Family and Community Connections

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The complexity of the issues brought about by the pandemic has made it clear that the success of schools, families, and communities is interdependent and all have a stake in children’s wellbeing. Investing in mutually beneficial school-family-community partnerships will not only support students to achieve their full potential, but also will strengthen families and stabilize communities.

  • Connecticut’s Definition and Framework for Family Engagement

    The Foundation: Connecticut’s Definition and Framework for Family Engagement

    Collaboration is most effective when it is informed by both evidence-based practices and partners’ perspectives. Connecticut’s Definition and Framework for Family Engagement is a resource for districts that is based on current research and best practices, as well as information collected from many focus groups with families, educators, and community providers from across the state. The consensus from all sources was clear:  

    Family engagement is a full, equal and equitable partnership among families, educators and community partners to promote children’s learning and development, from birth through college and career. 

    Effective partnerships view families as full partners that bring valuable knowledge to planning and decision-making. Families are empowered to work with professionals to remove systemic, structural, and organizational barriers that perpetuate inequities and injustice.

    In addition to establishing a definition for family engagement, the Framework also identifies guiding principles that underlie high-impact family engagement: 

    • Build collaborative, trusting relationships focused on learning. 
    • Listen to what families say about their children’s interests and challenges.
    • Model high-quality learning practices.  
    • Share information frequently with families about how their children are doing.  
    • Engage students in conversations about how they want teachers and families to support their learning.
    • Co-develop cultural competence among staff and families.  
    • Support parents to become effective leaders and advocates for children.  

    Taken together, Connecticut’s definition and guiding principles frame a productive approach to building partnerships with families. To implement this approach requires leadership, capacity building, and connections with the community, supported by a district infrastructure. 

    The Structure: District Systems of Support for Partnerships

    District Leadership: District leadership can support strong partnership programs by ensuring that they are coherent and aligned with educational improvement goals, sustained over time and spread across the organization. Without district leadership for family and community involvement, only some schools will strengthen and sustain their partnership programs and practices. With strong leadership, every school can welcome, inform, and engage parents in their children’s education.

    Building Capacity of School Staff and Families:  The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships identifies the key competencies for school and program staff for collaborating with families: honoring and recognizing families’ funds of knowledge; connecting family engagement to student learning; and creating welcoming, inviting cultures. Families manage multiple roles in order to support their children’s learning, including: supporter, monitor, advocate and decision maker. Without attention to training and building staff and families’ capacity, partnership efforts are not likely to be effective or long lasting.

    Working with Community Partners: Community partners have proven to be of great benefit for many school districts during the pandemic. Partnerships with community organizations have allowed schools to leverage key resources to support families basic needs, technology access, and child care. The evidence-based models suggested below for school-community partnerships demonstrate that community-based assets are most effectively deployed to school and family needs and sustained over time when there is a system-level coordinating infrastructure in place.


  • Plays for Organizing for High-Impact Family and Community Partnerships

    Plays for Organizing for High-Impact Family and Community Partnerships

    The CSDE has identified existing assets and resources to support local planning and implementation. The tables below provide examples for school systems for using the asset within a specific context. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but provided to also spur further investigation into additional assets and partners for schools to engage.

    Asset or Resource

    Highly Effective Practice

    CT Definition and Framework for Family Engagement: Full, Equal and Equitable Partnerships with Families

    As a district leader:

    I can use CT’s definition of family engagement to work with my leadership team to define family engagement for our district and develop the principles that will guide our work.

    ESSA Evidence-Based Practice Guide for Family/School/Community Partnerships

    As a district leader:

    I can use research-based practices to guide planning and strategic utilization of district resources to support high-impact family engagement. We can create equity in our partnerships with families and accelerate student success.

    National Network of Partnership Schools: A Structure for Planning, Leadership, Capacity Building and Collaboration

    Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships

    As a district leader:

    District Plan: I can use an evidence-based model to create a district-level plan and an infrastructure for supporting schools’ programs of family and community partnerships.

