Home-School Relationships: Moving Towards a Collaborative Model

Mon, May 20, 2013

General Education, Uncategorized

By Silvia Graham
Faculty Member, Master of Teaching Program at American Public University

“The battleship, the school, cannot do this alone. The rest of the educational flotilla must assist: families, communities, government, higher education, and the business community. Only then will all of our children be able to achieve that which by birthright should be theirs: enthusiasm for an accomplishment in learning” (Graham, 1995, p.22).

I find this quote provocative, but at the same time intriguing and enlightening. It seems undeniable that today’s schools alone cannot provide the opportunities that students need to succeed in this continuously evolving society. The idea of strengthening connections between families and schools has become more evident in the last decades when there has been a major demographic shift in the number of diverse students in public schools. That demographic change has posed serious challenges in contemporary schools. Several studies state the mismatch between home, school language, and literacy practices (Ogbu, 1994; Purcell-Gates, 1995; Valdes 2001). Research in the 90s centered on multicultural education and cultural responsiveness. Au and Carrol (1997) highlights the crucial role that cultural congruency in instruction plays in adequately serving the unique educational needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. It can be seen that the concept of culturally responsiveness and family involvement are intimately related. Contemporary American schools require schools and family to join in new ways.

Connecting with families to make today’s classrooms more culturally responsive is not simply something desirable, but definitely a need. Amatea (2009) proposes a collaborative paradigm that promotes two-way communication between schools and homes. This collaborative model captures the essence of transformational or emancipatory education: meaning is negotiated, and parents are active participants in the decision-making process.

As seductive as the collaborative paradigm is, the success of its implementation involves the understanding of a series of key beliefs; prominent among them the concept of fund of knowledge (Moll, 1992). Reduced to essential, according to Moll, Amanti, Neff and Gonzalez (1992) the fund of knowledge is “to refer to the historically accumulated and culturally developed bodies of knowledge and skills essential for household or individual functioning and well-being” (p. 133)”. Teachers’ affirmation and validation of parents’ expertise is essential in this model. Seeing parents as intellectual resources is the first step towards the development of a collaborative model between families and schools.

The great challenge lies in the question of how to transition into a collaborative model. Amatea (2009) proposes two levels of strategies: dyadic and group-focused. The former focuses on the various ways to build personal relationships with parents. The latter focuses on creating the right context and climate so that the development of relationships between parents and school can take place. Equally important is the presence of six fundamental skills that pave the ways for the establishment of a collaborative form of interaction between parents and teachers. The diagram below depicts these six essential skills.


The collaborative model can be best described as a revolutionary idea that has as its main protagonists families and school working in partnership towards the accomplishment of a common goal: enhance children’s performance in school. The collaborative model, unlike traditional forms of parent involvement, operates under the assumption that power is shared, meaning is negotiated, and support is mutual. After having examined the particulars of the collaborative model, we are left with the impression that even though changes are not easy, they are still possible. Learning is a process, and so is the commitment to a new philosophy. Every change starts at the individual level. Self-reflection is needed to evaluate how our own beliefs fit into new concepts or trends. Are we ready for the challenge?




Au, K.H., & Carrol, J. H. (1997). Improving literacy achievement through a
     constructivist approach. Elementary School Journal, 97(3), 203-221.

Graham, P.A. (1995). Assimilation, adjustment, and access.
     An antiquarian view of American education. Learning from the past (pp. 3- 24).
     Baltimore: John Hopkins Press.

Moll, L. (1992).Funds of knowledge.In. L. Christenbury, R. Bomer & P. Smagorinsky (Eds).
     Handbook of adolescent literacy research (p. 323-342). New York. London:
     the Guilford Press.

Moll, L., Amanti, C., Neff, D. and Gonzalez, N. (1992). Funds of knowledge for teaching:
     Using a qualitative approach to connect homes and classrooms.
     Theory Into Practice, XXXI, 2, 132-141.

Ogbu, John U.( 2003). Black American Students in an Affluent Suburb: A Study of Academic
. Mahwah, NJ: Lawrence Erlbau

Purcell-Gates, Victoria. (1995). Other People’s Words: The Cycle of Low Literacy.
     Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Valdés, Guadalupe. (2001). Learning and Not Learning English: Latino Students in
     American Schools
. New York: Teachers College Press


About the Author:

Silvia Graham is an online instructor for the Master of Teaching program at APUS. Dr. Graham has over 20 years of experience teaching both in national and international settings. Prior to moving to higher education, she was a special education and bilingual teacher. She received her Doctor of Education In Supervision Curriculum & Instructions from Texas A&M Commerce. Shed holds various levels of teaching certification in Texas, where she currently resides with her family.

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