100 STORIES OF IMPACT

Improving Our Schools, One Family at a Time

Illustration of parents bringing children to school

Illustration: iStock

Strong partnerships between families and education professionals have been linked to increases in literacy and educational achievement, but how does this vital relationship get started? Throughout her career, Senior Lecturer Karen Mapp has been guiding communities, families, and schools in the work of supporting children to be curious, confident, and capable learners.


Karen Mapp’s advocacy for families — and for strong, trusting partnerships between home and school — has ushered in new best practices in districts across the country.


“The main problem in terms of developing effective family-school partnerships is that none of the stakeholders have really had any good guidance in how to do that,” Mapp has said. “There has been limited capacity there.”

While practices like parent workshops and curriculum nights are implemented in many schools, teachers need guidance in order to parlay those events into real and lasting partnerships with families.

In 2010, then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan tasked Mapp with helping the U.S. Department of Education find a better way to build and sustain these relationships. The result was the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships, published in 2013, which offered guidance on how each stakeholder — at state, district, school, and family levels — can best support children in their educational journey.

Since its initial publication, numerous schools have implemented the framework’s suggestions, with hundreds of districts across the country adding designated family engagement positions to their staffs and some states moving to include family engagement criteria on teacher evaluations. Australia has even used the framework as its foundation for its family-school partnership policy.

Mapp continues to bring the work directly to educators and school leaders through professional education offerings at Scholastic, EdX, and Professional Education at HGSE — reaching tens of thousands of educators in the U.S. and all over the world with tools, strategies, and research that support strong school-home ties. (Her EdX course currently has 43,804 enrolled students.)

Mapp recently issued an updated version of the framework that builds off of evolving research and new insights from practitioners around the importance of relational trust as a foundation for the work.

“I’m very optimistic about what I’m seeing around the country,” Mapp told the 74 Million. “I’m seeing quite a few school districts realizing that family engagement — and I’m describing that as real, respectful partnerships between families and school staff — is as an absolutely essential ingredient to not only student improvement, but also school improvement.” – Emily Boudreau

Learn More and Connect

Learn more about the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships and watch a video of Senior Lecturer Karen Mapp explaining how it came about.

Explore offerings in family engagement from Professional Education at HGSE and EdX.