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      The CEI welcomes in districts and LEAs through a cohort model. Each Cohort makes a two year commitment learn and grow within the initiative, and many stay longer to share their expertise and facilitate the learning of newer cohorts.

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      The CEI is proud to offer a selection of CEI-created and curated resources and learning modules on a variety of topics designed to help educators strengthen their community engagement practices.

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Frameworks & Self-Assessment

Guiding Frameworks for California’s Community Engagement Approach

Two foundational frameworks inform California’s approach to community engagement: Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships and Participatory Systems Change for Equity. The CEI and it’s partners have taken these frameworks and combined them into a new framework specific to the goals and priorities of California that we call the Community Partnerships for Systems Change Framework. You can find out more about this framework in it’s dedicated learning module. 

Community Partnerships for Systems Change (CPSC)

Access the CPSC Learning Module using the button below.

In 2023, the Community Engagement Initiative commissioned the development of a Community Engagement Best Practices Self Assessment Tool to build the capacity of school districts to facilitate meaningful engagement that outlines a series of competencies that fall under the seven domains described in the table linked here.

CEI Self Assessment Tool Summary

While authentic community engagement is an ongoing and, oftentimes, a nonlinear process, it is important for schools and districts to assess their progress in each domain. The Self Assessment tool is especially useful for school and district leaders to use to support participatory practices with students, families and community members in Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF) and Local Control Accountability Planning (LCAP).  When best utilized, this tool should enhance collaboration, support alignment on areas of growth schools and districts may need to focus on, and offer a common reference point that students, families, schools, and district leaders can look to when discussing ways to advance community engagement in their communitiesClick through the tabs below to explore the domains and competencies.

Creating a foundation built on mutual trust is an essential condition for building meaningful community  engagement

  • Competencies: 
    • Inclusive and welcoming district culture
    • Create a culture of service
    • Frequent, proactive, student, family, and community centered communication
    • Crucial conversations
    • With a base of belonging, students, families, and community are supported to take action

Researchers have found that when a team of individuals “share the belief that their unified efforts can overcome challenges and produce intended results, groups are more effective.” (Donohoo, Hattie, Eells 2018)

  • Competencies:
    • Staff mindsets
    • Student, family and community mindsets
    • Student, family and community connections
    • Respect for student, family and community leadership
    • Leadership development of student, family and community

Building on domains one and two, domain three centers the importance of growing the capacity of educators, while simultaneously enhancing families and community members’ power and decision-making, leading to meaningful engagement and positive outcomes for students.

  • Competencies:
    • Co-developing vision
    • Proactively sharing information about districtwide decision-making structures and opportunities 
    • Shared decision-making 
    • Participatory budgeting

Examining the role systems, structures, and resource allocation play in a district’s ability to effectively engage students, families, and community.

  • Competencies:
    • Community-facing staff are deeply embedded in schools, depending on district size and access to resources. 
    • District allocates meaningful resources to staffing community engagement activities
    • Language access
    • Equitable distribution of resources for student, family, and community engagement activities

Students achieve better outcomes in school when their parents and/or guardians are meaningfully and respectfully engaged in their education.

  • Competencies:
    • Reframes the role of families as co-educators and partners in their children’s education
    • Supports learning at home and invest in professional development and coaching
    • Family and community access to instructional data
    • Align family engagement activities with learning goals

Youth engagement improves the validity of efforts focused on young people since young people are actively included in the process and offers youth opportunities to be included in change efforts in their communities. 

  • Competencies:
    • Intentional and inclusive spaces exist for youth engagement
    • Align youth engagement activities with school and district learning goals 
    • Multiple avenues exist for youth engagement 
    • Utilize youth participatory engagement strategies as a north star

When the community is at the table alongside district leaders co-producing a vision for students, they help build investment for systemic change and expand access to resources for students. 

  • Competencies:
    • Integrate resources and services from the community into schools
    • Convenes and aligns ecosystem of community partners
    • Schools are seen as neighborhood hubs (i.e. deliver a range of services beyond education in order to prepare their students to learn and to assist families) and there is a high degree of trust between the community and the district
    • The district regularly collects, makes use of, and shares data on the impact of community partnerships 
    • Strong multi-directional channels of community engagement

Understanding and uplifting families as experts starts with shifting our mindsets to truly center our work on the strengths and assets of families. When we center families in the work of educating students, we not only validate and affirm their contributions, but also leverage their many strengths to build trusting relationships to transform the education of all students.


Practitioners are at the heart of family engagement practices. In fact, the family-facing programs and practices schools implement are the largest predictors of family engagement in schools. While the evidence is clear that family engagement boosts student achievement and has overall positive effects across the school community, it’s not always clear what family engagement looks like when done effectively. Moreover, there are individual practices that educators and family-facing professionals must embrace and practices that entire schools must implement to truly engage, collaborate, and lead with families as co-educators. 

Take a moment here to reflect on the progress made toward building spaces where families are true partners in the education of their children under four of the domains identified in the CEI Community Engagement Self-Assessment Tool. 

  • Are you and your team entering relationships with a sense of purpose and deep conviction that stronger relationships benefit the entire school community?
  • How do you and your team(s) demonstrate trust with families?
  • How much time are you and your team(s) dedicating to get to know the families in your school/district community? How much time are you spending helping families connect with one another to build social networks? What does that look like and how might you reach more families, especially those who are not currently engaged?
  • How might you and your team(s) create a welcoming school culture by inviting families to be engaged in their student’s education in affirming ways that uphold the diverse cultures and languages of families?
  • Have you and your team(s) mapped community assets to identify community partners that can also support families?
  • What historical context is important to know about the communities you serve? How has this historical context impacted the children and families you serve?
  • Have you and your team(s) made a commitment to become lifelong learners alongside families, not as the experts? 
  • How do you and your team(s) demonstrate appreciation and the value that caregivers and families of diverse backgrounds bring to their children’s learning?
  • What efforts are you and your team(s) making to inquire and seek to learn about the families you serve? 
  • Who are the hardest to reach families and communities you and your team(s) are serving? What strategies are you using to actively reach out to them to better understand their perspectives to better support them
  • Have you and your team(s) mapped community assets to identify community partners that can also support families?
  • How do you and your team(s) engage families in authentic dialogue and create opportunities for families to shape their student’s learning and educational experiences?
  • Do you offer families opportunities to co-create and co-design goals, curriculum, and/or program planning in your school or district, especially those who are most underserved? Are those opportunities accessible to all families (i.e. language, times offered, meeting locations, child care, etc.)?
  • Have you and your team(s) created systems to share data with families with honesty and trust through multiple methods that are accessible to families? Similarly, have you and your team(s) created systems for families to share ongoing reflections and data on their children?
  • How do you and your team(s) link families to additional learning supports in the community that are aligned to children’s individual goals and interests?
  • Do you and your team seek opportunities to continuously develop as a professional and learn alongside families by attending trainings and sharing ideas with campus leadership teams?
  • How are you and your team(s) using data to evaluate, assess, review, and measure family engagement practices to make improvements? What data are you missing? How might you go about collecting missing data?
  • What efforts are you and your team(s) making to advise families on their rights in the school and community as they relate to language access, school reform initiatives, and budgeting (i.e. engagement in School Site Committees and on the Local Control and Accountability Plan)?
  • How can you and your team(s) create a path for families to join decision-making bodies at both the campus and district level and build policies and systems that ensure family representatives have full authority to be heard and honored?
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