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Family Engagement Key in Expanded Learning Opportunities

The latest in a series of briefs from the Harvard Family Research Project looks at how family engagement can be capitalized on in out-of-school time and other expanded learning opportunities.

According to the brief, outside classroom opportunities can prove helpful in engaging families in more meaningful ways in their children's learning, which can have long-term positive impacts on students both inside and outside the classroom. Parents serve as a "bridge" between the multiple and increasing settings in which kids learn, it says.

"Even though school teachers and administrators realize the benefits of family engagement, obstacles often exist to engaging families in their children's learning, e.g., lack of funding, time, or other resources," brief authors write. "Participation in quality ELO programs, however, has been show to improve parents' engagement with their children's learning, which can lead to stronger communication between families and schools."

The ways in which to most effectively engage parents through ELO's, detailed in the brief, include:

1. Understanding children's learning needs.
2. Ensuring program goals and activities align with big-picture learning goals.
3. Facilitating communication with other settings where children learn to better coordinate learning supports.
4. Sharing key data and results regarding children's learning progress.

The series of briefs is a combined effort of the HRFP and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization that serves the legislative leadership in all 50 states. The brief also provides a list of policy recommendations for legislators to consider.

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