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#3 K-Power - Family Engagement

All Children in the U.S. should be provided the opportunity to:

Be served by a program and within a system that connects with and deeply engages families in decisions about their child’s education and learning.


Family Engagement

The national Family, School, and Community Engagement Working Group defines[i] family engagement as:

  • A shared responsibility in which schools and other community agencies and organizations are committed to engaging families in meaningful and culturally respectful ways, and families are committed to actively supporting their children’s learning and development.
  • Continuous across a child’s life, spanning from Early Head Start programs to college preparation high schools.
  • Carried out everywhere that children learn – at home, in pre-kindergarten programs, in school, in after-school programs, in faith-based institutions, and in community programs and activities.

Family engagement from birth to third grade has also been described as "parents’ efforts to promote their children’s healthy development and learning through activities that can be encouraged by educators in child care, preschool and school settings."[ii] Different types of involvement include: home-based parent involvement, community activities, and school-based parent involvement.

Who is in the “system”?

For children in kindergarten, family engagement is imperative as children transition from preschool or other programs to kindergarten and then from kindergarten to first grade.  Additionally, children in kindergarten are also engaged in a variety of programs outside of kindergarten – from child care to community activities. All programs where children learn are part of the system.


Why family engagement?

Research shows that family engagement provides a number of benefits for young children, including literacy and math skills.[iii] A recent study by MDRC of nearly 100 family involvement research studies found that “parents from diverse backgrounds, when given direction, can increase their involvement with their children’s learning at home and at school and that, when parents are more involved and more engaged, children tend to do better academically and socially.”[iv]


How can families be engaged?

The NAEYC Engaging Diverse Families project identified 6 principles that programs who effectively engage families use[v]:

  • Programs invite families to participate in decision making and goal setting for their child
  • Teachers and programs engage families in two-way communication
  • Programs and teachers engage families in ways that are truly reciprocal
  • Programs provide learning activities for the home and in the community
  • Programs invite families to participate in program-level decisions and wider advocacy efforts
  • Programs implement a comprehensive program-level system of family engagement

Capacity building through training and support is necessary for kindergarten program staff (and administrators) on how to effectively engage with parents.  A recent review of family engagement programs concludes that the existing studies, however, are clear that professional development for teachers about the transition process and time to plan and conduct transition activities would help many more preschool and kindergarten teachers to connect with parents and prepare young children to move to a new school.”[vi]



Henderson, A., & Mapp, K. (2002). A new wave of evidence: The impact of school, family, and community connections on student achievement. Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL). Retrieved from http://www.sedl.org/connections/resources/evidence.pdf

National Association for the Education of Young Children. (nd). Engaging diverse families. Washington, DC: Author.  Retrieved from https://www.naeyc.org/familyengagement

Smith, S., Robbins, T., Stagman, S. & Mahur, D. (2013). Parent engagement from preschool through grade 3: A guide for policymakers. Report. New York: National Center for Children in Poverty.

Van Voorhis, F.L., Maier, M.F., Epstein, J.L., and Lloyd, C.M. (2013). The impact of family involvement on the education of children ages 3 to 8. New York, NY: MDRC. Retrieved from http://www.mdrc.org/sites/default/files/The_Impact_of_Family_Involvement_FR.pdf

Weiss, H., and Lopez, M.E. (2009). Redefining family engagement in education. Family Involvement Network of Educators (FINE) Newsletter, 1(2). Retrieved from http://www.hfrp.org/family-involvement/publications-resources/redefining-family-engagement-in-education

Weiss, H.B., Lopez, M. Elena & Rosenberg, H. (2010). Beyond random acts: Family, school, and community engagement as an integral part of education reform. Retrieved from http://www.nationalpirc.org/engagement_forum/beyond_random_acts.pdf

Weiss, H.B., Bouffard, S.M., Bridglall, B. L., & Gordon, E.W. (2009). Reframing family involvement in education: Supporting families to support educational equity. Equity Matters: Research Review, No. 5.New York: The Campaign for Educational Equity, Teachers College. Retrieved from http://www.equitycampaign.org/article.asp?id=7282


[i] Weiss & Lopez, 2009

[ii] Smith, Robbins, Stagman, & Mahur, 2013, 3

[iii] Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, & Lloyd, 2013; Weiss, Lopez, & Rosenberg, 2010; Smith, Robbins, Stagman, & Mahur, 2013

[iv] Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, & Lloyd, 2013 , ix

[v] National Association for the Education of Young Children. nd

[vi] Van Voorhis, Maier, Epstein, & Lloyd, 2013