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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.


REAL Family Engagement encourages family voice as an equalizer. As stated previously, while educators are the experts on curriculum and pedagogy, families are the experts on their children. When working in partnership, schools can make more inclusive and equitable decisions in support of educational outcomes for all children. Equitable family voice thrives when schools create platforms for all families to share their honest experiences and perceptions. When school leaders and staff are intentional about listening to families, schools can respond, adapt, and evolve in response to what the community needs. Listening to families sets the condition for equal partnership between those who make decisions and those impacted by decisions, effectively maximizing shared power. Deeply listening to families works in service of every family possessing a strong sense of belonging, purpose, and value in a school community.

Domain 3


  • Be present to greet and meet with families during arrival and dismissal.
  • Collect input on families’ aspirations for the school, such as their wants and needs for afterschool programming.
  • Ensure school-wide policies (discipline, attendance, health, grading, etc.) reflect family input with specific attention to racial equity.
  • Seek family input so that afterschool programming is responsive to families’ wants and needs.
  • Equip teachers to see themselves as the primary relationship-holder and communicator with families, and they listen to and share family stories.
  • Create systems that allow teachers to share up key insights, needs, and experiences they hear from families.
  • Ensure teachers know about resources available for families so they can share these as needed.
  • Provide explicit training and practice on formal and informal listening strategies.
Video on empathetic listening.
  • Create an explicit goal to hear from a representative sample of families with no discrepancies based on race, class, home-language, gender, immigration status, sexual orientation, education, or employment status, etc.
  • Develop teachers to identify families whose voices might not be heard and act to elevate and respond to these voices.
  • Create platforms for teachers to share with school leadership what they’re hearing in informal conversations with families.
  • Inventory communication trends to identify families whose voices are least frequently heard and/or reflected in school decision making.
  • Approach family listening in a variety of methods – including surveys, focus groups, and empathy interviews – to ensure ALL families are heard.
  • Create a calendar that shows the family listening opportunities you are providing to ensure you are consistently utilizing multiple and varied platforms for families to provide input and inform school decisions.
  • Actively seek a diverse set of qualitative feedback on the experience and impact of family engagement work to identify what works well and where there is room for improvement.
  • Include time to share and reflect on family feedback and input in staff meetings.
  • As teachers share feedback, needs, and wants from families, identify trends and patterns to inform current or future decisions.
  • Share what you have heard from families and what action the school is taking in response in a PTA/PTO meetings.
  • Draft end of year memos to share with families how their input will be used to drive improvement and change for the following year. Thank families for sharing openly and honestly.
  • Be transparent about your decisions when sharing them back with families. Show families how their feedback was or was not incorporated and why. Make sure this feedback cycle is timely and responsive.

Family + Student Wellness Check-In

The Wellness Check-In is a tool that provides educators with a way to connect with families and students during difficult times and let them know that you are thinking of them, concerned about them, and available as a resource.

Strategies to Engage Unreached Families During COVID-19

Download this tool for a set of strategies to engage any families that have not been reached through previous outreach efforts.


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

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

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

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The School Leader Tool

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