Evaluation of the Home-School Partnership: Literacy Programme

Publication Details

This report provides an evaluation of the home-school partnership: literacy programme carried out in 2006–7 by the New Zealand Council for Educational Research (NZCER) for the Ministry of Education (MOE).

Author(s): Dr Keren Brooking and Josie Roberts, New Zealand Council for Educational Research. Report prepared for the Ministry of Eductaion.

Date Published: October 2007

Executive Summary 

This report presents the findings from an evaluation carried out in 2006–7 on the Home-school Partnerships: Literacy programme (HSP:L). This programme was designed to meet one of the Ministry of Education's priorities to strengthen children's learning and achievement by involving parents in their learning. It began as a Pasifika initiative by engaging parents in their children's literacy learning by offering sessions in their first language, but has since been broadened in concept to involve all parents in a school's community.

The focus of the evaluation was concerned with four key aspects of the HSP:L programme:

  • How schools went about implementing the programme;
  • The nature of the partnerships between parents/whänau and schools that have evolved as a result of the HSP:L programme;
  • The literacy impacts of the programme on students, parent's understandings, and teacher's literacy programmes; and
  • Issues concerning sustainability of home-school partnerships in schools that have completed the programme.

The process of evaluation included interviewing focus groups of teachers, parents and students at six case study schools, as well as lead parents, lead teachers and principals to obtain qualitative, in-depth information. As well, quantitative data was obtained from a national survey which was sent to all the schools that had been involved in the HSP:L programme since 2001. This combined approach has enabled an evaluation of the big picture of the HSP:L field, as well as a closer examination of the issues that have emerged.

Key findings emerged from each of the aspects of the evaluation.  

1. Implementation

The programme as it was originally designed, was very successful in schools that targeted their Pacific parents.

When schools invited all their parents, those that considered and catered for their unique community needs and contexts in the implementation of the programme, were more satisfied with the results, than those who followed the set session format in the resource folder.

Strongly committed lead teams were essential to the success of the programme.

Whole-school and whole-family approaches was more likely to produce transforming effects, both in participation rates and literacy impacts.

Time was the most important resource needed for the success of this programme. Parents' time and teachers' time were both important and needed to be carefully aligned.

'Hooking' parents into the programme required some creative strategies, but involving students in those strategies seemed to have the most effect.

Grouping parents into ethnic or language groups was counter-productive in some schools when all parents were invited. Parents were more likely to feel comfortable if they were given choices about joining groups, and often their children's year group seemed to be the most effective.

2. Partnership 

The HSP:L programme has high potential to form effective bicultural and multicultural partnerships with schools, because of the focus on first languages and the essential lead parent role embedded in the design.

The majority of schools (85 percent) were positive about the partnerships with parents/whānau they have established through the programme.

Triangulation of the data, revealed this 'partnership' to be mainly a one-way process of parents learning from the lead teacher about literacy practices. Teachers do not appear to be learning a great deal from parents about children's home literacy practices.

An approach which involves sharing of information, genuine learning from each other, and 'joint endeavour' as advocated by Timperley and Robinson (2002) would seem to be necessary to bring about the shift in thinking required by teachers to bring about the kind of partnership likely to impact positively on student achievement.

3. Literacy impacts

The successes of the HSP:L programme on literacy were:

  • Eighty percent of schools reported parental involvement had a positive impact on children's opportunity to learn; and
  • Approximately three quarters of the surveyed schools reported that it had a minor positive impact on student's engagement, attitudes, confidence and literacy achievement.

In spite of the promising findings, there are still some challenges within the programme to bring about greater literacy impacts. These were identified as:

  • Increasing the confidence of parents to engage with session leaders about their home literacy practices;
  • Shifting teachers' thinking so that they realise the importance of learning from parents about children's home literacy experiences and practices; and
  • Increasing teachers' abilities to incorporate students' out-of-school literacy experiences into classroom programmes and practices.

4. Sustainability 

Three quarters of the schools reported sustaining some aspect of the HSP programme in subsequent initiatives.

The main barriers reported by the remaining 25 percent of schools appeared to be school constraints such as time and funding, rather than parental enthusiasm.

School Support Services advisors were a key factor in scaffolding lead teams to work with parents, and advisors with ESOL/Literacy backgrounds were able to provide essential expertise in this respect.

Three factors emerged which appear to be critical to continued sustainability of home-school partnerships:

  • Modifications to the resource folder;
  • Time and funding resources to run the programme; and
  • Linking the HSP framework to all other professional development initiatives.

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