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Bridging Worlds: Family Engagement in the Transition to Kindergarten

Five-year-old Maya is struggling as she makes the transition to kindergarten, and her mother, teachers, and others in the school work together to help identify the causes of her difficulties and to find solutions so that Maya can succeed. An interactive version is also available.

Staying on the Path Toward College: One Boy at the Crossroads

Paulo Domínguez is an intelligent sixth-grade boy who has recently become disengaged from schoolwork and is hanging out with peers whom his teachers and parents fear are a bad influence. How can community programs, schools, and families work together to keep Paulo on the path towards college as he transitions to middle school? An interactive version is also available.

Making a Decision About College: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Marisela Castillo, a high school senior, looks forward to going to a good college to prepare her for medical studies, but she knows that she will have to leave her family in order for that to happen. Should Marisela forgo her dreams for the sake of a family who depends on her household contributions? Should she leave her family to pursue those dreams? An interactive version is also available.

After School for Cindy: Family, School, and Community Roles in Out-of-School Time Teaching Case

Second grade teacher Nikki believes that participation in a formal after school program would help her student Cindy academically at school. However, Cindy's single working mother Marla prefers to keep Cindy with her in the afternoons after her numerous struggles with securing quality affordable care in the community. What are the roles of family, school, and community in promoting children's learning and development in out-of-school time?

Can We Talk About Family?

Latoya Roberts, a new first grade teacher, worries about Keon, a student being raised by his grandmother, when he begins to share information about his family in school. Will encouraging such sharing strengthen Latoya's bond with Keon and help him succeed? Latoya wants his grandmother's permission to encourage his openness, but she wonders if pushing the issue might strain her relationship with Keon's grandmother.

“Daddy Says This New Math Is Crazy”

Beth Martin, a fourth grade teacher, finds her students respond well to the new mathematics curriculum she is using in her class, but at home parents struggle to understand the new math and help their children with homework. How should Beth and her colleagues respond to parents' skepticism about the new curriculum and support their involvement at home?

Culture Clash at Intermediate School #91

Disciplinary problems at an intermediate school in the Bronx are compounded by the lack of experienced teachers whose race and class backgrounds differ from their students'. When two students get into a fight, the new teachers seek solutions that sharply contrast with the norms of the students and their families. How can teachers come to understand the families and communities in which they teach?

A Special Education Plan for Anabela: Does Supporting Her Needs Mean Holding Her Back?

A mother advocated strongly for her daughter's special education placement at a new school, but now appears under-involved to the teachers. The classroom and resource room teachers disagree about whether to retain the girl in second grade, and the classroom teacher must make a recommendation to the principal, knowing the family has opposed retention in the past.

Bilingual Voices and Parent Classroom Choices

Ines, a Spanish speaker feels responsible for her daughter's trouble in an all-English first grade classroom. Based on advice from her daughter's teacher, who believes a bilingual placement might be best, Ines reads with Nina in Spanish, but is uncertain this is the right thing to do. How can parents and teachers reconcile their differences about bilingual education?

Defining “Fine”—Communicating Academic Progress to Parents

Molly is surprised when her son's teacher recommends he attend summer school. She thought he was doing just fine and the family had been doing a lot to make the home a rich reading environment. How can teachers better communicate academic progress with parents? How can administrators support teachers in this effort?

Setting Standards at Porter Road School

A fourth grade teacher weighs the advantages and disadvantages of a mandated state educational test on her students. She must weigh the conflicting perspectives of parents, students, community members, and her teaching colleagues to define her own stance in regard to the test and to present her thoughts to the school principal.

School Won't Let Mom Talk About Her Casino Job

A middle school principal will not allow a single mother employed by the local casino to address her daughter's class during Career Week because he is concerned about promoting gambling. How can this school reorganize to serve and respect all families?

Reaching out to the Only One out There

Brian is struggling with his sexual orientation and confronts Jacob, a teacher whom he suspects is gay. Jacob reveals his sexual orientation to Brian and when Brian reports this information to his mother, Jill, she demands her son to withdraw from extracurricular activities led by a gay teacher. How can Jacob, knowing the risks of suicide among gay youth, best support Brian and gain Jill's confidence?

What's Going on With Tomasito?

Tomasito's embarrassment at having his parents drop by the school limits the development of a strong, trusting, and communicative parent-teacher relationship. Shy and quiet Tomasito does not share information about his home life with his teacher who in turn holds many misconceptions about his home context. How can teacher and family communicate better?

Friction at Madison Family Literacy Program

Noreen, an early childhood teacher, arranges free speech therapy for young Junie. She volunteers to take Junie to the therapist, but when Junie's mother fails to pick up her daughter Noreen lashes out with an angry phone message, threatening to call the Department of Social Services. How can the two make the situation better and what could have prevented it?

What Words Don't Say

Martin, an African-American student struggles with peer problems at his elementary school. He experiences racism and classism. How can Martin's mother and his teacher dialogue about sensitive issues?

Resolving Issues at Johnson Elementary School

The director of a Parent Resource Center is concerned to hear that a number of parents are boycotting the program because they think the parent coordinator used her school connections to place her son in a gifted science class. How can the director and principal ease the tension?

Suspension at Aurora Middle School

Khoi, a well behaved student who recently emigrated from a Vietnamese refugee camp, is suspended from Aurora Middle School because he stood near a fight. His mother Mai feels helpless because she speaks limited English, and only knows that her son was unjustly suspended. What is the school's role in supporting culturally diverse families?

Tim Kelly: A School Responds to a Family in Need

Tim Kelly, a first grade student, comes to school hungry, dirty, emotionally needy, and academically unprepared. His teacher believes his lack of care at home is contributing to his poor school performance. How can a teacher individualize parent involvement?

Erik Greer

Erik's first grade teacher is concerned about his intentional aggression towards other children and communicates regularly with Erik's mother about it. Subtle differences in beliefs between Erik's mother and teacher leave both feeling unsatisfied in their attempts to help Erik. How can the two build a partnership to change Erik's behavior?

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Published by Harvard Family Research Project