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

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?

  • 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. 
  • 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. 
  • 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).  
  • 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.  
  • Nurture family leadership development: Create leadership opportunities for families and support their development to ensure engagement is long-lasting.  
  • 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).  

Knowing these strategies require 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 

Supporting evidence for building capacity and infrastructure

Helpful Resources Quick Description

Brooks MP, Rollins SK, Collins J, & Mayanja N. Taking It To the Next Level: Strengthening and Sustaining Family Engagement through Integrated, Systemic Practice. Washington, DC: Institute for Educational Leadership. 2019. https://iel.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Taking-It-To-the-Next-Level.pdf  

Read chapter 3 (pg. 28) of this report by the Institute for Educational Leadership that describes many helpful strategies on building capacity through district and regional approaches that include strategic initiatives for hiring and retaining talent and building efficient processes across any organization. 

National PTA. Overview of the updated national standards for family-school partnerships. 2022. https://www.pta.org/home/run-your-pta/family-school-partnerships  

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.   

Bergman E. Unlocking the “how”: Designing family engagement strategies that lead to school success. Learning Heroes. 2022. https://bealearninghero.org/wp-content/uploads/2022/03/Unlocking-The-How-Report.pdf   

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.