Introduction

About This Initiative

Research affirms that student outcomes improve when schools engage families as valued partners. Despite the strong evidence base and motivation from families and communities to collaborate with school districts, many districts still struggle to implement evidence-based practices.

FHI 360’s Connected & Engaged: Family and Community Collaboration with School Districts investigates common barriers that get in the way of achieving authentic partnerships and offers research-based strategies to address those challenges. This guide aims to support school districts, community-based organizations and caregivers as they consider their own challenges and work to successfully nurture and promote a connected and engaged school community.

Several research frameworks describe the conditions that are necessary to establish and support collaboration and cast a vision for what true family and community collaboration (FCC) can look like. Connected & Engaged lifts up specific district-level practices and state-level policies that support engagement and collaboration, especially for our most marginalized families. Our goal is not to create a new framework or model, but rather to share concrete approaches for addressing problems that get in the way of achieving the end goal of those models.

How does this guide integrate research?

After conducting a comprehensive scan of existing research and resources on FCC, we organized key findings into a few easy-to-understand categories. These initial findings informed our primary research activities (interviews and focus groups with practitioners and key stakeholders, plus visits to school districts) in which we gathered real-world stories and perspectives on the strategies and approaches districts took to achieve specific goals. We also relied on support from an advisory board of subject matter experts, researchers and educational administrators to share their experiences, provide feedback and fill in gaps.

This guide presents our study findings in a digestible format designed to help practitioners use this research to achieve their own goals around improving trust, communication, mindsets and capacity with the people in their community. It is actionable in that it provides practitioners with aligned strategies and resources for customizing and adapting best practices and lessons learned in their own communities. The guide also contains a set of practice and policy briefs, profiles of four districts demonstrating exemplary strategies, videos highlighting solutions in action and a library of essential resources identified through our resource scan.

This project has been supported by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

For more information, contact Principal Investigator Dr. Felix Fernandez at ffernandez@fhi360.org.