School-community liaisons

Evidence Rating  
Evidence rating: Insufficient Evidence

Strategies with this rating have limited research documenting effects. These strategies need further research, often with stronger designs, to confirm effects.

Health Factors  
Decision Makers
Date last updated

School-community liaisons, also called community resource or family and community liaisons, provide students from public schools, from low income backgrounds, or who have a high risk of dropping out and their families with information about relevant programs and services, often referring families in need to other agencies for eligible services (e.g., social services, health care services, etc.). Liaisons may also translate written materials, communicate with parents about a student’s academic progress, and help to establish partnerships between families and schools. Liaisons may be located in individual elementary, middle, and high schools, or one coordinator may serve an entire school district from a centralized office.

What could this strategy improve?

Expected Benefits

Our evidence rating is based on the likelihood of achieving these outcomes:

  • Increased academic achievement

Potential Benefits

Our evidence rating is not based on these outcomes, but these benefits may also be possible:

  • Improved student attendance

  • Increased high school completion

  • Increased school engagement

What does the research say about effectiveness?

There is insufficient evidence to determine whether school-community liaison programs improve academic achievement. Assessments of City Connects, a school-community liaison program in Boston, suggest such programs may have positive long-term effects on academic outcomes; students who participated in the program during elementary school have higher English and math scores in elementary and middle school than non-participants1, 2, and are less likely to be chronically absent or drop out during middle or high school1, 3. A study of a California-based school liaison service for foster youth, however, demonstrates no improvement in academic achievement, school stability, or engagement after receiving services4. Liaisons may also facilitate parental engagement with school and improve communications between schools and parents5, 6, 7. Additional evidence is needed to confirm effects.

Experts suggest that school-community liaisons should be culturally responsive and connected to the community8. Bilingual liaisons appear to promote connections between schools and parents from diverse cultural backgrounds and help address cultural conflicts6, 7, 9.

How could this strategy impact health disparities? This strategy is rated likely to decrease disparities.
Implementation Resources

City Connects - The Center for Optimized Student Support, Boston College. City Connects: Optimized student support.


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1 City Connects 2012 - City Connects. The impact of City Connects: Progress report 2012. Chestnut Hill, MA: Center for Optimized Student Support.

2 Walsh 2014a - Walsh ME, Madaus GF, Raczek AE, et al. A new model for student support in high poverty urban elementary schools: Effects on elementary and middle school academic outcomes. American Educational Research Journal. 2014;51(4):704-737.

3 City Connects 2014 - City Connects. The impact of City Connects: Progress report 2014. Chestnut Hill, MA: Center for Optimized Student Support.

4 Weinberg 2014 - Weinberg LA, Oshiro M, Shea N. Education liaisons work to improve educational outcomes of foster youth: A mixed methods case study. Children and Youth Services Review.2014;41:45-52.

5 Dretzke 2016 - Dretzke BJ, Rickers SR. The family liaison position in high-poverty, urban schools. Education and Urban Society. 2016;48(4):346-363.

6 Guo 2010 - Guo Y. Meetings without dialogue: A study of ESL parent-teacher interactions at secondary school parents' nights. The School Community Journal. 2010;20(1):121-140.

7 Rah 2009 - Rah Y, Choi S, Nguyen TST. Building bridges between refugee parents and schools. International Journal of Leadership in Education: Theory and Practice. 2009;12(4):347-365.

8 Howland 2006 - Howland A, Anderson JA, Smiley AD, Abbott DJ. School liaisons: Bridging the gap between home and school. The School Community Journal. 2006;16(2):47.

9 Smiley 2008 - Smiley AD, Howland AA, Anderson JA. Cultural brokering as a core practice of special education parent liaison program in a large urban school district. Journal of Urban Learning Teaching and Research. 2008;4:86-95.