Community Partnerships and Support Services

Nebraska School, Family, and Community Engagement Framework

NDE Family and Community Engagement

For the purposes of this framework community partnerships and support services are considered separately from business and industry partnerships. Partnerships discussed in this focus area are intended to encompass not-for-profit partners such as government organizations, non-profit organizations, faith-based groups, and other such organizations. The reason for this distinction is that the way in which a school or childcare provider connects with an organization should differ based on the organization’s main purpose.

The NDE believes the best community partnerships are local. Partnerships should build programs catered to the unique strengths and needs of each community. Each school or childcare provider should evaluate their community and determine where outreach to specific potential partners would be valuable. Community partnerships should be mutually beneficial, collaborative in nature, and result in achieving identified goals of those involved. Goals for these partnerships could be developing opportunities around:

  • Academics
  • Wellness
  • Safety
  • Social services
  • Physical and mental health
  • Community engagement
  • Nutrition
  • Other functions

Identifying the desired outcomes of a potential partnership and seeking a local organization that can address those goals collaboratively will help schools and childcare providers support success for all learners. Additionally, community organizations can bring their own varied perspective to consider all needs of a community.

Sustainable & effective partnerships:

  • Grow in strength over time
  • Reflect the efforts and commitment of those involved
  • Persist through changes in individual participants and membership
  • Impact academic growth
  • Improve health and physical well-being
  • Supplement social-emotional learning

Practice: Conduct a needs assessment to identify strengths and challenges in goal areas such as: academic learning, youth development, family engagement and support, health and social services. Gather data and information to identify needs and gaps that could be addressed to improve the school or childcare provider.

Exemplar: The Comprehensive Needs Assessment (CNA) is based on quality, evidence-based education practices for student success. The tool is aligned to AQuESTT and articulates the expected education practices under each of the domains. Create a copy of the tool and refer to p.17 to get started.

Exemplar: Collaborate with community partners such as emergency managers, law enforcement, fire/rescue personnel, hospitals, health departments, and mental health professionals as part of the annual security plan review process (Accreditation, Rule 10; section 011.01D).

Practice: Determine how to evaluate the partnership and projects. Be realistic about what success looks like in the short- and long-term. Building toward shared goals can be a slow process, and it can be helpful to focus on distinct and attainable wins in order to build momentum. Consider not only what leadership thinks success would look like, but also invite learner and community stakeholders to articulate what success would look like.

Exemplar: A strengths, opportunities, aspirations, results (SOAR) analysis is a strategic planning tool that focuses groups on its current strengths and vision of the future for developing strategic goals. Consider working with a partner to do this analysis to identify projects and ways to evaluate. More information about the SOAR strategy can be found here.

Exemplar: Safety and security plans are reviewed annually by one or more persons external to the school system. The review will include a visit to the site as well as incorporate recommendations for improvement. Any suggestions made as a result of the analysis are communicated with the designated leadership team and are useful when considering how community partnerships and services can be added to increase learner engagement.

Exemplar: Nebraska Community Foundation – Asset-based Community Development Guide

Practice: Establish honest communication at the beginning of the partnership-building process. This will set the stage for a constructive, mutually beneficial partnership moving forward. This can include explicitly clear expectations of the initiative and how it will work.

Exemplar: Identify a single person who is accountable for communication and making decisions.  Schools and childcare providers can have a person dedicated to the partnership to ensure a clear line of communication between partners.

Exemplar: The Responsibility Matrix is a great tool to help identify and assign the tasks and responsibilities necessary for implementing an action plan. The plan can help teams consider the following questions: What are the tasks involved with implementing the plan? Who is responsible for each of the tasks? Are there other people who need to provide direction, consultation or review in order for the tasks to be completed?

Practice: Ensure sustainability when planning for partnerships. Partnerships take time and resources to establish and maintain. Focus on finding the “right” partners that address needs or gaps and help achieve planned goals. While many different partners may be involved in school and childcare improvement, strategic, solid partnerships that can be built upon are a good investment of time and energy. While planning, it is important to prioritize sustainable partners and programs.

Exemplar: Full-Service Community Schools are an example of sustainable partnerships in action. A Full-Service Community School is the product of intentional partnerships and shared leadership between the school or childcare provider, the community, learners and families coming together to address the broad spectrum of needs.

Practice: Check-in with partners on a regular basis to share progress, struggles, and next steps. Regular communication about what is working and what is not will help build community and strengthen partnerships while also monitoring shared goals and assessing progress. Including time to share successes and celebrations as part of these check-ins is important.

Exemplar: Use the feedback gathered from evaluation to not only determine impact, but also to recognize when goals have been reached or project is no longer necessary.

