Joyce Epstein's School-Family-Community Partnership Model Research Paper Starter

Joyce Epstein's School-Family-Community Partnership Model

(Research Starters)

Research recognizes parent involvement as an important factor in the quality of a child's education. Joyce Epstein's School-Family-Community Partnership Model is an influential model in parent involvement research. The model redefines the relationship between schools, families, and communities as one of overlapping spheres of influence that share a concern about the success of the child. As a framework for increasing parental participation in education, the model recognizes six types of educational involvement and encourages schools to develop activities that engage schools, families and communities within the six types. The model has been influential in shaping social policy regarding parent involvement in education. This article provides a brief overview of the model.

Keywords: Action Team; Action Plan; Educational Quality; Epstein, Joyce; Family-like Schools; Parental Involvement; Partnership Model; School-family Relationships; School-like Families


Parent involvement is recognized as a significant factor in improving the quality of a child's education. Because of its importance, understanding how parents help their children and how schools can encourage greater parent involvement have been important research aims in education and sociology. In the late 1980s, Joyce Epstein proposed the School-Family-Community-Partnership Model (Partnership Model), which soon became influential in parent involvement research. The model has two main components.


The first depicts the partnership of schools, families, and communities as overlapping spheres. The spheres represent that schools, families, and communities each have a stake and influence in the education of a child. The overlap of the spheres represents that the interests and influences of the stakeholders in a child's education are mutual. Two factors influence the degree of overlap of the spheres: time and experiences. That is, time in schools, the age of the child, and the experiences of the child in the family and in school can influence the degree to which schools, families, and communities have mutual interests and influences on the child. For example, typically parents are more involved in school when their children are young. Thus, the Partnership Model would depict a greater overlap of parents and schools for a first grader than for a high school student (Epstein, 2001; Epstein et al., 2002).

The second Component of the Partnerhsip Model illustrates the interpersonal relationships and patterns of influence that are most important in a child's education. According to the model, there are two types of interactions: those within organizations and those between organizations. Additionally, there are various levels of interactions. Standard, organizational interactions occur between families and schools. This kind of interaction includes communication in the form of newsletters and reports about the school's activities and performance. Specific, individual interactions are those between parents and teachers. Notes home from the teacher or conversations at a parent-teacher conference fall into this category. At the center of this half of the model is the child, who interacts with schools and the family. The child is both changed by the interactions and produces change in others (Espstein, 2001; Epstein et al., 2002).

The key concept that underlies both parts of the Partnership Model is that all stakeholders in a child's education have mutual interests and influences. The primary shared interest is a caring concern that the child be successful. Additionally, the model suggests that stakeholders' shared interests and influences can be promoted by the policies, actions, beliefs, attitudes, and values of the stakeholders. While this might seem like common sense, the model differs from earlier theories on school-family relationships. In particular, the Partnership Model revises earlier conceptualizations that viewed families and schools as existing in separate spheres, which entailed that they have separate responsibilities. It also revises conceptions of the school-family relationship as one that must be sequential. In a sequential relationship, parents are expected to have more of a role than schools, and vice versa, in certain periods of a child's life. While the Partnership Model acknowledges that schools and families often do have more or less influence at certain ages, the model also suggests that the overlap between families and schools can be increased with concerted effort by one or more of the stakeholders (Epstein, 2001).

Another important aspect of overlapping spheres of influence is that schools and families share similar characteristics. Epstein uses the terms "school-like families" and "family-like schools" (Epstein, 2001, p. 32) to explain the behaviors of families and schools that believe in each other's importance. In school-like families, parents encourage, support and develop their children's academic skills. They may assist with homework or introduce educational activities as part of their regular family schedule. Similarly, they may use time in the same manner as the school or reward their children for accomplishments. These families teach their children to view school activities as part of the normal and natural rhythm of every day life. Family-like schools, in a similar manner, take on the attitudes and characteristics of a caring family. Like families, they may individualize attention to meet the unique needs of each child. This could mean changing the standards or rules based on individual circumstances. It can also mean striving to create more open and reciprocal relationships between teachers and students. The Partnership Model emphasizes the shared attributes of schools and families. It also suggests that behaviors and attitudes of schools and families can increase the degree of overlap between schools and families, resulting in many benefits for students.

Six Types of Involvement

One of the goals of partnership research has been to identify the actions that schools, families and communities engage in when they focus on student learning. Six general types of involvement have been identified:

  • Type 1-Parenting: Parenting includes all of the activities that parents engage in to raise happy, healthy children who become capable students. Unlike teachers, whose influence on a child is relatively limited, parents maintain a life-long commitment to their children. Activities that support this type of involvement provide information to parents about their child's development, health, safety, or home conditions that can support student learning.
  • Type 2-Communicating: Familes and schools communicate with each other in multiple ways. Schools send home notes and flyers about important events and activities. Parents give teachers information about their child's health and educational history. A school website is an additional mode of communication with parents and families. For example, parents may subscribe to dynamic calendar updates using iCal or RSS feeds; others simply check the website calendar regularly (Piper, 2012).

From a positive involvement perspective, communication must be two-way — from schools to parents and from parents to schools — to be most effective.

  • Type 3-Volunteering — There are three basic ways that individuals volunteer in education. First, they may volunteer in the school or classroom by helping teachers and adminstrators as tutors or assistants. Second, they may volunteer for the school; for instance, fundraising for an event or promoting a school in the community. Finally, they may volunteer as a member of an audience, attending school programs or performances.
  • Type 4 — Learning At Home — When parents help their children with homework or take them to a museum, they are participating in type 4 involvement. These activities produce a school-like family and encourage parents to interact with the school curriculum. Activities to encourage learning at home provide parents with information on what children are doing in the classroom and how to help them with homework.
  • Type 5 — Decision making: Parents participate in school decision making when they become part of school governance committees or join organizations, such as the parent/teachers association. Other decision making activities include taking on leadership roles that involve disseminating information to other parents.
  • Type 6 — Collaborating with the Community: School-community...

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