In January 2001, the staff at the National Center for Family and
Community Connections with Schools began the process of reviewing
a broad body of literature related to the process and impact of
school, family, and community connections. Criteria were established
for selecting literature to be included. An emphasis was initially
placed on family and community connections and their impact on student
achievement, and then broadened to ensure the most comprehensive
picture of the field was captured. Resources made available since
1995, with an emphasis on the most recent works, were selected.
Seminal or background pieces previous to 1995 were included if they
added a necessary perspective. Although this is primarily a research
synthesis, literature beyond research was considered to broaden
the narrow picture that research literature alone might provide.
This literature included conceptual or theoretical pieces, practice
and policy oriented works, and literature reviews. Our scan revealed
three types of content: research that investigated the impact of
family and community connections with schools, those that explored
characteristics and processes of effective family and community
connections with schools, and those that identified barriers, issues,
and needs in family and community connections with schools.
In order to ensure a balanced and thorough set of literature to
work from, our process for locating relevant resources included
searching and contacting different types of sources and repositories.
We first searched the major education information databases such
as Educational Resources Information Center (ERIC) and Education
Abstracts. In addition to database searches, we scanned Web sites
of organizations and agencies involved in this field for any reports
or articles available online. To supplement these results we contacted
researchers in the field to request copies of recent works. After
compiling an initial set of resources for review, we consulted with
our Steering Committee to ensure that we were not overlooking any
important authors or studies. Staff at the Center reviewed in depth
166 relevant publications, including articles from journals and
other periodicals, books, reports from government agencies and non-governmental
organizations, conference papers and proceedings, and dissertations
and Masters theses upon which to base this synthesis. (The
body of literature reviewed is captured in full in an annotated
bibliography available at www.sedl.org/connections/.)
Nevertheless, this literature set is not comprehensive. The field
of family and community connections with schools is diverse, and
although we located and reviewed numerous items we cannot claim
it to be an exhaustive list.
Center staff established guidelines for selection and review, based
upon the type of literature. As staff reviewed the literature, they
addressed questions and recorded their comments in a literature
review management database developed to facilitate this process.
Staff used the following questions to guide and structure the review
of research literature:
What is the purpose of the study and key questions addressed?
What type of connection is being investigated, and how is
Is student achievement defined and measured? If so, how?
What is the researchers theoretical perspective or
What is the research methodology used?
What are the results?
What are the implications of the study for the field?
What are the limitations of the study?
Staff reviewed the broader literature for emerging models, theories,
trends of thought, and trends in practice and policy. Staff used
the following questions to guide their examination of the broader
What are the main points, concepts, theories, or issues
What type of connection is being discussed and how is it
What benefits and impacts of the connection are addressed?
Is student achievement discussed as an outcome of connections?
If so, how is it defined?
What are the conclusions about the state of current research
and knowledge, if any?
How does the piece relate to the research literature we are
What are the implications for the field?
What are the limitations of the piece?
After Center staff reviewed the literature, staff worked together
to scan for common threads and important issues, emerging trends,
and cohesive findings. A force-field analysis approach
was used to sift through the information and determine the top research
issues. An initial list included ten issues; it was then streamlined
and collapsed into four main issues, as they appear in this document.
The Centers Steering Committee and an internal peer group
reviewed several drafts of this document as it was developed, providing
invaluable feedback and support. The staff at the National Center
for Family & Community Connections with Schools wishes to thank
these individuals as well as others who helped throughout the process
of reviewing the literature and writing this synthesis.