Children Ready for School, Schools Ready for Children and Families 37
• “We want our children to be ready for college, like the district
says, but we don’t know how to get from kindergarten to college.”
(a Latino father)
• “I don’t want the teacher to love my child—I already love her. I
want the teacher to teach my daughter what she needs to learn.”
(a teen mother)
Family-School Partnerships Are a Special Effort
The barriers for developing good family-school partnerships fall into one
of two categories: structure or attitude (Christenson 1999). On the struc-
tural side, the school staff may not have had training in how to work with
parents. Also, schools may not provide an activities schedule that is con-
venient for parents (Pianta and Kraft-Sayre 2003). As a result, the oppor-
tunities to partner are few. The communication system that tells families
what is happening at school may be written and formal, using newsletters
and flyers, whereas parents might use an informal, word-of-mouth system
in person and on the phone. In one focus group, a Somali father said that
his community is so well-connected by cell phone that if his son’s school
wanted to let him know of an important event they could call his cousin
in Kenya and within minutes he would hear about it in Minnesota!
On the attitude side, the staff may not be interested in considering
the points of view and needs of families. Teachers want to have partner-
ships with families, but often on their own terms (Bowman 1999). The
economic, educational, and social distance between families and teach-
ers causes misunderstandings. For example, I once heard kindergarten
teachers lament that Latino families send their little girls dressed up in
frilly dresses and patent leather shoes on the first day of school. They
commented that these parents just don’t value education, don’t under-
stand that in kindergarten children do messy activities, which is how