Academic journal article School Community Journal

Integrated School-Family Partnerships in Preschool: Building Quality Involvement through Multidimensional Relationships

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Integrated School-Family Partnerships in Preschool: Building Quality Involvement through Multidimensional Relationships

Article excerpt

Introduction

The first day of preschool is emotional for the mother of 4-year-old Kayla. Clinging to her mother's leg, Kayla peers into the classroom where other children are playing, but her mother's mind is racing. How could she hand off her baby to complete strangers? Will they know how to handle all of her little quirks? Is she ready for this? Then, Kayla and her mother are greeted with the teacher's warm smile. The connection between teachers and parents has much potential, including calming parental fears as a child begins preschool.

Preschool is an important time, bridging learning at home to a formalized learning environment and setting the tone for K-12 education. The current expansion of preschool programs through the universal pre-K movement only focuses more attention on the importance of early education. As preschool is becoming a standard part of the formal educational system in the United States, the role of families cannot be minimized. Meaningful school-family relationships begin in preschool and have the potential to shape the child's and family's perceptions of school over time.

Families represent the first essential system and source of support for children's learning and development, serving as a lifelong resource to children (Downer & Meyers, 2010; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Jeynes, 2014). Decades of research demonstrate that family involvement is a critical contributor to student success (Christenson & Reschly, 2010; Cotton & Wikelund, 1989; El Nokali, Bachman, & Votruba-Drzal, 2010; Epstein, 2010; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Fishel & Ramirez, 2005; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Lareau, 1989; Larocque, Kleiman, & Darling, 2011; Marcon, 1999; Sheldon, 2005; Taylor, Clayton, & Rowley, 2004; Wilder, 2014). Specific to the child's first experiences in school, parental involvement in early childhood education has been linked to greater success once children enter elementary school (Jeynes, 2014; Miedel & Reynolds, 1999).

Although the role of families is paramount as young children transition into school, the goal of achieving meaningful family involvement remains a challenge in many schools (Christenson & Reschly, 2010; Larocque et al., 2011; McNeal, 2014). This case study is a notable example of school-family partnerships in a small preschool program. This case exemplifies many qualities of successful and positive school-family relationships which may serve as a model for preschools trying to build a solid foundation of family partnership during the child's first exposure to formalized schooling. Three themes will be explored as components of building school-family partnerships: the multidimensional nature of the relationships (or social interactions that extend beyond the typical teacher-parent relationship), a welcoming environment, and an effort to enhance parents' cognitions about school.

Paradigm Shift: Parent Involvement to School-Family Partnerships

Parent involvement has long been considered a pathway through which schools could support their students, enhance the academic achievement of underperforming children (Christenson & Reschly, 2010; Larocque et al., 2011; Pianta & Walsh 1996; Wilder, 2014), and address behavioral issues (Webster-Stratton, Reid, & Hammond, 2001). Educators recognize that parent involvement is a valuable component of the child's education. Literature on this topic over the last 25 years has examined effective practices of school, family, and community partnership (Christenson & Reschly, 2010; Downer & Myers, 2010; Epstein, 2001, 2010; Epstein & Sheldon, 2006; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Jeynes, 2014; Lareau, 1989; Larocque et al., 2011; Marcon, 1999; Moorman et al., 2012; Pianta & Walsh, 1996; Sheldon, 2002; Webster- Stratton et al., 2001; Wilder, 2014). Overall, this research points to positive outcomes when families are involved in their child's education. Recently, a paradigm shift has occurred. …

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