Many district leaders have a vision of what family and community collaboration (FCC) could look like and a desire to get there but struggle to authentically partner with families and community-based organizations in ways that foster connected and engaged communities.
After reviewing the literature on family engagement and talking with district staff, parents, and community members, we have identified four key opportunities for districts to strengthen FCC. These opportunities are evident across many implementation frameworks and research models.
Four major challenges to family and community collaboration
- Fostering collaborative decision-making: Districts, families and community organizations must create a common vision and make shared decisions around topics that matter to children’s learning and wellbeing. Without collaborative decision-making, district decisions cannot equitably advance student outcomes and meet families’ needs.
- Building trust: Developing shared trust and respect is critical to creating an environment that nurtures and supports authentic FCC. Districts often struggle to find the time and space to build trust with families, students and community groups. Often this involves acknowledging historical and current inequities that negatively impact community experiences and perceptions of education systems.
- Strengthening commitment and values: FCC must be prioritized and championed by district leaders and embedded throughout district policies and practice. For this to be possible, all levels of district staff must value family and community voices and elevate diverse perspectives. This can be challenging to achieve on a district-wide scale, but it is critical to embedding FCC in all levels of district operations.
- Developing capacity and infrastructure: Districts must provide funding, staff time and resources needed to support long-lasting engagement efforts. This is not easy given districts’ many competing priorities and capacity shortages but setting FCC as a priority is important to sustainably supporting student outcomes.
To leverage these opportunities, districts must understand how to collaborate in equitable, meaningful and sustainable ways — especially with their most marginalized families. Throughout the sections of this online guide, we offer strategies for strengthening FCC based on interviews with practitioners, focus groups with families and a review of over 100 published resources.
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