More about the project
Early beginnings of the project
The Partnering for school success project has been in development since 2000.
In 2000, Sandra Christenson, Ph.D., professor in Educational Psychology at the University of Minnesota, performed a literature review on the influence of educators, families, and community members on student achievement. Through that research, she identified six factors that are important for school success:
- Expectations. (See more about the research: Standards and expectations.)
- Structure. (See more about the research: Expectations.)
- Learning. (See more about the research: Learning.)
- Support. (See more about the research: Support.)
- Relationships. (See more about the research: Relationships.)
- Modeling. (See more about the research: Modeling.)
These factors underscored the important role of parents in instilling a positive “habit of learning” in their children. A project team of staff and educators with the Extension Center for Family Development — listed in the “Credits” section at the beginning of this facilitator manual — worked with Dr. Christenson to develop a handbook for parents, based on these factors. The parent handbook, Learning from You: All Parents Are Teachers, was published in English in late 2000.
In 2006, the team began a process to review and update the Learning from You: All Parents Are Teachers publication. The team consulted with Dr. Christenson about her updates of the original research, which included an updated literature review. The project team proceeded with revising and developing a new draft of the publication, renaming it Parenting for School success. Three focus groups were conducted to determine validity and usability across cultures. It became apparent through the work with the three multi-cultural focus groups that many of the examples used in the publication were not culturally appropriate for those individuals who did not originate from the dominant English-speaking Western European countries.
During this time the team became aware that much of the research that existed focused on the Caucasian population, with little focus on students of color. Reports from the U.S. Census Bureau and organizations like the Pew Research Center have consistently shown that students of color are particularly at risk for not doing well academically. (For a summary on how Latino students are doing academically in the United States, see Why is this program important?.)
Culturally-Specific Research Projects
In 2007, the team met with representatives from the McKnight Foundation about the possibilities of receiving funding for an expansion of the work in this area. The project received multi-year funding to conduct a series of cultural-specific focus groups and develop appropriate educational resources to encourage school success. During year one of this project, originally named Parenting for School success and later renamed Partnering for school success, independent focus groups were conducted with Latino and African American cultural groups. [To get details about the Latino focus group results, see Latino focus group findings.]
Cultural Guides for the Project
The team continued with the work outlined in the grant for the next five years. In 2008, the team concluded the focus group work with the first two cultural groups as well as conducted focus groups with agencies serving families in each cultural group. The team also published an updated version of the parent handbook, which retained the Parenting for School success name but added A Guide for Parents to the title. (Find out more about Parenting for school success: A guide for parents.) In 2009, focus groups were conducted with Somali and Hmong cultural groups. A follow-up grant received in 2010 through the McKnight Foundation, allowed similar focus groups with the American Indian cultural group to be conducted.
The cultural guide-led process
For all but the English-speaking groups, a cultural guide-led process was adopted. For each group, the team contracted with two individuals from within the cultural group to help steer the process. The cultural guides assisted with:
- Establishing the focus group process.
- Interpreting focus group results.
- Presenting the results to the community.
- Identifying any next steps needed for the community.
- Identifying and assisting in development of education resources for the community to help raise awareness of the issues and improve school success (if needed).
It should be noted that in addition to identifying two individuals to act as the cultural guides for the African American cultural group, the team partnered with an existing organization — the Cultural Wellness Center — to help guide the process. After completing the focus groups in any given cultural group, team members worked closely with the cultural guides to complete the above tasks, including determining next steps and any related educational resources that needed to be developed.
Into the future
The Partnering for school success work has continued and has blossomed into a number of developments:
- The Education: Our best legacy (Educación: Nuestra mejor herencia in Spanish) program has been developed based on the work started with the Latino focus groups and cultural guides. A version for Latino families is developed and other versions for non-Latino mixed audiences and Hmong families is in process. See more about the Education: Our best legacy program.
- In 2012 University of Minnesota Extension received a five year grant from Children, Youth and Families at Risk (CYFAR) to continue the work started with the Latino focus groups and Education: Our best legacy program. See more about the Partnering for school success CYFAR project (PSS CYFAR) project.
- Shorter take-and-teach lessons have been developed based on the original research and focus group results, which can be used with parents to help them better support their children's education. See more about the Parenting for school success take and teach lessons.
Research on school success — Review the research on factors for school success and more.
Family engagement tools — Get resources to strengthen your engagement and communication with parents.