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760 Red Oak Lane
Highland Park, Illinois 60035-3899
Call Us: 1.847.831.5100 | Fax Us: 1.847.868.9580
Email Us: info@nssed.org

Partnership Professional Development and Resources
Workshops  |  Coaching and Consultation

Welcome to NSSED’s Partnership Page.

The No Child Left Behind Act (NCLBA) requires schools to help every student achieve a high level of proficiency in math, reading, and science by 2014. It also requires districts and schools to involve families in ways that will boost student achievement. Most districts and schools are struggling with how to implement effective partnerships programs and how to measure “value added” effects of family and community involvement for student achievement in specific subjects.

Over the past thirty years, the country’s most prestigious universities have developed centers on school, family and community partnerships with the express purpose of evaluating the effect these partnerships have on student outcomes. Some of the most widely published work is authored by Dr. Joyce Epstein, of Johns Hopkins University Center on School, Family and Community Partnerships. After evaluation of several models, NSSED has selected the Johns Hopkins model on School, Family and Community Partnerships on which to base our work due to its accessibility, years of research and field study and depth of support from their Center.

 School Family and Community Circle Graph

Epstein’s work and model is built on the principle that there are three areas of influence in all students’ lives: school, family and community.  Further, her research and work support that the greater the degree of convergence of these three areas of influence, the more positive the effect on student academic and social outcomes.


Specifically, Epstein identifies six types of involvement activities (listed below) that can be directly tied to student outcome areas as defined in school improvement plans.  For example, if the stated school goal is to improve 3rd – 5th grade math skills, a partnership program is constructed that may include the following types of activities:

Type 1: Parenting
Workshops for parents to explain math standards and tests, and to demonstrate and discuss how math skills are taught to students.

Type 2: Communicating
Articles for parents in school or class newsletter or posted on the school website by students and math teachers on interesting math topics and skills.

Type 3: Volunteering
Volunteer math tutors to assist students who need one-on-one tutoring and extra help with specific math skills.

Type 4: Learning at Home
Weekly interactive homework assignments for students to demonstrate mastery of a math skill for family partners, and to discuss how each skill is used in everyday situations.

Type 5: Decision Making
Participation of parents on school leadership team for review of math curriculum.

Type 6: Collaborating w/Community
"In the community” math lessons sponsored by local merchants, i.e. grocery store, video store, small shops owned by local area merchants.

Two Views/Current and Project

To better understand the application of the partnership model for NSSED programs and students, we need to examine why our current model is not effective and develop a new model that addresses the deficit.

In our current model, most families who have a child with an Individual Education Plan (IEP) do not engage with the school system as partners.   Inasmuch as the IEP is provided to the student under IDEA, an entitlement law, most of the discussions and interaction between families and school  is based on a model that everything should be done by school, as the “student is legally entitled to the services.”

School serves as the central focus for the majority of students served by NSSED as it is so very difficult for their families to create a community outside of school on their own. For 18 years, school is the primary case manager of the child’s life and families come to depend on school as the provider of all service.

 Circle graph with school in the middle

This model leads to a difficult transition for families and their child in their post-secondary educational years.

Many families refer to the years after high school as the “big black hole” or “jumping off a cliff.” When their child moves out of the school system, families are left to create a new model of support on their own, without any of the complement of school team members who took full responsibility for case management.


We propose the creation of a student-centered model where school is one source of support, that develops along with community and family supports, and ensures a level of student and family competence that prepares students for the most independent and successful functioning in adult community life.

 Circle graph with student in the middle

In moving from a school-centered to a student-centered model, the concept of partnership work between school, family and community intuitively makes sense.

The creation of school, family and community partnership on both a systemic as well as individual child basis provides the opportunity to move away from entitlement discussions to a model that fully recognizes that schools cannot, and more importantly, should not, do the work alone.  We are compelled to create partnership activities in our programs and on behalf of our individual students that will sustain beyond their school years and better ensure they will achieve and maintain the desired outcomes in their adult life.

For students with disabilities, outcomes are defined by areas that directly impact the quality of their life. We must be intentional in our work to ensure our students not only achieve those outcomes, but also that the partnerships we create continue to support them when school migrates out of the model.



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