Understanding How Systemic and Structural Policies and Practices Prevent Authentic Family and Community Collaboration
As part of our research for Connected & Engaged: Family and Community Partnerships with School Districts, we set out to identify effective strategies school districts are using to establish authentic family and community collaboration (FCC), and uncover the challenges that often get in the way. In our guide for practitioners, we present actionable strategies for overcoming some key barriers to achieving evidence-based FCC strategies. During our research, we also uncovered obstacles that were outside of any individual school or district’s control. These would require a policy or legislative change to achieve sustained outcomes.
Structural challenges throughout United States education systems create barriers to FCC and require changes in how education systems are governed, funded, and legislated. Throughout our interviews and visits to school districts, we discussed systemic limitations at district, state, and national levels that impede FCC efforts. For example, practitioners referenced how inequitable and inadequate funding and teacher workforce shortages make it hard to find the time and resources for FCC. We heard from district staff who strive to foster FCC, but struggle to put the available research into practice. Family advocates told us about the disconnects between families and the governing bodies who set education policy and laws. We also heard from families and students whose experiences with schools suffered because there were so few teachers of color who could connect with shared experiences.
These structural challenges are out of the control of many of the educators who implement parent engagement initiatives, but education policy can greatly impact school communities. Polices influence which community members feel valued. Policies can also create poor school climates, discourage potential educators from entering the field, make it harder to implement evidence-based practices, and perpetuate unequal representation. Thus, understanding the policies that impact partnerships between families and schools, and identifying practices to address challenges presented by these policies, is important to removing existing barriers to successful FCC.
To help policymakers and education leaders become better prepared to address these policy challenges, we produced a set of policy briefs that provide evidence and actionable recommendations around four key issues that influence FCC:
- Equitably Funding Education – Without adequate baseline funding, teaching and learning cannot occur — much less FCC. State and federal governments must address resource inequities that limit districts’ capacity for FCC. Until this reform is achieved, school district leaders should continue to build partnerships with community organizations and philanthropic organizations to fund essential components of FCC.
- Strengthening the Educator Workforce – Creating an effective and sustainable education workforce requires investing in future and current teachers’ physical, mental, and financial wellbeing. When properly supported, these professionals can fully collaborate with families and community organizations to meet the needs of all students.
- Putting Research into Practice – Improving the implementation of FCC practices requires all groups—families, teachers, district administrators—to have access to evidence-based training and financial resources. These groups can work together to reduce the disconnect between research and practice and move the field closer to supporting family and school district partnerships and student outcomes.
- Improving School Governance – Just as district administrators and educators must build partnerships and relationships with families, so too should all governing bodies. By increasing representation and decision-making opportunities for all families, the full community can collaborate to improve student and societal outcomes.
The four policy briefs in this series organize our research findings to help you understand how education policy can impact partnerships between families and schools and identify practices to address related challenges. These briefs can be read as a series, in any order, or read separately, depending on your needs and interest.
Browse resources on this topic in the resource library.