Families play critical roles in their children’s development and school success. Research shows that family engagement is a key ingredient to successful education and to closing the achievement gap where it exists. School Family Resource Center (FRC) coordinators work very hard to welcome families into their schools and build a positive school climate. The centers themselves are places for families to participate in programs, get to know other parents and children, find support and information, and access–or be linked to – school, community, and government resources.

FRC Program Components

Based on Yale’s School of the 21st Century Program, Rockland 21C provides professional development and technical assistance for FRC work in the following areas: early childhood development, family and community engagement, student development, and family support.

Early Childhood Development

Early experiences matter.

The years from birth to age five are the most crucial period of learning in a child’s life. Nearly 90% of a child’s brain development happens by age five in response to the stimulation that the child receives. Early childhood research shows that children’s early learning affects their school success well beyond kindergarten, and data published by the Annie E. Casey Foundation demonstrate that as kindergarten school readiness results improve, third-grade reading and math scores rise correspondingly.[1]

Rockland 21C recognizes this one-of-a-kind window of opportunity and has done so since its inception, as the Yale School of the 21st Century model on which Rockland’s initiative is based calls on schools to run early education programs at the school, or be available through referrals or, finally, be addressed through partnership programs at places like local libraries.

Some of the early childhood development programs offered by school FRCs include transition events, bi-lingual playgroups, Parent-Child Home Program home-visiting, KinderPrep, Getting Ready for School playgroup series, and Library Story Hour, among others.

[1]The Annie E. Casey Foundation. (2010). Early Warning: Why Reading by Third Grade Matters. (2010 Kids Count Special Report). Baltimore, MD: Author.

Family & Community Engagement

Families play critical roles in their children’s development and school success. When families are engaged in their children’s education, students’ test scores and grades are strong, and their attendance, attitudes, and behavior are what they need to be. Also, students are more likely to take higher-level classes, graduate from high school, and continue on to post-secondary education.[2]

Family engagement means attending school events so your child can see your interest, of course, but it also refers to home environments because that is where a parent’s set of beliefs and attitudes about school influence the child’s beliefs and actions. Schools that welcome parents are more likely to win a family’s buy-in.

The study that formed the basis of the book Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago found that there were five ingredients that were essential to the struggling Chicago public schools that had been able to successfully transform themselves: strong leadership, professional capacity, instructional support, and a positive, child-centered school climate, plus a fifth ingredient—strong family and community ties. Students in schools with this ingredient, regardless of anything else, were four times more likely to record improvements in reading, and ten times more likely to improve in math.[3]

Rockland’s FRC coordinators build positive school climates. Coordinators meet with representatives of community groups so they hear what is important to a community and act when they can to address issues.  They participate in community projects and share resources. Events like Family Math Night or series of literacy nights done with teachers can shed light on the curriculum and strategies used in classrooms. Increasing the knowledge shared by teachers and parents raises parents’ ability to encourage and help their children.

Putting out the welcome mat proves that every family is important, and leverages increased investment from outside and inside the school as well.

Engaging families is cost-effective. In 2008, economists Andrew Houtenville and Karen Smith Conway published a study showing that schools would have to increase spending by over $1,000 per pupil to attain the same results that family engagement would yield.[4]
[2] Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of Family, School, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. (Austin, TX: Southwest Educational Development Laboratory, 2002).
[3] Anthony S. Bryk, Penny Bender Sebring, Elaine Allensworth, Stuart Luppescu, and John Q. Easton, Organizing Schools for Improvement: Lessons from Chicago. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 2010.
[4] Andrew Houtenville, and Karen Smith Conway, Parental Effort, School Resources, and Student AchievementJournal of Human Resources. XLIII (2008), 437-53.

Student Development

Family Resource Centers traditionally wrapped around the school day, as the Yale 21C model does, but FRC coordinators increasingly interact directly with students. Students are people first and students second, and as such benefit from a panoply of activities that build their strengths, spark them to seize opportunities, or provide needed support.

Coordinators may partner with school social workers to help a child, typically providing something tangible like coats or books, but also ongoing encouragement and assistance finding positive activities. Some coordinators sit on Child Study Teams, through which staff address a child’s stalled learning. Other coordinators play pivotal roles on the Mental Health Association’s Network Program teams, in which family members, educators, and family supporters work with a student to develop a plan to get him or her back on track.

21C requires every FRC coordinator to run a literacy support program for students, commonly a book club at recess or after school. Lunchtimes can also feature girls discussion groups done in conjunction with school social workers, a gardening session, or a recycling club or other service project. Sometimes what a student wants is simply to be noticed by someone who stands a bit outside the system—that someone notices them as a person. Therefore lunchtime drop-in sessions are very popular at several schools. Finally, many FRCs arrange for enrichment programs and even afterschool care. Attendance at Student Development programs has increased by a factor of 7 since 2003-04.

Family Support

When Dr. Edward Zigler, creator of the Yale 21C model, observed the interrelated systems that make up the matrix of child development—family, school, community and childcare—he wrote, “A failure in any of these systems clearly affects a child’s capacity to benefit fully from a learning environment.” [5]

If a child is not healthy, the other systems affecting development are almost moot. If a child does not have stable and consistent care from his or her family, the health effects of attachment bonds are compromised. Variance in children’s behavior and developmental outcomes is dramatically affected by family factors.[6]

So FRC coordinators undertake activities to help families thrive, irrespective of academic concerns. Often, they are helped by a community partner. Family Support programs and activities build on family strengths, empower families, and positively impact the child-development-systems’ matrix in order to maximize family functioning.