    District Leader: I can work with the leadership team to assign responsibility for improving the scope and equity of the district’s partnership programs, and our direct assistance to schools. I know that district assistance for schools contributes significantly to the implementation and effectiveness of family and community engagement programs. The district leader assigned will be responsible for building the capacity of school staff and families, aligning family engagement with student achievement goals, and coordinating with community partners and resources.

    Capacity Building: District leadership can use an evidence-based framework to guide training for principals, school staff and families and help schools create action teams that plan and implement partnership programs. Strong principal leadership and training for school action teams is associated with more advanced outreach strategies by staff, more diversity of engaged families and higher rates of student attendance.

    Community Collaboration: District leadership can collaborate with community assets in our district and across districts to leverage resources to support our students and families. (Also, see School-Community Partnership Practices section below.)

    From Vision to Practice: What Does High-Impact Practice Look Like?

    School Governance Councils

    As a building leader:

    I can use the guiding principles in CT’s Definition and Framework for Family Engagement to build my school action plan for partnerships. I can use the examples to retool our existing family engagement activities and create a plan for practices that will have a high impact on student learning and development.

    Our action plan for partnerships will be driven by our school improvement goals and aligned with our School Governance Council’s priorities.

  • Plays for School-Community Partnership

    Plays for School-Community Partnership

    The CSDE has identified existing assets and resources to support local planning and implementation. The tables below provide examples for school systems for using the asset within a specific context. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but provided to also spur further investigation into additional assets and partners for schools to engage.

    Asset or Resource

    Highly Effective Practice

    Leveraging Community Partnerships For Integrated Student Support


    State Assets for Identifying Community Partners and Resources:





    As a district leader:

    Infrastructure: I can use a research-based model to work with community leaders to create community-school partnerships that provide integrated family support services. I can support school staff to work closely with community organizations to make resources available to students and families. I understand that community-based assets are most effectively utilized when the district has a system to coordinate resources and deploy them to support schools and family needs.

    Strategic and Customized: School-community partnerships will reflect the uniqueness of the community. We can align resources with community needs and interests. We can survey families and staff at each school. We can map the assets in the community and build upon existing resources. We can form a strategic and flexible network of organizations that can partner with schools to strengthen families, support student success, and track progress and outcomes.

    Messaging: We can create a messaging and marking strategy to inform families of the opportunities provided and enlist their participation. We can work with credible messengers in the community to reach out to families in languages families understand.

    Training and Support: We can access training and technical assistance through multiple sources including state and national organizations, and forming peer-to-peer networks with other districts. We can work with institutions of higher education to track the effectiveness of our work and to recruit preservice students to support our community partnership activities.

    Culturally Responsive: We can use a culturally responsive approach to recruit organizations that are trusted partners in our community. We can create strategic partnerships based on our community’s needs and assets.

    Cross-sector Partnerships: Community partners may represent a range of opportunities including health and human services; arts and cultural institutions; libraries; recreation departments; youth development groups; mentoring groups; community development agencies; faith-based groups; family-based organizations for persons with disabilities (e.g., the downs syndrome association, epilepsy association); pediatricians; law enforcement; housing, commerce and many more. Anchor institutions, such as hospitals and postsecondary institutions, are another vital part of communities to engage.

    Supporting Students with Disabilities in Summer and Extended Year Services

    As a district leader:

    Planning and Collaboration: I can proactively take steps to identify areas in which community summer programming opportunities overlap with summer or extended year services for students with disabilities in my district and collaborate with those entities and agencies in order to best serve those students.

    Professional Learning and Support: I can provide professional learning opportunities for non-district staff from those entities and agencies to better understand and work with the students with disabilities from our district as well as provide opportunities for collaboration with school-based staff who are familiar with those students. I can consider providing district-based staff during the summer to support or oversee non-district staff working with my district’s students with disabilities.

    Confidentiality and Protocol: I can provide non-district staff with training associated with issues related to confidentiality and general special education practices and procedures, which may be appropriate to a summer program environment.

    Cross-Integration: I can seek out other school districts who have established successful plans and programs of this nature in order to share and learn from those districts.

