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Family engagement tools

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Four models of parent involvement

Colleen Gengler, Extension Educator, emerita — Family Resiliency

Reviewed October 2014 by Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for school success.

Does your school work independently of families to educate children, work collaboratively with families to accomplish a common mission, or fall somewhere in between? See what model of parent involvement best describes your school.

Model 1 — Independent

This model is based on the assumption that parents delegate to schools the responsibility for educating their children. Educators in turn accept the responsibility. Parents hold the school accountable. The school works independent of families to educate children. Parental involvement in decision making and working together is considered inappropriate or unnecessary by the school. There are few, if any, opportunities to share resources or responsibilities.

Model 2 — Mission-driven

The school establishes the mission and enlists parents’ support. The school identifies appropriate values and practices for children’s success and believes that success is fostered by similar expectations and values across school and home. The direction is primarily from school to home with little input from parents.

Model 3 — Cooperative

The school recognizes the expertise families possess and assumes that interactions between home and school are helpful. One main attitude is that parents and educators each have unique expertise related to education. Educators draw on parents’ knowledge and experiences to enhance instruction. The drawbacks in this model occur when schools do one of the following:

  1. See the curriculum as all important and fixed in place.
  2. Are not willing to invite parents to be part of curricular decision making.
  3. Do not think broadly about bridging school and home resources.

Model 4 — Collaborative

The school works with families to accomplish a common mission for children’s educational success. There is collaboration among parents, educators, and community members. Collaboration occurs through two-way communication, recognizing parents’ strengths, and solving problems together. The school is open to exploring new policies, practices, relationships, and attitudes that foster partnering for children’s school success.

Download and print the related Four models of parent involvement Checklist (PDF).


Swap, S. M. (1993). Models of parent involvement.InX (Ed.) Developing home-school partnerships: From concepts to practice. New York: Teacher College Press.

Related resources

Ways to engage the uninvolved parent — Consider these suggestions for engaging parents from removing barriers, improving communication, and more.

Creating school-family connections — Use this inventory to look at the conditions that enhance productive school-family relationships: approach, attitude, atmosphere, and actions.

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