Health fairs are done in many schools; ESL classes are offered in others (by partner organizations like HACSO through their Office for New Americans program); workshops are given on parent concerns like child development or communicating with teens; and counseling is even offered at two districts through sophisticated partnerships with outside organizations.  Several districts help nonprofits and churches do weekend food programs, sending home backpacks with food items to augment families’ supplies.

Translations for staff and/or parents are very common activities, and increasingly so.

[5] Zigler, E, & E.P. Gilman. “What’s a School to Do? Meeting Educational and Family Needs.” Resources of Early Childhood, New York: Garland, 1992.
[6] Zigler, E, & E.P. Gilman. “An Agenda for the 1990s: Supporting Families.” In D. Blankenhorn, S. Bayme, and J.B. Elshtain (eds.), Rebuilding the Nest. Milwaukee: Family Service America, 1990.

Coordinators also offer information and referral services, tapping their knowledge of community services that is gleaned from guests at 21C’s regular coordinator meetings and other local sources.

The most prevalent category of information and referral is Educational Support, including checking on students with attendance issues, backing up a parent at a CSE meeting, helping address a school-bus concern, or helping children access enrichment activities. Sadly, Basic Needs is the second most prevalent type of request handled:  getting holiday assistance, finding donations of needed items, helping families to access SNAP benefits or food pantries, etc.

The number of information and referral requests handled has quadrupled compared to ten years before, rising most dramatically since the recession.

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Rockland BOCES

… A full-service community school, with the Mental Health Associations of Rockland and of Westchester offering counseling and family support … Respite program with Hope World Wide … & much more … Important player in county’s youth planning effort … Strong team approach … Home visits to every new family … Many supports for 21C …

“A strong relationship between the FRC coordinator and our schools’ families has changed the trajectory of many of our students for the better.”

 River View High School: 845-348-3504

Programs also at CBI Tech, Jesse Kaplan

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Clarkstown Family Resource Center (FRC) Partnership, Inc./ Clarkstown Central School District

…A nonprofit teamed with its district… homework help for regular and special ed students… supplemental food program powered by a private donation for 73 students… free story hours… health grants to schools…

 New City Elementary School: 845-639-5619

Programs also at Bardonia Elementary; Congers Elementary; Lakewood Elementary; Laurel Plains Elementary; Link Elementary; Little Tor Elementary; Strawtown Elementary; West Nyack Elementary; Woodglen Elementary

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East Ramapo Central School District

…Never enough hours, but meet many challenges with firm resolve … work with 500 homeless students… “I’ll only come back to school if I can talk to her [the FRC coordinator]…” Translations and more translations… NYSED-funded community school at Pomona Middle

Chestnut Ridge Middle: 845-577-6338
Early Childhood Center: 845-577-6270
Eldorado Elementary: 845-577-6477
Elmwood Elementary: 845-577-6160
Fleetwood Elementary: 845-577-6150
Grandview Elementary: 845-577-6280
Hempstead Elementary: 845-577-6270
Kakiat Elementary: 845-577-6100 ext. 6105
Lime Kiln Elementary: 845-577-6280
Margetts Elementary: 845-577-6160
Pomona Middle: 845-577-6226
Ramapo High: 845-577-6430 extension 6469
Spring Valley High: 845-577-6538
Summit Park Elementary: 845-577-6100 extension 6105

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Nanuet Family Resource Center Inc./ Nanuet Union Free School District

…Nonprofit working in conjunction with its district… longtime 21C board members… famous “Monday Night Program” with ESL, homework help and more… enrichments and 3 afters chool care programs… teacher and principal volunteers… “the Red Cross of Nanuet”…

George Miller Elementary School: 845-627-4889

Programs also at Highview Elementary and A. MacArthur Barr Middle

See link to Monday Night Program

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North Rockland Central School District

…Partnering with everyone, notably The Haverstraw Center and the YMCA… Beloved coordinator known to all… Everything done with a smile… largest home-visiting program in the county, more children ready for kindergarten…

West Haverstraw Elementary: 845-942-3135

Programs also at Stony Point Elementary and Thiells Elementary

See link to home-visiting program

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Nyack Union Free School District

…Proud location of first county FRC… lots of administrator support… first middle-school FRC… community focused…

Liberty Elementary: 845-353-7247
Upper Nyack Elementary: 845-353-7268
Valley Cottage Elementary: 845-353-7291

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Ramapo Central School District*

…Thrice-weekly preschool bilingual playgroup with great results… Sole resource for dual-language-learner families in area… enrichments… translations… “More of our children are ready for kindergarten”

RP Connor Elementary: 845-357-2858 extension 23129

*Rockland BOCES runs and supports the Family Resource Center at RP Connor Elementary

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South Orangetown Central School District

… Focus on parent programs… long-time story hours… different structure with assistant principals in charge…

William O. Schaefer Elementary School: 845-680-1314

Programs also at Cottage Lane and Tappan Zee elementary schools