Strengthening Commitment and Values

Strengthening Commitment - Image 1School district staff who demonstrate a meaningful commitment to authentic family and community collaboration (FCC) are more likely to achieve meaningful family partnerships. Leadership should make it a continuous priority to building relationships with families and community organizations — especially with districts’ most marginalized groups.  

All district staff must value FCC as a critical component of their mission as educators and buy in to district-wide goals to sustain FCC over time. According to the literature and our own research, families and districts can only effectively work together to advance student outcomes when this commitment is in place.  

Barriers to strengthening commitment and valuing collaboration

Throughout our interviews, community stakeholders shared that district leaders rarely championed FCC or integrated FCC throughout district policies and practice. Districts often lack consistent and committed leadership and thus struggle to create long-lasting, sustainable FCC efforts. Barriers to committing to and valuing FCC include:  

  • District staff do not value family and community input because they do not believe families and communities have expertise to support student outcomes.  
  • District staff do not understand the importance of culturally responsive practices or know how to integrate culturally responsive practice throughout the district.  
  • Engagement efforts are sporadic or short-term due to competing priorities or other constraints.  

What strategies can districts use to demonstrate their commitment to and value of FCC?

  • Address mindsets: Insist that all district staff value families and community groups as experts and contributors to children’s learning. 
  • Make FCC a high priority: Integrate FCC as an essential and ongoing component of district actions, rather than treating it as an “add-on” or “extra.” Allocate the necessary leadership roles, time and financial resources to manage and enact FCC initiatives.  
  • Establish FCC Standards: Create district-wide FCC standards that reflect the district context and priorities. Train staff on these standards and hold everyone accountable to uphold them. 
  • Make FCC business as usual. Create a district-wide culture that emphasizes FCC as a part of everyone’s job and regular practice. This means that district staff and educators should have FCC within their job descriptions and annual goals.  
  • Demonstrate commitment in all actions: Highlight the importance of multiple perspectives within all district-supported activities, including communication with community members, data collection, and hiring processes.  

When school district leadership adopt these practices, they send a message to families, community members and external organizations that they care about and are willing to sustain this work long-term. When the leadership focuses on establishing these types of relationships and collaborative partnerships, the whole community can more effectively support district initiatives for student success.

Supporting evidence for committing to and valuing commitment

The resources below offer a helpful starting place to districts in search of evidence-based examples and tools to support best practices. For more research and resources, check out the Resource Library. 

Helpful Resources Quick Description

Jacques C & Villegas A. Strategies for equitable family engagement. State Support Network. 2018.
Strategies for Equitable Family Engagement

Check out Chapter 1 (pg. 4) of this State Support Network report for recommendations on how to plan FCC over time. Strategies include creating a clear vision for FCC and supporting staff in changing their practices and mindsets. This report also provides examples of how districts have put these strategies into practice. 

Montemayor A. Family engagement for school reform. Intercultural Development Research Association. 2019. Family Engagement for School Reform – Literature Review

From a review of the literature, this Intercultural Development Research Association report describes how committing to FCC supports districts’ efforts to improve academic and social-emotional student outcomes, especially for students who are immigrants and from low-income families. Check out the Introduction (pg. 1) for justification for your district to move to an integrated, systemic and sustained FCC model.  

Teemant A, Borgioli Yoder G, Sherman BJ, & Santamaria Graff C. An equity framework for family, community, and school partnerships. Theory Into Practice, 2021;60(1): 28-38. https://doi.org/10.1080/00405841.2020.1827905

This journal article discusses major theories that support schools’ use of equity within family and community collaboration that focuses on inclusivity and reciprocity in partnerships. Figure 1 (pg. 33) provides the Equity Framework for Reciprocal Family, Community, and School Partnerships that can help your district focus on key values, capacities and agents of equity when creating a vision for FCC