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Domain 1 |


Family engagement is a living and breathing part of the culture, systems, and structures of the school.


REAL Family Engagement must be explicitly connected to other buckets of work and directly tied to school, leader, and educator goals. It cannot and should not be a single person’s job. When family engagement becomes a routine and predictable part of staff and grade-level meetings, data reflections, staff professional development, and the guiding documents of the school, REAL Family Engagement is more attainable and sustainable. As it becomes a part of the culture of the school, staff, families, and students recognize it as a priority. Time is limited, so fully embedding family engagement into existing systems and structures is core to its success and sustainability. Family engagement cannot live in a silo, and it will not be prioritized if systems do not support prioritization.

Domain 1


  • Explicitly identify a teacher-family partnership approach by including family engagement strategies in school-wide goal setting (i.e., families will be equipped by their teacher with bi-weekly updates on their child’s reading level and with strategies to support reading at home so that all students are reading on grade level by the end of grade 3).
  • Set explicit and differentiated family engagement goals for all staff (consider different goals for teachers, front office staff, security staff, etc.).
  • Connect family engagement goals and strategies to academic and socio-emotional outcomes for students in foundational school documents such as comprehensive school plans.
  • Onboard new staff to your school-wide family engagement approach.
  • Include prompts that discern the mindset, skill, and will of all candidates to effectively engage families in job descriptions and hiring questions.
  • Name families as a critical partner in student success in documents such as the student handbook, website, and other external-facing communication.
  • Describe your approach to meaningful partnership and communication with families in guiding documents such as annual plans, school performance plans, hiring, master calendar, parent/staff updates, handbooks, etc.
  • Ensure that the family-facing school calendar reflects all key family engagement dates (relationship-building opportunities, academic partnering, school events, etc.), including the dates of opportunities for families to provide input and inform school decision making.
  • Update calendar regularly.
  • Bring new family engagement research, resources, and strategies to staff.
  • Allocate time in staff meetings to reflect on bias and beliefs, plan, or build skills around family engagement.
  • Build reflection time and protocols into your school’s regular routines, such as the school calendar, grade-level team meetings, and staff meetings.
  • Include family engagement teacher dialogue and reflection in routine structures, such as team meetings, board meetings, staff meetings, data reflections, informal conversations, and professional development.
  • Conduct staff surveys asking whether staff agree that family engagement is a school priority.
  • Ensure that staff know how to access data that supports reflection about the equity, quality, and impact of family engagement to develop action steps.
  • Data collected from families through surveys and focus groups are used to inform school-wide decisions.
  • Include the history, vision for, and expectations around family engagement in the school building in onboarding and off-boarding protocols for school leaders.
  • Delegate leadership of family engagement to multiple staff/roles across the school building, such as assistant principals, instructional coaches, deans, social workers, teachers, office staff, etc.
  • Build family engagement into future planning documents such as the budget, the calendar, and the professional development scope and sequence.

Additional Content

Related Resources

REAL Leadership: How Leaders Can Support Educators to Engage Families During Distance Learning

Learn more about how administrators can support teachers to engage families during distance learning.

Academic Partnering Companion Guide for School Leaders

This guide provides school leaders with a checklist for supporting an effective academic partnership between families and teachers.


The school community recognizes the assets and strengths of all students and families and interrupts bias and deficit beliefs.

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School improvements and innovations are informed by a diverse sampling of family input, especially from those who have been historically excluded from decision making.

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All families experience a meaningful partnership based on trust and consistent communication, regardless of their child’s grade or classroom. 

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The School Leader Tool

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