Speaker Spotlight: Dr. Karen L. Mapp

Nearly 375 people have gathered for the 8th annual NPEA conference! To give you a peek into this week’s event, we’re spotlighting Dr. Karen L. Mapp, one of the conference’s keynote speakers.


As an expert on family engagement in schools, Karen Mapp specializes in researching partnerships that support better educational outcomes for students at all stages.

In 2011, Mapp was approached by then-Secretary of Education Arne Duncan to develop a framework for family engagement in schools. The result was a document that, in addition to providing guidance for families, provided strategies for schools and districts to create positive relationships between families and educators.

Mapp noted that schools are often uncertain as to how they can proactively encourage family involvement, but once given strategies to do so, they often see marked changes in student happiness and performance.

In the case of one failing elementary school, teachers conducted visits to families’ homes with the goal of setting the stage for an open and consistent dialogue. The year after the home visits and other strategies were implemented, parent attendance at parent-teacher conferences increased from 12% to 55%, math test scores increased by 18%, and reading test scores increased by 9%.

Mapp has worked with a number of public and private sector groups. She has served as the co-coordinator of the Community Organizing and School Reform Research Project and as a core faculty member in the Doctorate in Educational Leadership (Ed.L.D.) Program at Harvard Graduate School of Education, where she is now a senior lecturer. She is a founding member of the District Leaders Network on Family and Community Engagement, a trustee of the Hyams Foundation, and is on the board of the Institute for Educational Leadership in Washington, D.C. She currently serves as a consultant on family engagement to the United States Department of Education in the Office of Innovation and Improvement.

Mapp is also a prolific author and a nationally recognized source of expertise on the role of family engagement in schools. She has been quoted in publications including The New York Times, Education Week, and The Huffington Post and has appeared on local and national television networks. She has authored and coauthored articles and books about the role of families and community members in the work of student achievement and school improvement, including:

  • A New Wave Of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement (2002);
  • Having Their Say: Parents Describe How and Why They are Engaged in Their Children’’s Learning” (2003)
  • Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships (2010)
  • “Debunking the Myth of the Hard to Reach Parent” (2010)
  • Title I and Parent Involvement: Lessons from the Past, Recommendations for the Future” (2011)
  • A Match on Dry Grass: Community Organizing as a Catalyst for School Reform (2011).

Dr. Mapp will deliver the keynote address at NPEA’s conference, “Connecting the Dots: Engaging Communities to Support Educational Access and Success,” on April 29.

For more information about her work, click here.

For more information about NPEA, visit http://www.educational-access.org/.