Benefits for Learners and Students

The National Center on Safe and Supportive Learning Environments (NCSSLE) shares that there are learner benefits of strong community partnerships. When schools, childcare providers, and communities work together at every level, learners benefit in a variety of ways. Benefits include:

  • Improved academic achievement including higher grade point averages and scores on standardized tests or rating scales, more classes passed and credits earned
  • Enrollment in more challenging academic programs with more students continuing onto secondary education
  • Improved attendance and retention
  • Improved behavior
  • Better social skills and learning environment adaptation
  • Increased motivation.

In the book A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement, Anne T. Henderson and Karen L. Mapp found that these benefits hold true for children of all ages, all backgrounds, and across race and ethnicity.

NCSSLE also shares that foundations for academic success begin in early childhood and are further developed during elementary school years. Conversely, patterns of failure and disengagement also begin early. Continuity with partnerships with community programs from PreK/Elementary School to Middle and High School can help support academic achievement throughout a student’s school tenure.

Benefits For Schools

In their article, “The Benefits of Community Engagement for a Stronger School District”, Lena Eisenstein states that consistent involvement and engagement by the community has shown to have considerable short- and long-term benefits that not only affect students, but also the schools within the district. Schools that have an increased sense of public involvement see a statistically significant increase in their reputation. Schools are advocated for by the community when they make the effort to make the public feel included and involved. The school becomes more significant as a space where one can receive instruction and support with strong public and school partnerships, resulting in better student performance and achievement. School benefits include:

  • Upgraded school facilities.
  • Improved school leadership and staffing.
  • Higher-quality learning programs for students.
  • New resources and programs to improve teaching and curriculum.
  • New funding for afterschool programs and family supports (Henderson & Mapp).
  • Cultivating trust, respect, and transparency between the board and the public.
  • Establishing and maintaining stronger school performance and reputation (Eisenstein).

Finding Local Partners

  • Beyond School Bells is a Nebraska organization that supports after school programming and partnership development in connection with the Nebraska Children and Families Foundation. They have a wide range of Nebraska resources including a community scan worksheet that can help identify partners.
  • Nebraska’s 2-1-1 database, a United Way service that catalogs government and community services in communities around Nebraska online and via live call center (by calling 2-1-1 for free anywhere in the state), can be a good place to find out about services, and potential partners in most communities.
  • MyLink is a free, downloadable app that provides a database of resources and community partners for families in Nebraska.  Resources are grouped by category or can be searched. The app works without data or wifi once downloaded.
  • The NDE’s 21st Century Community Learning Center Partner Spotlight has examples of strong partnerships across the state that can be recreated in most communities.
  • CASEL provides suggestions for finding community partners to help with Social Emotional Learning (SEL).
  • Find a list of Nebraska exemplars on this document which includes organizations active with schools around the state, a description of the organizational mission/vision, website, and geographic reach of many partners.

Nebraska Resources

  • Review and assess your programs using the NDE Special Education Resources for Equity, Inclusion, and Opportunity
  • The Nebraska Court Improvement Project, a program of the State of Nebraska Judicial Branch, provides a variety of resources that schools can use in conjunction with courts to assist families involved in the judicial system.
    • An Education Court Report is filled out in conjunction with the school to help judges understand the educational information of children involved in the legal system.
    • Additionally they provide two What Now? guides for families to use if their children become involved in the legal system.

Community Providers 

  • DHHS – The Department of Health and Human Services focuses on basic needs and health of families throughout the state of Nebraska.
  • NE Children & Families Foundation – focuses on supporting children and families by helping build strong communities
  • Nebraska Extension – 4-H – provides a variety of programing to enhance education
  • Nebraska Extension – UNL Food – provides a great deal of support to afterschool programming and is a partner for many Nutrition Services programs and projects.
  • Community Collaboratives is a database of community support agencies for parents across the state of Nebraska. The type of supports available depend on location.
  • Special Olympics Nebraska facilitates acceptance, participation, and empowerment for individuals with and without disabilities through sports training and competition, inclusive youth leadership, and whole school engagement for students of all ages.
  • Educational Service Units (ESUs) are political subdivisions that serve as intermediate level education service agencies for member school districts.

We plan on revising and updating the Nebraska School, Family, and Community Engagement Framework on a yearly basis and would love your input.  Please share any feedback regarding content and/or revisions needed.

We’d love to hear about great examples of Family and Community Engagement in Nebraska schools and childcare programs.  Submit a Nebraska Engagement Exemplar to be reviewed for inclusion in next year’s version of the Framework.
Submit a NE Exemplar

Updated July 2, 2023 10:45pm