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Usable Knowledge

A Family Engagement Framework for All

How to prioritize effective relationships to drive learning, at every level

Family engagement can and should be a priority at every level of a community’s education system — from the classroom to the superintendent's office. “You [as an individual practitioner] can do something, and that’s good, but what’s better and best is having your entire school decide they’re going to have a culture and a real intentionality around family engagement. What’s even better is, now your district or state begins to support it as well. I always caution my students, don’t think you can’t do anything — you can start along the path,” says Karen Mapp, a researcher and family engagement specialist at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.

>> Watch the full-length version of the Dual Capacity-Building Framework to learn how leaders can use family engagement plans in their schools and districts.

Here is an overview of how educators across every role can use Mapp’s newly revised family engagement model — the Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships — to guide their relationships with families.

District Leaders

  • Using the framework, leaders can structure for professional development and guide conversations around community engagement.
  • The framework can also provide a foundation for developing and refining goals on grant applications to state education agencies.


  • Family engagement can be an important planning tool for schools. How can the community outreach or family nights that are already in place be enriched?
  • Some states, like Massachusetts, have family/community engagement as part of the teacher evaluation rubric. The framework can help principals come to an understanding of what to look for when doing this part of an evaluation.
  • Teachers need leadership support and resources to respond to what they hear from families and community members. How might school leaders position themselves and make much-needed supports and resources more readily available?


  • Programs like home visits that encourage teachers to get to know the students in environments outside school are renowned for their ability to build trust, empathy, and mutual respect between families, students and schools.
  • Community walks get educators to think beyond the classroom and into the community. Teachers can explore the existing resources in a neighborhood and perhaps see a situation from another perspective.
  • Think about how you communicate with parents. How do you make phone calls and send information home? Do you let them know that you see them as partners and as experts on their child?

School Personnel

  • Everyone from teachers to bus drivers to district administrators has a role in supporting and welcoming families. Eyal Bergman, a doctoral student at Harvard who worked with Mapp on the framework’s revision, is a former family and community engagement officer in Cajon Valley Union School District in California. Recalling his former role, Bergman says, “I didn’t realize until it was too late that there were people who had a lot of authority that didn’t see this as their work. The director of HR needs to see how it helps his or her goals, the director of transportation needs to see it. They all need to see how it helps drive system wide improvement. Integrated means from HR to IT to curriculum, it’s everybody’s job.”

At every level, intentional and thoughtful practice demonstrates to families and communities that practitioners hear and respect the needs of families, communities, and their children. “We let families know through our actions, not our words, and we see them as competent,” Mapp says.

Usable Knowledge

Connecting education research to practice — with timely insights for educators, families, and communities

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