    Engage Families and Community to Co-Create Solutions

    As a district leader:

    I can work with community partners to bring families, community members and educators together for conversations that identify and leverage community assets. We can use a research-based model such as The Community Cafe to co-create community solutions that spotlight neighborhood wisdom and transform it into community action. Meaningful relationships develop as parents, community partners and educators participate as equals in dialogues that value reciprocity and honor everyone’s contributions. This is a key strategy and a respectful approach to communities and groups that have historically been marginalized.

    Families Supporting Families: Training of Trainers for Technology Support



    As a district leader:

    Families are experiencing gaps in technology support, a lack of consistent communication and lack of awareness of resources and support. I can work with my district team and community partners to create a train the trainer project that leverages parent/family/community leaders to provide technology support to families. Our teachers can be the trainers. It can be open to any member of the community and offered in multiple languages.

    Parent Leadership Training Programs

    As a district leader:

    I can work with community partners to provide opportunities for parents to participate in parent leadership programs. Parent leadership programs positively influence parents’ identities as leaders, general leadership and communication skills, and skills specific to school- and community-based settings. Parent leadership programs also promote increased involvement in a variety of school-based, advocacy, and wider constituency leadership activities. I can select an evidence-based parent leadership program in CT such as the Parent Leadership Training Institute, Parents Seeking Educational Excellence People Empowering People and Next Steps (CPAC).

  • Plays for School-Family Partnership for Learning

    Plays for School-Family Partnership for Learning

    The CSDE has identified existing assets and resources to support local planning and implementation. The tables below provide examples for school systems for using the asset within a specific context. The list is not meant to be exhaustive, but provided to also spur further investigation into additional assets and partners for schools to engage.

    Asset or Resource

    Highly Effective Practice

    Family Academy

    As a district leader:

    I can work with my district team and community partners to create a Parent Academy designed to empower parents to be partners, leaders, life-long learners and advocates for student learning and school improvement. Parents and guardians can participate in programs and workshops to develop key skills to support their children at home in literacy and math. The programs will include how to access the digital programs used in the classroom to support two-way communication.

    The Parent Academy will offer a year-round range of services for parents at site(s) throughout the community and online. In addition, programs may be offered to school staff to build their capacity to effectively partner with families.

    Start of School Welcome Tours

    As a building principal:

    I can open the school to offer days for students’ families to visit the school as a way to “restart” and relearn the school layout, routines, norms, locations of classrooms and resources and to demonstrate to families that they are welcome members of our school community.

    Welcoming School Environment

    As a building principal:

    I can create a welcoming school culture, both in person and online, that invites family engagement as a core value. Research on why families get involved indicates that a welcoming environment is one of the most influential indicators of family engagement. The degree to which parents feel welcome at the school, trust staff, and have positive interactions with staff is positively associated with student outcomes (i.e., students’ grades, problem behaviors at school and repeating a grade).

    Parent Teacher Home Visits

    As a building principal:

    I can support teachers to implement research-based relational home visits (such as the Parent Teacher Home Visit model). The relationship between families and their child’s teachers is critical to student success. Teachers can use the initial visit at the beginning of the year to build trust and respect with families. The second visit will focus on student performance and how families can support their children academically. Students whose families receive a research-based relational home visit have 24-percent fewer absences than similar students whose families do not receive a visit. These same students also are 35-percent more likely to read at or above grade level compared with similar students who do not receive a home visit. These outcomes are achieved when at least 10-percent or more of the families in a school receive a relational home visit.

    Parent-Teacher Conversations About Learning

    As a teacher:

    I can hold structured grade-level or classroom conversations with families about student learning multiple times per year. Structured conversations provide parents with information about their student’s performance, demonstrate skills taught in the classroom, allow parents to practice the activities together in small groups, and help parents set academic goals for their child. When teachers provide detailed information and training, family engagement increases. Parents’ informed coaching efforts at home contribute to students’ improvement in reading and math. I can follow up with positive communications and additional conversations later in the year to check on progress and revise the goals and plan.

    Involve Families in Learning with Interactive Homework

    As a teacher:

    I can use an evidence-based model of interactive homework to regularly keep families informed and involved in their children’s learning and help more students complete their homework and improve their skills. Interactive homework creates a three-way partnership involving students, families, and teachers.