Federal Policy

shutterstock_284519585The Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA) was the centerpiece of President Lyndon Johnson’s War on Poverty. Its declared purpose of eliminating the damaging effects of poverty on children revolutionized the federal role in education. Drawing on the principle of “maximum feasible participation,” ESEA and other anti-poverty programs required unprecedented collaboration with local residents.

From the early days of Title I (the largest ESEA program), federal regulations required local school districts to build families’ capability and engagement to work with schools in ways that support their children’s learning and development. For the first time, low-income families had a voice in federal programs that affect their children.

Similar requirements for family and community engagement appear in many landmark federal education programs:

Important Resources

Each of the categorical programs listed above has specific requirements for family and community engagement. As a result, Federal policy tends to be fragmented rather than consistent across all programs. NAFSCE intends to work with the U.S. Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to create an integrated, systemic, and sustained federal policy based on the Dual Capacity-Building Framework.

Early Childhood:

Kindergarten through 12th Grade:

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State Policy

States play a vital role in family engagement. Our federal system gives State Education Agencies (SEAs) major responsibility for ensuring compliance with federal requirements. In addition, State policy can:

  •  Articulate a vision for family engagement as a shared responsibility;
  •  Align school improvement efforts with family engagement requirements in Title I of ESEA and other federal programs;
  •  Direct resources toward high-impact family engagement practices;
  •  Require family engagement as a competency in educator preparation programs;
  •  Ensure parents can have time off from work to volunteer in the program or school and attend parent-teacher conferences without fear of losing their job.

State Leaders Network: The Family Engagement State Leaders Network, convened monthly by AIR/SEDL, formed in 2012 to connect leaders across state education agencies (SEAs). The Network builds SEA capacity to implement, scale-up, and sustain initiatives in family and community engagement that support student success. Membership includes SEA staff or SEA appointed consultants with responsibility for family engagement.  Participation in this group is free and voluntary, and family engagement leaders from all SEAs are welcome to participate. To join, please email Lacy Wood at lacy.wood@sedl.org

State policy on family engagement:  About thirty states belong to the State Leaders Network. Many have developed innovative policies and approaches. Here are some examples:


ARIZONA: The Arizona Department of Education Family Engagement Initiative is a cross-division effort to build and strengthen partnerships between families, and schools  to enhance student achievement. Tools and other resources are available here.
CALIFORNIA: The California Department of Education lists links to its state Family Engagement Framework and other tools for schools and districts, including a guide to Title I School-Parent Compacts here.  Also, you can find the direct link to The Family Engagement Framework: A Tool for California School Districts (2011) here.

CONNECTICUT: The Connecticut State Department of Education has pioneered a new approach to creating Title I School-Parent Compacts that is being adopted by other states such as California and Georgia. You can learn about a ten-step approach, with video information and tools for each step here; a special website posted by the CT SDE.

ILLINOIS:  The Illinois Board of Education has developed a comprehensive framework for family engagement, described in this Family Engagement Guide. The Guide combines research and best practices with legislative requirements, and provides resources that integrate family engagement into the school improvement process. School districts and schools can use it to develop and expand school-family partnerships to support student learning and healthy development.  The guide can be found here.

COLORADO: In 2009, Colorado passed legislation adopting the PTA National Standards as the framework schools should use for family engagement.

  •  An extensive list of training and information materials on promising practices in family engagement can be found here.
  • A brochure developed by the Colorado Department of Education and the State Advisory Council on Parent Involvement in Education to raise awareness about family-school partnerships can be found here

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Tell us about what is happening in your state. It is our goal for NAFSCE.org to be the first stop for SEA’s seeking resources on improving their policies to support high-impact family engagement.

Many states have adopted all or portions of the  National Standards for Family- School Partnerships. These standards and the associated assessment we created at the request of the National PTA, by Anne Henderson, and Karen Mapp. Click here to see an overview of these standards.

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District Policy

shutterstock_127206212School districts have the lead responsibility for engaging families and coordinating community resources. Their success is dependent on establishing high standards for how they conduct outreach and support to maximize family engagement. Districts must develop system-wide policies and practices that welcome families, bridge class and cultural differences, listen to parents’ ideas and concerns, and promote fair and open ways to collaborate on improving student achievement.

Local school districts that do this well take action in three key areas. They:

  •  Create a culture of partnership throughout the district by setting consistently high standards for family-friendly schools and expecting district and school staff to meet those standards.
  •  Connect family-school partnerships directly to the district’s school improvement initiative in order to meet student achievement goals.
  •  Organize district resources, including professional development, to build a structure of support so that all schools can develop strong family-school-community partnerships.

District Leaders Network

The Institute for Educational Leadership (IEL), which is represented on the NAFSCE governing board, convenes a family engagement peer network of school district leaders in family and community engagement. Leaders from about 120 districts across the nation share up-to-date resources, professional development, and promising practices. Each year, the Network hosts a National Meeting and Learning Lab to discuss the federal landscape and introduce new research and innovative applications.

Tell us about what is happening in your district. It is our goal for NAFSCE.org to be the first stop for districts seeking resources on improving their policies to support high-impact family engagement.  Please fill out the form below to send information and submit documents.

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FSCE Clearinghouse

The NAFSCE clearinghouse provides you easy access to notable research and reports on family, school, and community engagement. You can also find information on promising practices.

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