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Bridging the worlds in which Maya has spent the earliest years of her life means that the adults in those worlds or settings need to be willing to come together, communicate, and decide on a plan that will meet Maya’s needs. Each person directly involved with Maya has a unique perspective on what she might need, what her challenges and strengths are, and how best to support her. So, how can these perspectives come together and create a dialogue? How can the institutions that they are part of form a cohesive net around Maya? Five key guiding principles make this possible.


Guiding Principles

Guiding Principle 1: Children learn and develop in many contexts.

This ecological approach recognizes that the daily routines and interactions of children with families, peers, preschool programs, and schools influence what and how they learn and behave. There are also more distant influences on child development through changes in society, the media, and public policy. In this case, the Common Core Standards about what students are expected to learn affect the behaviors of teachers, parents, and students.

Guiding Principle 2: Family engagement is a shared responsibility.
Understanding that children’s success in school and their general well-being is a shared responsibility means that everyone involved is accountable for children’s success, particularly at times of transitions. In this case, the preschool seems to have initiated a number of transition activities, but the elementary school and community appear to be far less involved. 

Guiding Principle 3: Family engagement matters across settings.
Third is understanding that in order to succeed, children and families need to experience a sense of continuity across settings. This means that as children move in and out of a given program or school, a sense of consistency is fundamental to their well-being. In this case, we know that in the preschool years, Nicole was considered an engaged parent, but in the elementary school space, she is having difficulty finding ways to connect. 

Guiding Principle 4: Family engagement is continuous across time.
As families and educators engage in promoting children’s development, continuity across time is essential for obtaining long-lasting effects. In this case, there is virtually no explicit continuity in standards, assessment practices, or data sharing that allow Maya or Nicole to feel a sense of continuity from one experience to the next. 

Guiding Principle 5: Family engagement is a key element to achieve educational goals for all children.
Family engagement is understood to be part of a system that includes curriculum and instruction, teacher professional capacity, school climate, community connections, and leadership and management. In this case, the emerging transition plan is a way to implement a system of support for children and families as they enter school.



Reflection Questions:

In the following questions, we ask you to consider how to connect the people and institutions in this case. Keep the five guiding principles in mind as you respond.

  • How might you describe the relationships among the people in this case (e.g., Nicole and Teresa, Nicole and Ms. Robinson, Teresa and Ms. Robinson)?
  • What are the different assumptions that people in the case make? How might these assumptions influence their abilities to share responsibility for Maya’s learning?
  • On average, how are students performing academically at the Grant Head Start Program (Table 1 in supporting data)? On average, how are students performing at Davis Elementary (Table 2 in supporting data)? How do the school data influence how you think about the situation in the case?
  • What are the transition activities initiated and put into practice across different settings in this case (e.g., early childhood program, elementary school, library, community, home)? Think about the transition activities described in this case, including the transition plan that Esther develops. What other transition activities might have been included? What other community settings might take a role in supporting the transition to school? [Note: Think about how afterschool programs and museums, for example, might get involved.] 
  • What are the barriers to successful transition practices? Consider the individual biases different people might hold as well as the organizational barriers that might exist.
  • How might networks of engaged parents and parent leaders take a larger role in supporting parent mentors during the transition to school?
  • How might Nicole or Tanya begin their conversation? If you were Nicole, what might you say? If you were Tanya, how might you respond to Nicole’s concerns and what specific suggestions might you make?


Expert Commentary

Want to hear what others think about the case? Click below to read three expert commentaries that will guide and inspire your own thinking: 



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Thank you for taking the time to complete HFRP’s first interactive case. Please e-mail Margaret Caspe with your ideas or any other feedback you might have about the interactive case experience.



illustration of Maya Warren
illustration of Maya's mother illustration of Teresa Guzman illustration of Tanya Robinson small image of a data table illustration of Esther Lasher
illustration of the people in the Bridging Worlds Case
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