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FINE Newsletter, Volume I, Issue 1
Issue Topic: Home–School Communication

Resources & Research From FINE Members

Amy Schulting from the Center for Child and Family Policy at Duke University shares data from her recent evaluation study of the home visiting program she designed to ease children's transition to kindergarten. The Kindergarten Home Visit Project encourages families and educators to communicate before well before the first day of school in order to help children to succeed during this important transition.

The need for home–school collaboration begins even before a child’s first day of kindergarten. Many children struggle with the transition to kindergarten, increasing their risk of poor academic outcomes throughout their academic careers. Meaningful collaboration between schools and families is essential to support children’s success during this critical transition and beyond. The question is: How? How can schools engage families prior to the first day of kindergarten and maintain that connection throughout the school year? How can teachers build positive connections with hard-to-reach families? One answer is home visiting.

Many early childhood professionals conduct home visits to educate parents about child development or to encourage certain parenting practices. Based on some of my own prior research and my experience as a teacher, I used a different approach in designing the Kindergarten Home Visit Project, a randomized study including 44 teachers from 19 elementary schools and 928 families. In this project, the goal was not to change families but to listen to and better understand them. Teachers participating in this project conducted home visits to learn about each child and family, with the parent as the expert. In typical home–school communication programs, information is frequently communicated to parents about their children’s performance or ways to support academic achievement at home. Less frequent is the opportunity for parents to share their expertise regarding their own children with educators. This project gave parents the opportunity to talk to and feel heard by their children’s teachers, right in their own homes. It also helped parents and teachers build a positive and trusting home–school relationship at the very beginning of the school year.

The project was evaluated using a randomized study, which revealed a number of positive outcomes for families and teachers alike. For example, teachers reported improved relationships with families and a stronger commitment to reaching out to disengaged families. Non-English-speaking parents reported feeling more comfortable at school and experiencing fewer barriers to home–school communication. Teachers and parents also reported how much they enjoyed the home visits. In fact, at the completion of the study, all participating teachers expressed interest in continuing to conduct home visits if funding were available.

Overall, home visiting gives families and schools the opportunity to build a positive foundation upon which all future communication is based. Teachers and school leaders looking for ways to improve home-school connections should consider the positive potential of home visiting.

This article is part of the January 2009 FINE Newsletter. The FINE Newsletter shares the newest and best family involvement research and resources from Harvard Family Research Project and other field leaders. To access the FINE Newsletter Archive, visit www.hfrp.org/FINENewsletter.

© 2014 Presidents and Fellows of Harvard College
Published by Harvard Family Research Project