The Importance of Family Engagement

Family Enagement Session Photo

Parents, guardians, grandparents, and other family members are often over-looked, but vitally important stakeholders in schools, particularly in low-income neighborhoods and rural areas. Keying in on their importance in helping students and schools succeed, the SLI Family Engagement Component focuses on teaching parents how to better support and be involved in their children’s learning. The SLI model encourages parents and other family members to understand that home is a place of learning and that they have a vital role in helping children be better prepared for school and become better learners.

SLI offers a series of workshops for families, helping them learn strategies and methods to employ at home with their children. Parents are encouraged to model learning as a continuous process, which is crucial in fostering a life-long love of learning in their children. Ranging from reading and math games to nurturing positive self-esteem and helping with science projects and analytical thinking, the SLI workshops give families useful and effective tools, strategies and activities which strengthen learning for the whole family.

In keeping with the SLI model for building long-term school capacity, SLI also recruits and trains parents to lead the workshops and coordinate ongoing family involvement. These trained parents carry on the lessons learned from SLI and enable the schools to continue engaging new families in supporting their children’s learning.

The Family Engagement Program focuses on building school, family and community partnerships by conducting educational, interactive workshops and supporting the idea that parents are their child’s first teacher. Family engagement is one of the most statistically significant drivers of Chicago’s school improvement (Bryk & Schneider, 2002). It reflects one of the most powerful elements of the Five Essential Supports for Student Achievement developed by the Chicago Public Schools and school partners in 1994 and is consistent with the comprehensive school improvement research. (Simmons, 2001; Consortium, 2006)


SLI’s work with parents has both immediate and longer-term benefits for their children, their families, and their schools. Parents, teachers, and principals point to SLI’s role in helping their children to learn better and enabling their schools to improve.

Evidence of SLI’s success in engaging parents:

The SLI Family Engagement Team has earned the National Network of Partnership Schools NNPS) Partnership Organization Award from John Hopkins University for three years in a row, from 2005 to 2007.

“SLI is showing that research-based approaches can be used to help families become involved in children’s education in ways that increase student success at schools.”

- Dr. Joyce L. Epstein Director of NNPS

Parent Participant Comments:

“Instead of watching television at home, now we play the educational games that I learned at the workshop or we read. I have more of an understanding of the work the teachers are giving my son.”

“I’ve used what I’ve learned to help my grandson understand what he reads in newspapers and magazines and how to write in the proper order.”

“The graphic organizer is used by all the students in our household including our college students. I created a graphic organizer based on the information in the story elements book to be used in creating simple book reports.”

“I learned that listening plays an important part in learning.”

“Parents have been helping their children more at home — there’s a noticeable difference…This is contributing a lot to our students’ increasing achievement.“

— Dr. Victoria Cadavid, Former Principal, Josiah L. Pickard Elementary

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Family Engagement Videos

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