Systemic Supports for Family and Community Collaboration: Improving Education Governance
A balance of power between educators, families, community members, and education policymakers is critical for respectful, authentic partnerships between school districts and families—partnerships that advance student outcomes. However, state legislatures and district administrators rarely provide families and communities opportunities to collaborate on important decisions that affect their children’s learning.
Districts can use family and community collaboration (FCC) to balance the voices and perspectives of all groups. For FCC to be a universal priority in every school district, state and local education agencies must reform governance structures to share power and influence among the people who support student learning: educators, families, and community groups.
Just as district administrators and educators must intentionally build partnerships and relationships with families, so too should all governing bodies. Through increasing representation and decision-making opportunities for all families, everyone at all levels can work together to improve student and societal outcomes
Specifically, we recommend that state legislators, local governing bodies, and school districts:
- Provide open access and accommodations for all families to participate in policymaking.
Collaborative decision-making is critical to FCC. Creating transparent governing bodies that are centered on diverse perspectives and reflect the identities and experiences of the people they represent supports FCC for the most marginalized families and communities.
- Integrate FCC throughout state and local education policies.
This work includes embedding FCC in school district strategic goals and increasing transparency in legislative processes so that families can better understand and contribute.
- Increase voter participation in state and local governing systems.
Policymakers, district leaders, parent organizations, and community groups must work together to remove barriers to voting and better inform families about education issues. Increased participation in governing systems can elevate their perspectives and needs.
- Conduct research to understand nuanced community opinions and avoid politicized jargon.
In an era of politicization in education, districts and policymakers can overcome political debates by working to understand families’ actual experiences and needs. Goals for student outcomes do not fall along political party lines, and embracing the nuance is critical to overcoming political conflict.
This policy brief was developed as part of the FHI 360 Connected & Engaged: Supporting Family and Community Partnerships with School Districts initiative. This brief is one of a series that highlights policies, strategies, and programs that can be implemented at the local, state, or federal levels to promote successful FCC in all school districts — especially those serving students from marginalized groups and communities.
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