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Family engagement tools

How to engage the uninvolved parent

Sandra L. Christenson, Professor — College of Education and Human Development

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

Do you see parents and families as a resource in your school? To increase family engagement, help parents maintain a sense of power, dignity, and authority in rearing their children. Empowerment is an intentional, ongoing process centered in the local community. It involves mutual respect, critical reflection, caring, and group participation. Through this process, people lacking an equal share of valued resources gain greater access to and control over resources. Critical elements include inclusion and a sense of power in decision making.

Have you negotiated and affirmed parents' roles and responsibilities?

To do this:

Have you reduced home-school barriers?

Consider some ways to reduce barriers such as:

Have you created a spirit of cooperation with the purpose of meeting children’s needs?

Follow these five essentials of parent involvement, particularly if you are trying to engage ethnically and culturally diverse families:

Have you considered these strategies?

You could also try to:

Have school communication practices been examined?

Ask yourself:


Christenson, S. L.  (2004). Working with families for student success module. Part of the 2004 College of Education and Human Development Summer Institute. Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota. Not published. [Adapted by permission.]

Edwards, P. A. (1992). Strategies and techniques for establishing home-school partnerships with minority parents. In A. Barona & E. Garcia (Eds.),Children at-risk: Poverty, minority status, and other issues in educational equity (pp. 217-236). Silver Spring, MD: National Association of School Psychologists.

Related resources

Four models of parent involvement: Which one represents your school? — Review four models of parent involvement and identify where your own school is at on the spectrum.

Building shared responsibility for educational outcomes — Gain a better understanding for how to turn common school events and activities, like Back to school night, into a partnership building opportunity.

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