REL 2004 Policy Forum
The Why, What and How of Effective School, Family and Community Partnerships

Dr. Karen Mapp

Karen Mapp Karen Mapp is the Deputy Superintendent for Family and Community Engagement at the Boston Public Schools and President of the Institute for Responsive Education. In her two positions she is responsible for overseeing the development of initiatives to enhance family and community involvement in schools, as well as national research focused on the impact of partnership on student achievement. Mapp's recent publications include: Helping Students Graduate: A Strategic Approach to Dropout Prevention; Having Their Say: Parents Describe Why and How They are Engaged in Their Children's Learning; and A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Learning.
Dr. Karen L. Mapp Ed. D. Harvard

Mapp summarized research findings from her book “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement,” on the positive relationship between family involvement and outcomes across student subgroups, i.e., higher grades and test scores, enrollment in higher level programs, higher attendance and promotion rates, and decreased discipline problems. She described the impact of community partnerships, including improved school leadership and staffing, upgraded school facilities, and increased resources for and quality of programs. She noted programs found to be most effective:

  • engage families to support their children’s learning at home
  • focus on academics, linked to learning
  • consistently involve families, PK-16
  • recognize that all cultural groups have ways to engage in education
  • use a multi-faceted approach to connect with families and communities.

Mapp emphasized schools must embrace a systemic philosophy of partnerships, meaning that should share power with families; recognize, respect, and address cultural and class differences; establish trusting and respectful relationships with families and the community; share decision-making; and address specific parental and community needs (as opposed to second-guessing what parents need). The process of joining forces with families and communities involves three components–welcoming (families are at the top of the agenda), honoring (engage families where they are at) and connecting (focus on student’s success). It also involves conducting needs assessments and making asset maps of all the different types of assets and contributions that parents and community members have to offer schools.

Mapp discussed with forum participants what states can do to support schools and districts in building effective partnerships with families and communities. Some examples included imbedding family and community involvement in principal and superintendent preparation programs, helping schools and districts share best practices, and connecting with other state-level agencies and organizations that serve children.

Several publications Rothstein mentioned in her presentation:

  • Bryk, A. S., & Schneider, B. (2003). Trust in schools: A core resource for school reform, Educational Leadership 60(6), 40-45.
  • Epstein, J. (2001). School, family, and community partnerships: Preparing educators and improving schools. Boulder, CO, Westview Press.

View Mapp’s PowerPoint Presentation