Developing Capacity and Infrastructure

Developing Capacity - Image 1Nurturing and sustaining family and community collaboration (FCC) is only possible if a school district has both the capacity and the infrastructure to do so. 

Capacity for FCC includes ensuring staff are given dedicated time; receive appropriate training; and have access to appropriate tools, resources and guidelines. Building and sustaining this type of capacity requires adequate funding and management.  

For family and community partnerships to outlast individual leaders and initiatives, a district also requires a well-developed infrastructure. This means that a district has the systems and policies in place to only develop the capacity to achieve FCC, but also sustain FCC efforts over time.  

Barriers to developing capacity and infrastructure

My district doesn’t have a lot of money and I don’t think they do enough strengths-based capacity building. If they did more, I think it would make a huge difference in how much collaboration we do have with the parents. But sometimes the administration thinks that they know how best to utilize the money, and they don’t ask us. Teacher

Even when districts successfully launch a new FCC initiative, they often struggle to build the capacity, implement the structures and braid the funding needed to support high-quality, long-term partnerships that lead to improved student outcomes. Barriers to building capacity and infrastructure include: 

  • Education leaders often lack a clear vision of what district infrastructure and staff capacity looks like as it relates to partnering with families, especially those with higher needs (e.g., multilingual) and fewer resources (e.g., low incomes).   
  • District staff may not receive training and support in the area of family partnerships; thus, they lack the knowledge and skills to effectively plan and implement FCC. Professional development must be regular and ongoing, and champions and mentors are needed to support new staff in developing the essential knowledge and skills. 
  • High staff turnover makes it difficult to ensure that all personnel are trained in FCC best practices.  
  • Families are not offered information or training to understand the role they can play in their child’s education. And when trainings are offered, they are provided only in English or at times and locations that are inconvenient for families with low incomes. 
  • Structural barriers such as funding shortages and competing priorities may get in the way of success, even when district leaders and educators are knowledgeable, motivated and passionate about FCC.  

What strategies can districts use to build capacity and infrastructure?

 Knowing authentic FCC requires investing funding and staff time, districts should leverage existing resources and strengthen partnerships to fill in gaps. To increase capacity, district administrators can coordinate with school board members, PTAs and community groups to share resources, learn from one another and collectively advocate for state and federal funding. We include relevant evidence-based strategies and aligned resources to support district efforts to build the necessary capacity and infrastructure needed for FCC. For more research and resources, check out the Resource Library.  


Examples, Tools and Strategies
Helpful Resources Quick Description

Invest in resources 

Include designated funding for staff training for FCC and ensure funding is sustainable year after year. Integrating FCC into strategic planning goals can help ensure investments are ongoing and tied to long-term goals. 

Read our policy brief on K-12 funding that suggests promising practices for districts in braiding local, state, and federal funds to support FCC work.  

The profile on the Moreno Valley Unified School District demonstrates how they used creative avenues for funding FCC through federal, state, and grant opportunities.   recommendations on how to focus resources on staff development is discussed.  

Establish leadership 

Appoint district-level staff to lead family collaboration efforts. Embedding FCC tasks into funded, district-level positions can elevate FCC as a priority and increase district capacity to strengthen partnerships, offer more services, and collaborate with families.   

This Learning Heroes report highlights infrastructure as one of the three pillars of family engagement (p. 18), as building long-lasting structures and policies are critical to supporting FCC over time. Check out the “Elements and Examples of Infrastructure in Action” (p. 19) to see how districts created dedicated staff positions for FCC and protected time for teachers to have FCC as part of their daily routine. 

In the Equitable Collaboration Report, strategies to strengthen family engagement work are outlined by general recommendations first and then specific recommendations tailored to district, schools, and impact initiatives. 

Build partnerships 

Create relationships with community-based organizations (CBOs) to increase the capacity of the district to support families. For example, if districts lack resources to offer services families need, district staff can coordinate with CBOs to provide necessary wraparound services (e.g., transportation, health, nutrition). 

Check out the Moreno Valley Unified School District profile to see how staff maintain a wellness center that meets immediate needs for homeless families (e.g., food, laundry services) and offers referrals to community services.    

Take note of how district leaders in the Tuscaloosa City Schools profile utilize available school spaces to co-locate service providers (e.g., therapists, community nonprofits) and school staff to serve students and families onsite.     

See how the Youth.Gov Collaboration Profiles provide a breakdown of how organizations, states, and districts have worked with community members throughout various collaboration stages (e.g., initiating, implementing, and sustaining).  

Plan professional development 

Reserve time and resources for professional development focused on FCC to ensure staff at all levels know how to integrate best practices into their work.   

View this “Unlocking the How” Learning Heroes report that offers recommendations (pages 23-24) on how to focus resources on staff development rather than simply focusing on changing families. 

The Massachusetts Family, School, and Community Partnership Fundamentals Companion Document provides several indicators for building capacity for staff with a focus on professional development. 

Nurture family leadership development 

Create leadership opportunities for families and support their development to ensure engagement is long-lasting. 

Incorporate one or more of these standards by the National PTA that encourage building capacity and collaborating with the community and provide indicators and goals for schools to work toward, such as addressing families’ basic needs through community resources. The standards website also provides a school leader rubric to evaluate how school leaders can build capacity of families and educators and engage families in students’ learning. 

This Equity and Family Engagement Toolkit is set up as an online module in a PDF format. Please see Module 7 (pg. 30-33) to gain strategies to promote parent/caregiver leadership.

Take a holistic and integrated approach to FCC 

Take advantage of existing district infrastructure to expand FCC capacity. For example, embed FCC in existing governing bodies (e.g., task forces) and events (sports games, theater productions, grade level transition meetings/programs). 

The Family Engagement Playbook provides examples of how districts can use their existing frameworks and methods (e.g., project-based learning) to increase FCC.  

The Moreno Valley Unified School District profile explains how the district spreads FCC responsibilities across multiple staff leaders to ensure that all departments contribute to FCC efforts. Check out the profile to see how district staff strive to be present at local events and take advantage of all opportunities for FCC.

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