How to Use the Dual Capacity-Building Framework to Strengthen Family Empowerment

by Andy Minshew


When families are engaged in their child’s education, everyone benefits. Student scores improve, families become empowered, and educators can build healthier school communities. But while these benefits are so clear and crucial, educators often face significant challenges to improving family-teacher communication in schools—for reasons both recognized and unknown.

To combat these challenges, the concepts of the dual capacity-building framework often prove helpful. This framework is a schoolwide approach that empowers families and teachers to build strong connections. The idea is to build the partnering capacity of both families and educators while using their unique strengths to create a stronger school community.

Since its initial publication in 2013, this framework has become a renowned model for developing better school communities through family and teacher empowerment. Read on to learn more about the dual capacity-building model and the core components of this framework. Then, discover a few strategies implementing the framework and boosting family partnerships in schools.

What is the Dual Capacity-Building Framework?

The dual capacity-building framework is a family engagement strategy developed by Harvard graduate students Marissa Alberty and Eyal Bergmen under the guidance of Dr. Karen Mapp.[1] Initially developed in 2013, it is based on decades of research and continually updated with new findings on creating healthy family-teacher collaboration and school environments.[8]

This framework recognizes the barriers that prevent families and educators from building strong relationships, like poor previous experiences and minimal training.[12] It is designed to recognize and address these challenges with specific strategies, like asset-based mindsets, that can lead to school environments that champion families as co-creators and where everyone is welcome. [4,11]

A second version was published in 2019, with a stronger focus on recognizing barriers to family involvement and more researched-based guidance on family partnerships.[6] To review the most updated version of the dual capacity-building framework, and to stay updated on future changes, visit the organization’s website.

Essential Conditions of the Dual Capacity-Building Model for Healthy School Environments

The Dual Capacity organization notes two types of essential conditions are needed to build a school community that encourages strong family-teacher partnerships: process conditions and organizational conditions.[3] Process conditions are the key components individual educators use while partnering with families; organizational conditions are components needed for the school or district as a whole.

Process conditions include, for example, making sure family-educator relationships are built on mutual trust and culturally responsive practices.[3,11] When these conditions exist, families and teachers are able to recognize each other’s strengths and rely on one another while communicating about student goals. It is key for teachers and families to co-construct expectations for the child, as well as for the roles of the teacher and family, in the process of supporting each student.

Examples of organizational conditions are wider reaching, like integrated and sustained improvements across a school or district—such as adjusting school policies in ways that offer more opportunities for family engagement.[3] These components are especially important for school or district administrators to remember as they consider organizational policies. While a dual capacity framework can be helpful on an individual level, system-wide changes are crucial for lasting change.

Visit the Dual Capacity website for a full list of essential conditions, as well as a few resources (like the Parent-Teacher Home Visit and Poverty Simulation Training for Educators) to help you better grasp and implement these conditions.

Strategies to Improve Family Partnerships with the Dual Capacity-Building Framework

Researchers involved in the development of the dual capacity-building model recommend that the strategy be seen as a “compass” rather than a blueprint for every situation.[5] This means that the framework is best used as a guideline for responding to individual school or district needs. Treating the framework as a set of strict rules may be limiting and not fit your organization’s unique circumstances as well.

To boost family partnerships using this framework, include families in the school community in a way that works for them.[2] Some families, for example, may be interested in serving as part of a parent-teacher organization while others might prefer partnering with you on their individual student’s needs. Additionally, try to address barriers that might inhibit a family from participating in your school as much as they would like (such as transportation issues or implicit biases held by faculty members).

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Additionally, the Dual Capacity organization suggests keeping the following four “Cs” in mind while using the dual capacity-building framework in your organization:[7]

  • Capabilities— family and educator skills and knowledge
  • Connections—relationships and networks
  • Confidence—individual self-efficacy, or the belief in one’s capabilities
  • Cognition— individual assumptions, beliefs, and world views


These 4 “Cs” can be a helpful way to remember the core components of the framework in a nutshell. As you create opportunities for family involvement or build organizational policies, remember these components to boost family and educator capabilities together.

Dual Capacity-Building Framework Outcomes: Strengthen Family Empowerment and Student Achievement

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When educators and school policies prioritize family engagement, the whole school benefits. In particular, the Dual Capacity organization recognizes the following positive outcomes of this strategy:[13]

  • Welcoming school environment
  • Empowered educators and families
  • Family knowledge is honored
  • Educators better connect families to learning and development resources
  • Families become co-creators, advocates, supporters, and monitors


The research behind family engagement in schools and the dual capacity-building model both point to gains in student success, too. When families are engaged and informed about their child’s education, student achievement improves as a whole.[2] The Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (SEDL) in a case study on the dual capacity-building framework found that when the family-teacher connection was prioritized, reading and math scores improved by 9% and 18%, respectively.[5]

These academic improvements aren’t just limited to one student, either. One study even found that when teachers focus on parent involvement, student achievement in the entire classroom improves.[14] This supports the dual capacity-building model’s assertion that the framework outcomes lead to better school environments in which everyone is poised to achieve.

Additionally, educational researchers have discovered a link between social-emotional development and parent engagement. Children with families who are engaged in their education, for example, develop stronger self-confidence and motivational skills on average.[9] They are also less likely to exhibit problem behaviors that need redirection during class.[10]

The findings speak for themselves. Family-teacher connections lead to better outcomes for families, educators, and students. The dual capacity-building model is a powerful way to build healthy family-teacher relationships and empower everyone involved.


  1. About Us. Dual Capacity.
  2. Wilkins, J., and Terlitsky, A.B. Strategies for Developing Literacy-Focused Family–School Partnerships. Intervention in School and Clinic, 2016, 51(4), pp. 203-211.
  3. Essential Conditions. Dual Capacity.
  4. Mapp, K., Perez, J., and Aggarwal, C. New Guidance for Partnering with Diverse Families: The National Framework for Dual Capacity-Building. WestEd. Webinar Recording, November 2014.
  5. Southwest Educational Development Laboratory and the US Department of Education. Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships.
  6. Dual Capacity. What’s New in Version 2.
  7. US Department of Education. The Dual Capacity Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.
  8. Organizing Engagement Staff. Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships.
  9. Wairimu, M.J., Macharia, S.M., and Muiru, A. Analysis of Parental Involvement and Self-Esteem on Secondary School Students in Kieni West Sub-County, Nyeri County, Kenya. Journal of Education and Practice, November 2016, 7, pp. 82-98.
  10. El Nokali, N.E., Bachman, H.J., and Votruba-Drzal. Parent Involvement and Children’s Academic and Social Development in Elementary School. Child Development, May-June 2010, 81(3), pp. 988-1005.
  11. Mapp, K.L., and Kuttner, P.J. The Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family-School Partnerships (Version 2).
  12. Dual Capacity. The Challenge.
  13. Dual Capacity. Capacity Outcomes.
  14. Henderson, A., and Berla, N. A New Generation of Evidence: The Family Is Critical to Student Achievement. Washington, DC: Center for Law and Education, 1994.

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