southwest Educational Development Laboratory's National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools. Another finding states that families from racial, ethnic and cultural minorities are actively involved in their children's schooling, although their involvement may differ somewhat from those of white, "mainstream" U.S. families.

The synthesis, Diversity: School, Family, and Community Connections, discusses 64 research studies on the roles that families can play in improving academic achievement among minority, immigrant and language minority students and students from low-income families. In compiling this synthesis, the center's staff looked for recent research studies that met basic standards for quality and rigor of research methodology and that discussed the relationships between student achievement and school, family and community connections among diverse populations.

"The need to improve academic achievement among diverse student populations is one of the most persistent and challenging issues that education faces," said Catherine Jordan, director of the national center. "This synthesis explores barriers to involvement for minority and low-income families, strategies that have been used to address those barriers and recommendations that local educational leaders can adapt to address their specific needs."

The report says that the findings are limited as to whether minority and low-income families' high aspirations for their children have a positive impact on students' school achievement. Further, the synthesis states that more rigorous, high-quality research needs to be done to draw firm conclusions about the complex interactions among families, communities and schools in seeking to close the achievement gap. Focusing on only one of these factors is not enough.

The synthesis also offers the following recommendations for building relationships among schools, communities and families:

  • Adopt formal school- and district-level policies that promote family involvement, including an explicit focus on engaging families who reflect the full diversity of the student population.
  • Demonstrate active and ongoing support from the school principal.
  • Acknowledge both commonalities and differences among students and families.
  • Provide supports to help immigrant families understand how schools work and what's expected of both families and students.
  • Recognize that it takes time to build trust.

Along with the Center's first two syntheses, Diversity is available online for free downloading at Print copies may be purchased by calling (800) 476-6861, ext. 201, or emailing

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory is an Austin-based nonprofit corporation that operates research, development and dissemination programs focused on improving school performance; strengthening reading, language, mathematics and science education; integrating technology into teaching and learning; involving family and community in student learning; and connecting disability research to practice.

About SEDL

The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) is a nonprofit corporation based in Austin, Texas. SEDL is dedicated to solving significant education problems and improving teaching and learning through research, research-based resources, and professional development. For more information about SEDL, visit