Harvard Educational Review
  1. Developing Home-School Partnerships

    From Concepts to Practice

    By Susan McAllister Swap

    New York: Teachers College Press, 1993. 213 pp. $48.00, $17.95 (paper).

    In Developing Home-School Partnerships: From Concepts to Practice, Susan Swap provides a practical and comprehensive guide addressing the barriers to and the development of meaningful partnerships between families and schools. Before her untimely death from brain cancer in July 1995, Swap was a professor of education and psychology at Wheelock College in Boston, and the director of the school's center on Families, Communities, Schools, and Children's Learning. Drawing upon her extensive experience and knowledge in the area of family and school relations, Swap provides both theoretical scaffolding into the subject of family-school relations and clear, practical suggestions for the development of these important partnerships.

    The book is organized into two sections. In the first section, which encompasses chapters 1–4, Swap provides a comprehensive summary of the literature that links family involvement in schools with benefits such as increased student achievement and attainment, increased student self-esteem, fewer behavioral problems in school, and better school attendance. Along with a discussion of three major literature reviews, Swap also provides details of specific research studies on the effects of parental involvement at the preschool, elementary, and secondary school levels, such as the Perry Preschool longitudinal study and the Project Hope study.

    The first section also focuses on a central paradox of family-school relations: even though both teachers and parents agree that more home-school interaction is beneficial for children's learning, parental involvement in schools is surprisingly minimal. In an attempt to unravel the paradox, Swap discusses four barriers to full family-school partnerships: the ever-changing demographics of the families and children being served by the schools; the lack of school norms and culture that support partnerships; the lack of resources to support parent involvement; and the lack of information about how to start and maintain parental involvement programs.

    Swap ends the first section of the text with the development of a conceptual framework of home-school interactions. This framework consists of four models: the "protective model," which aims to protect the schools from parents; the "school-to-home transition model," in which the goal is to enlist parents to support the objectives of the school; the "curriculum enrichment model," where the goal is to expand and extend the school's curriculum by incorporating the contributions of families; and the "partnership model," where schools encourage an alliance between parents and educators. Swap suggests that the choice of home-school model depends on the values of the families and educators and the needs of the children, but recommends the partnership model for schools with declining student performance, a heterogeneous school population, and a lack of agreement among families and educators about the definition of success in school, and the characteristics of children and schools that contribute to that success.

    Swap describes the second section, chapters 5-12, as the "how-to" portion of the book, as it offers a variety of approaches and practices to help educators develop and implement home-school partnership programs. Swap offers her suggestions not as ideal prescriptions for the development of these partnerships, but as ideas "to prepare school personnel and parents to initiate discussion, make choices, adapt suggestions, and set a realistic time-table for implementation" (p. 62). Throughout this section, Swap uses actual cases and personal experiences to bring to life her examples of useful practices.

    A notable element of Developing Home-School Partnerships is the extent to which Swap emphasizes the need for schools to reach out and make room for parents of different ethnic, racial, language, and class backgrounds. In both sections of the book, Swap provides valuable insights for those attempting to build strong connections between families from diverse backgrounds and schools. Overall, the text offers an abundance of information for researchers, policymakers, educators from both the public and private sector, and parents interested in improving interactions between families and schools.


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