Father carrying daughter piggyback and being happy
We think of family as the people in a child’s life with a vested interest in their well-being and educational success. Family, school, and community members are critical partners in developing an effective and responsive support system where all benefit. However, authentic partnerships continue to be a challenging reality for educators and families alike; schools must be creative in their efforts to reach out to and engage with their stakeholders so that positive, trusting relationships serve as the foundation of ongoing collaboration and problem-solving.

What Is the Family Role in PBIS?

Including families in PBIS implementation means families and school personnel work together and share in the responsibility making educational decisions and improving student outcomes.

Through effective family engagement, families and schools work together to create the conditions and practices which allow for ongoing collaboration, coordination and partnerships.

Why Include Families in PBIS?

Interventions connecting families and schools are essential to valued youth behavioral and mental health outcomes.[1]Including families’ perspectives, values and voices within the development and implementation of your PBIS system makes your school responsive to the needs of students and families. Intentional efforts to engage and partner with families shows they are valued as equal partners in the work of educating students. Asking families their preferences for how they want to communicate and collaborate with educators ensures a better use of limited resources.

Foundational Elements of Families in PBIS

The basic elements of partnering with families include:

  • Building positive relationships
  • Engaging in two-way communication
  • Ensuring equitable family representation
  • Making meaningful data-driven decisions

Positive Relationships

Relationships between educators and families are characteristically positive. Recognizing families' needs and cultural differences leads to greater understanding and respect among all involved. Schools make proactive efforts to build and maintain positive, trusting relationships with families such as collecting data on the perceptions of the home-school relationships.

Multiple Forms of Two-Way Meaningful Communication

Schools utilize student data as well as input from educators and families to design systems to support on-going, two-way communication with their families. Providing multiple avenues for families to receive and provide information regularly allows an opportunity for their needs and preferences to be identified and for the school to respond accordingly.

Equity, Access and Family Representation

Schools make intentional efforts to obtain input and diverse perspectives from families proportional to enrollment. School teams have a protocol for reviewing the effectiveness of their efforts to obtain family input and make adjustments to PBIS implementation as needed. Educators employ effective strategies to support families’ knowledge, skills and efficacy for supporting student learning which results in empowered families who serve as leaders, advocates, supporters, and partners in student learning. It is important for the school to cultivate social connections and networks among their families to support information-sharing and access to resources.

Meaningful Decision-Making

The school provides a diverse range of opportunities for families to make shared decisions about PBIS systems and practices. Families of children receiving Tier 2 and 3 supports are effectively engaged in all decisions related to support for their child.

Including Families within a Tiered Framework

Similar to providing a continuum of supports for students in a school, information and supports to families can also be provided through a multi-tiered approach. What you communicate – the type and amount of information shared with families – may vary depending on the intensity of student need.  

Tier 1

For all students, family-school collaboration includes two-way communication on the overall school-wide approach to supporting behavior. It also includes asking for and utilizing family input to ensure school-wide supports are effective. At Tier 1, classroom teachers and families communicate from a positive lens focused on co-creating expectations and approaches to supporting student behavior.  Teachers and families communicate throughout the year their positive experiences and current concerns regarding behavior in the classroom.

Tier 2

At this tier, family-school collaboration includes two-way communication about the targeted supports their students receive. Communication includes the purpose and approach to the targeted supports and a discussion about the families’ role. For example, one type of communication might clarify how and when progress data will be shared and ensure families stay regularly connected about their students’ progress.

Tier 3

For students receiving tier 3 supports, family-school collaboration includes frequent two-way communication about the individual student’s plan. Communication includes the purpose and approach to the targeted supports and a discussion about the families’ role.

Assessing Family Involvement

A few tools for assessing current family engagement efforts are:

Family Engagement Innovation Configuration

This tool provides a gauge for your school’s efforts to implement a systemic, integrated and aligned approach to family engagement.

School-wide Family Engagement Rubric

This tool provides specific guidance on steps your school can take to improve family engagement school-wide.

Classroom Family Engagement Rubric

This tool provides specific guidance on steps teachers can take to improve family engagement at the classroom level.

Get Started with Families

Your school likely already has systems and practices in place for incorporating families in your school-level implementation. Whether this is a new concept for you or you want to improve upon your existing strategies, here are a few places to start collaborating with families.

Prioritize Family-School Collaboration

Engaging families starts with leadership teams setting the priority. School-level leadership ensure engaging families is a priority by including it in the school’s vision, mission, and goals for continuous improvement. Align the school’s efforts with the district’s vision and goals for family and school collaboration within a tiered framework. Make sure to include opportunities for professional development and ongoing coaching to build strong foundations for working together to improve student outcomes.

Data Systems Screen & Monitor Family Engagement

Schools engaging families must use data to develop goals and monitor the outcomes of these partnerships. Drawing on skills, practices, and actions of school personnel and families, specific goals are collaboratively developed to progress monitor the effectiveness of family engagement. Use assessments to answer questions like:

  • How satisfied are families and educators with current efforts?
  • How is your school doing in achieving its family-school collaboration goals?
  • What’s currently working?
  • What isn’t?

Coordinate School and Home Systems to Support Outcomes

Work with families to be sure supports are coordinated between school and home. Everyone should be focused on building positive relationships and enhancing strategies across all tiers of support. School personnel work together with families to address any barriers to their collaboration and start planning the why, when and how of their partnership efforts.


In addition to the other materials on this site, there are two resources best suited to guide your family engagement:

Aligning and Integrating Family Engagement in PBIS

This e-book reviews reasons for and ways to significantly enhance family engagement in schools. It can be used by anyone invested in including families in policy, research, and practices related to PBIS.

Working Systemically In Action: Engaging Family and Community

This supplement to Working Systemically in Action provides explanations for key concepts, suggestions, and ready-to-use tools to help schools and families come together as partners to support student learning.

[1]Sheridan, S., Smith, T., Moorman Kim, E., Beretvas, S., & Park, S. (2019). A Meta-Analysis of Family-School Interventions and Children’s Social-Emotional Functioning: Moderators and Components of Efficacy. Review of Educational Research, 89(2), 296-332. doi: 10.3102/0034654318825437

See More/Less


Resources in this section include assessments, blueprints, examples, and materials to aid in implementing PBIS.


Publications listed below include every eBook, monograph, brief, and guide written by the PBIS Technical Assistance Center.


Presentations about their experiences, published research, and best practices from recent sessions, webinars, and trainings


Recordings here include keynotes and presentations about PBIS concepts as well tips for implementation.