CASEL Water Cooler

SEL Innovations: Authentic Family-School Partnerships

February 1, 2023
Briana Coleman
Research Associate for Continuous Improvement
Alexandra Skoog-Hoffman
Senior Director, Research and Learning
SEL Innovations: Authentic Family-School Partnerships

When people talk about the CASEL Framework for social and emotional learning (SEL), they often focus on the CASEL 5 competencies: self-awareness, self-management, social awareness, relationship skills, and responsible decision-making. Yet the four key settings (the framework’s blue rings) are equally important for high-quality SEL implementation. These settings include communities, families and caregivers, schools, and classrooms.

We believe SEL is most effective when it’s integrated across the environments a child moves through each day. Communities, families, schools, and classrooms are all part of the broader systems that shape students’ learning, development, and experiences. Adults can coordinate SEL efforts across these key settings to provide students with a seamless system of support in the many places they live and learn.

To dive deeper into the key settings, CASEL’s new Innovations report series explores more expansive and equitable approaches to SEL across each of the four settings. Each report emphasizes the role of transformative SEL (tSEL) in helping young people and adults critically examine root causes of inequity and develop collaborative ways to support personal, communal, and societal well-being. 

TSEL grew out of local demand for innovative SEL practices that better support every students’ strengths and aspirations, help close long-standing gaps in educational opportunities and outcomes, and deepen partnerships between families, schools, and communities. It is one form of SEL that districts and schools can choose to implement based on local needs and priorities. 

In our first report, Building Authentic School-Family Partnerships Through the Lens of Social and Emotional Learning, we highlight the role of tSEL in empowering parents and caregivers to enhance student achievement and well-being by participating in meaningful decision-making that impacts educational policy and practice.

“Authentic partnerships” with families and caregivers are built on mutual understanding, shared goals, and reciprocity of power, privilege, and influence to ensure students are growing in SEL and academic achievement. Research confirms that school-family partnerships are crucial, and we know that authentically partnering with families is essential to student success. 

The report critically examines the literature on family-school engagement, addresses the conditions for authentic partnership between schools and caregivers, and proposes four guiding actions for equitable collaboration for educational transformation. 

We also highlight the importance of family-school partnerships for historically marginalized children, students, and families. CASEL acknowledges that, traditionally, these families are not valued as collaborators in educational decision-making, and our proposed framework repositions caregivers as leaders in educational transformation.

Our four guiding actions for equitable school-family collaboration are:

  • Start with family priorities, interests, concerns, knowledge, and resources to create opportunities for building trust and genuine relationships.
  • Transform power dynamics by increasing the capacity of both families and staff around knowledge and confidence.
  • Build reciprocity and agency between school staff and families by setting up systems and structures that foster a sense of camaraderie and collaboration.
  • Undertake change as collective inquiry, using the relationships that are built as a way to collaboratively problem-solve.

We also share brief case examples from the following organizations, who utilize exemplary models of parent and caregiver engagement for educational transformation: 

  • Communities in Schools of Michigan
  • The Allegheny County Family Center Network’s Parent Advisory Council
  • Village of Wisdom
  • Minneapolis Public Schools Parent Participatory Evaluation Initiative

We thank our contributors and collaborators on this inaugural report. Stay tuned for our remaining Innovations reports on classrooms, schools, and communities. We’ll share aligned strategies that maximize learning and well-being for students within each setting of CASEL’s systemic SEL framework. 

We hope this series will spark discussions that lead to changes in mindsets, practice, and policies, with a focus on centering the voices and choices of students and their families.

Read the full report: Building Authentic School-Family Partnerships Through the Lens of Social and Emotional Learning.

CASEL Water Cooler

Peek behind the scenes with our team

View all posts in CASEL Water Cooler
Leave a comment
All fields are required. Your email address will not be published.

Access the latest, most trusted information on SEL
Sign up for our newsletters