Full, Equal and Equitable Partnerships with Families

Building Capacity to Do the Work: Stakeholders' Roles and Actions

Creating full, equal and equitable partnerships is a shared responsibility that requires systemic change in policy, resources, and practice. Families, educators and community partners need and want opportunities to develop their capacity to work together - to build trusting relationships, strengthen their confidence, expand personal networks, and deepen their understanding and core beliefs about family engagement.

At the Symposium, participants worked in role-alike groups (parents, teachers, administrators, community members, and policy-makers to identify the capacities each would need to carry out their roles and responsibility to further full, equal and equitable partnerships with families.

Families told us they want to learn how to advance their children’s success and become leaders for greater access and opportunity. They strongly recommended offering access – and empowering parents to take advantage of that access – to learning opportunities such as:

  • Collaborating with policy-makers, educators and community groups, to design more equitable, effective educational programs.
  • Navigating our complex education system, from early childhood programs through college and career education.
  • Advocating for more effective learning opportunities and resolving problems that may arise for their children.
  • Supporting their children’s developmental and academic progress, and co-developing with teachers a plan to make the most of their school experience.
  • Serving as leaders on governance councils, task forces and committees.

"A partnership is like a dance. Dance partners train together. School staff and parents will greatly benefit if they develop mutual expectations and practice together their cultural understanding and relationship building." Symposium Participants, December 2017

Educators and other adults who support children’s learning and development want time, resources, and administrative support, such as more flexible schedules, professional development, and structured opportunities to work with families to:

  • Co-create welcoming and inviting settings where all families are included.
  • Connect family activities to school expectations and what students are learning in class, in ways that promote two-way and continuous communication.
  • Recognize, honor, and learn from families’ diverse cultural viewpoints, knowledge and experience, and integrate this knowledge into student learning.
  • Partner with families to advocate for children and remove barriers to their access to high-quality programs.
  • Collaborate with community organizations and volunteers to support children and families.
  • Align learning with community activities such as festivals and cultural celebrations.

(For more specific examples ranked from lower to higher impact, see Charts 1-4.)

"If all families are valued, then they would most certainly stand beside, behind, and with, the school/early learning center when they choose to make necessary improvements for all children." Connecticut Parent, August 2017

Policy-makers, public officials and philanthropists need to take the lead to:

  • Create structures that include families as partners in decision-making.
  • Engage families in developing improved policies and practices that will promote and sustain deep connections with families.
  • Build partnership approaches into program development, evaluation, and monitoring, as well as staff recruitment and grant making.
  • Recognize and honor parents and educators who create effective partnerships at all levels. Document and disseminate their work.
  • Sustain these efforts with systemic resources -- financial support, staffing, professional development, community-driven accountability systems, and organizational structure.
  • Portray these efforts as an investment in strengthening our education and human services systems to become more effective and equitable for all children.