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THE ISSUE OF EQUITY: Taking Research on Partnership Program Development to Scale in Practice
A summary report of small group discussions at ERNAPE-Lisboa
Joyce L. Epstein, Ph.D. Johns Hopkins University In a plenary presentation at the ERNAPE-Lisboa conference, I discussed the urgency of applying research-based approaches to partnership program development in all schools for the purpose of greater equity. Based on hundreds of studies conducted over thirty years by researchers in many countries, it is clear that results confirm the importance of family engagement for student success in school. If that is true, then we must ask:
What will it take to “scale up” research
-based approaches to
engage all families in ways that contribute to all students’ success
 in school? Scaling up partnerships in all schools is
an “aspirational goal”— 
at least in the short term. However, our interest in equity asserts that
“All students deserve equal opportunity to meet their full potential in school.” Presently, only some schools engage some families to support children’s learning and development. Yet, for students to have equal access to school programs, services, and opportunities to learn, parents need to be informed and active advocates in their children’s education (See related resource, Epstein, 2013). Other studies indicate that scaling up research
 based, goal
linked partnership programs will require school, district/state/ministry leaders to have up
date knowledge on new directions for developing and implementing equitable and effective policies, plans, actions, evaluations, and on
going leadership efforts. Questions were posed for attendees at ERNAPE
Lisboa to discuss:
What will it take to scale up good partnership programs in all schools in your country?
What are the
 to this imperative agenda?
What are the
 to take action to establish more and better partnership programs at all school levels? After the presentation, attendees were divided in five small groups with assigned discussion leaders to identify important challenges and opportunities for advancing this work more swiftly and more surely in their own countries. Many ideas were discussed by the five groups during a 40
minute session.
 This paper summarizes some of the main ideas generated in the small groups and shared with the full conference.
Resource: Epstein, J. L. (2013).
The Issue of Equity: Taking Research on Partnership Program Development to Scale in Practice.
 PowerPoint Presentation, ERNAPE-Lisboa. Lisbon: www.ernapelisboa.org 
The small groups discussed some or all of the questions that were provided. Each group proceeded at a different  pace. Most groups spent more time on the first question, resulting in more ideas for the overarching topics of challenges and opportunities. Some notes identified speakers and their countries; others listed only ideas.
Thanks to Jessica Elmore, NNPS Network Coordinator, for assisting in assembling the comments of the five small group discussions for this summary.
Common Challenges
What are major
 that limit educators from scaling up partnership programs at all school levels in your country? What are potential solutions to one or more of the stated
Attendees identified long-standing factors that challenge and delay the application of research-based programs of family and community involvement in all schools. These include:
Lack of funds
Lack of time
Lack of preservice, advanced, and inservice education for teachers and administrators
Abundance of old attitudes
Narrow definition of
Resistance to change
Need for leadership
They also discussed related explanations and solutions to these challenges.
Lack of funds
. Attendees noted that many school leaders say that they have limited or no funds for organizing effective partnership programs. Solving the challenge. Most schools, districts, and/or ministries of education have sufficient funds for important components of school improvement. Presently some family involvement activities conducted in just about every school are paid for from unspecified funds, rather than from organized, dedicated line-items in a school (or district/state/ministry) budget. Documented costs for school-based programs of family and community involvement are low. Costs for start-up school-based programs average about $20 per pupil per year, a tiny fraction of the overall per pupil expenditures for education in most locations. (See p. 245 in Epstein, et al., 2009).
The small investment is a “thrifty” way to support an on
-going, planned, goal-linked partnership program at each school, guided by an Action Team for Partnerships that
works to inform and engage all families in their children’s education.
Lack of time.
 Attendees recognized that teachers and principals are very busy with other school improvement efforts. Attendees noted that when teachers and administrators feel too much pressure, have many requirements, and/or have poor time management
, they may “burn out” and leave the field.
Explaining the challenge. It is true that educators are extremely busy and must not be asked to waste time. Studies show, however, that family and community engagement activities
are not “extra” or “different” work for teachers. Rather, good programs of school, family, and
community partnerships enable educators to help their students reach all of the important goals that have been set to increase skills in reading, math, and other subjects and to improve school
 behaviors. A recent national study of teachers in the U. S. indicated that those in “collaborative schools” with high
-quality parental involvement were more satisfied with their work and were less likely to leave teaching (Markow & Pieters, 2012).
Lack of preservice education for future teachers, advanced education for future administrators, and inservice education/professional development/on-going technical assistance for practicing educators.
Explaining the challenge. Attendees at ERNAPE-Lisboa recognized that, even today
despite years of research on family and community engagement
most future teachers receive little or no preparation in college courses to understand the central role of school, family, and community partnerships in their professional work and for the success of students. Most future
administrators are not prepared to go beyond “dealing with parents” to lead
 their schools in developing effective, equitable, positive, and sustainable partnership programs. The results of research in sociology, psychology, education, and other fields has not been translated or transformed for use in courses on methods of teaching for future teachers or to methods of school organization and management for future principals and administrators. Similarly, the conference attendees acknowledged that most practicing educators receive little or no professional development or on-going guidance from district, state, federal, or ministerial leaders for establishing, strengthening, and sustaining programs of family and community involvement focused on student success in school. These challenge must be solved or the vast majority of new and experienced principals and teachers, superintendents and other administrators will remain unaware of research-based approaches for engaging all families in their children
s education at home and at school. Presently, just about every school in every country conducts some activities with students
 families. Often these are traditional activities (e.g., open house night; report cards sent home) or targeted activities (e.g., communicating with parents when their child has academic or behavioral  problems in school). It will be necessary for colleges, universities, and school leaders to provide  preservice, advanced, and inservice education that will update and advance
educators’ capacities
to conduct more organized, comprehensive, team-led, and goal-linked practices of partnerships with all families to support student success in school (Epstein, 2011; Quezada, Alexandrowicz, & Molina, 2013).
Abundance of old attitudes.
Although surveys of teachers across countries indicate that  just about all practicing educators know and say that family engagement is important, they also say (a) they do not know how to create the collaborative conditions to ensure feasible and  productive partnerships with all families, and (b) that most parents cannot be good partners in
their children’s education.
Explaining the challenge. The gap between
teachers’ beliefs
of the importance of involvement and actions to improve school, family, and community partnerships must be closed. As noted above, most teachers, principals, and guidance counselors presently contact parents when students are at risk of failing or behaving badly in school. These communications indicate that teachers
 parents to be partners to help students
 solve serious problems. Such contacts are important, but they do not create a welcoming school climate and planned, periodic, positive

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