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S3E5 Increasing Family Engagement in Schools


Increasing engagement with the families of our students is a goal with real benefits. Sarah Sayko from the National Center for Improving Literacy (NCIL) discusses the new family involvement policies that are part of ESSA. Dr. Hollins-Sims and Dr. Zesiger provide a range of practical options that have been successful in schools in Pennsylvania.

Expert Guests

Sarah Sayko, M.Ed., is a Deputy Director at the National Center on Improving Literacy (NCIL). She is a Senior Research Associate at RMC Research Corporation in Arlington, VA. Sarah is the West Virginia State Coordinator for the Appalachia Regional Comprehensive Center. Ms. Sayko is experienced in designing professional learning experiences and resources for school leaders and practitioners in evidence-based literacy practices and on how to implement these practices in schools. She was an elementary reading coach and literacy specialist in two Massachusetts school districts and is a certified K-12 reading specialist. Sarah also leads the Parent and Family Strand at NCIL.

Website: National Center on Improving Literacy

Nikole Y. Hollins-Sims, Ed.D., is an educational consultant for the Pennsylvania Training and Technical Assistance Network (PaTTAN)-Harrisburg Office. She currently serves as the co-statewide lead for the Behavior initiative, as well as an active member of the Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) initiative. In addition, she is the statewide lead for equitable practices in partnership with the office of safe schools for the Pennsylvania Department of Education. Dr. Hollins-Sims is also involved in the State Systemic Improvement Plan (SSIP) with a focus on increasing the graduation rates of students with disabilities. Finally, Dr. Hollins-Sims is a Pennsylvania certified school psychologist with a specific interest in social justice.  She has also conducted research around caregivers of children of incarcerated parents and their motivation to engage in family-school partnerships.

John W. Zesiger, D.Ed., is the Superintendent and Director of Curriculum for the Moshannon Valley School District.  Dr. Zesiger earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication from Purdue University; teacher certification from Susquehanna University; Master of Education from Lock Haven University; Principal Certification, Superintendent Letter of Eligibility, and Doctorate in Education from Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Follow on Twitter @JohnZesiger.


Joyce Epstein’s National Network of Partnership Schools
Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships by Anne T. Henderson (Book)
PaTTAN’s Family Engagement Page
Mid-Atlantic Equity Consortium


Hoover-Dempsey, K.V., & Sandler, H.M. (2005). Final performance report for OERI Grant # R305T010673: The social context of parental involvement: A path to enhanced achievement. Presented to Project Monitor, Institute of Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education, March 22, 2005.

Miller, D.D. & Kraft, N.P. (2008). Best practices in communicating and involving parents. In A. Thomas & T. Grimes (Eds.), Best Practices in School Psychology: Vol. 3. (5th ed., pp. 937-952). Bethesda, MD.: NASP Publications.

Epstein, J.L. (2009). School, family, and community partnerships: Your handbook for action (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.

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