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Report Documents Benefits of School-Family Ties

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There are so many studies demonstrating the benefits that occur when schools work with families to support children's learning that publishing them has become a "growth industry,'' a new report suggests.

The report by the National Committee for Citizens in Education summarizes 66 studies, reviews, reports, analyses, and books, 39 of them recent, documenting gains resulting from helping families become more effective partners in their children's education.

The report is the final publication of the N.C.C.E., which is dissolving June 30. The report is being distributed by the Center for Law and Education, which is taking over the group's publishing operations.

When the N.C.C.E.'s first study on the topic came out in 1981, the report says, the link between parent involvement and achievement "was not generally recognized.''

Earlier studies stressed the benefits for students when parents help children with schoolwork at home and volunteer in traditional ways at school, said Anne Henderson, the principal author of the report.

Since then, however, a burgeoning number of studies have emerged that "add tremendously to our knowledge about the contributions families make to their children's success, and the supports families need from schools and community sources to guide young people,'' said Nancy Berla, a co-author of the report.

The newer studies cover such topics as family literacy and the effects of changes in family status and structure on student achievement. They also evaluate family-school programs that have helped improve the outcomes of children.

The report, which was supported by the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation and the Danforth Foundation, cites evidence that school-family collaboration reaps higher grades and test scores, better attendance, fewer special-education placements, more positive attitudes, and higher rates of graduation and postsecondary enrollment.

"It is not enough for families to be involved at home,'' Ms. Henderson said. "They have to be able to act as advocates for their kids at school and help them get a fair deal.''

Three Key Factors

The report stresses that the "most accurate predictor'' of student success is not a family's socioeconomic status. Instead, it says, the key factors are the extent to which the family encourages learning, expresses high expectations for children, and becomes involved in their school and community life.

The studies tout interventions ranging from home visits and parent education in the preschool years to middle and high school programs that help teachers work with smaller groups and collaborate closely with families.

But the report emphasizes that schools must find more ways to involve families "outside the mainstream.'' It also says broader collaboration from communities is needed to provide constructive environments outside school.

Single copies of the report, titled "A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement,'' are available for $17.45 each from the Center for Law and Education, 1875 Connecticut Ave., N.W., Suite 510, Washington, D.C. 20009.

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