States frequently engage in activities to facilitate learning and improve the capacity of educators and parents to work together and resolve disputes early. But how do States know their efforts are effective? And, with finite resources available, are there more efficient and effective ways to build local-level capacity? CADRE has outlined some key considerations for designing local-level capacity building supports. Although the framework was designed specifically for SEAs, other agencies may find the content beneficial too.


Getting Started
  1. Determine current local-level capacity. Use dispute resolution, indicator 8, and other relevant data to inform your assessment.

    Ask questions such as:

    • What is the current capacity of educators and parents to work together?
    • What is the current capacity of LEAs to resolve conflicts early?
    • What is the current capacity of LEAs to align policies and practices with federal and state special education regulations?
    • Who needs to increase their capacity and in what area?
      • Do people have the necessary knowledge and skills?
    • What conditions in the environment might impact current capacity?
      • What else is going on when families and educators are attempting to work together and through conflict?
      • Are there any incentives reinforcing current behaviors?
  2. Determine if any assumptions have been made in your assessment of local-level capacity.

    Ask questions such as:

    • What evidence supports our understanding of local-level capacity?
    • How strong is this evidence?
    • Are there multiple data sources supporting our understanding?
    • Is there any contradictory evidence?
    • Are there any exceptions?
    • How valid and reliable is the data?
    • Are there any gaps in information?
      • What else do we need to know?
      • How can we get this information? 
  3. Determine desired results and identify the target audience(s).

    Ask questions such as:

    • What behaviors do we want to see at the local level?
    • Who do we want to behave in this way?
      • What motivates the target audience(s)?
      • Who influences the target audience(s)?
      • What challenges might the target audience(s) face in implementing the desired behaviors??
    • Why are these desired behaviors important?
    • What would success look like?
  4. Identify priorities.

    Ask questions such as:

    • Do we have leadership and stakeholder interest in the implementation of these desired behaviors?
    • How do these priorities align with other priorities in our department/organization?
    • What do we have the capacity to work on?
    • Are there current opportunities and organizational assets that can be leveraged?
  5. Identify what needs to happen in order for local-level capacity to improve.

    Ask questions such as:

    • What support does the target audience(s) need most in order to implement desired behaviors?
    • What strategies or activities will have the greatest impact?
    • What resources are needed to implement these strategies or activities?
      • Are there existing resources that can be used or modified?
      • Does CADRE have a resource that we can leverage to help meet the needs of our target audience? Check out CADRE Resources listed on this webpage.
    • Who will we partner or coordinate with?
    • What existing infrastructure can be leveraged?
    • Who will be responsible for individual activities and general oversight?
    • When will activities be completed?
  6. Create an action plan.
Understand and Utilize Learning and Development Best Practices

It is critical for States to utilize learning and development best practices when designing and implementing local-level capacity building supports.

For more information, visit:

Continue to Build Your Own Capacity

Visit Contact CADRE for individual technical assistance at

Partner with Parent Center(s)

A number of SEAs have partnered with Parent Centers on many initiatives to help build the local-level capacity of both educators and families.  We have highlighted below resources showcasing SEA-Parent Center partnerships:

Building Your District’s Capacity to Address Disagreements

When educators and parents disagree on the provision of special education services for a child, the resulting conflict can stress an already stretched system to a breaking point. Facilitating the prevention and early resolution of disputes, especially as reports point to the rise of complaints and staffing issues, can alleviate some of that pressure. Proven strategies for early resolution allow educators and parents to engage in collaborative problem solving and preserve relationships.

CADRE has developed and curated several resources to help educators. Our Building Local-Level Capacity landing page provides tools and supports district staff may find beneficial. The resource page guides leadership through assessment and planning considerations and includes links to CADRE’s relevant resources.

Assessing the way your district works to build strong relationships with families can be the first step to building local-level capacity for early dispute resolution. Investing early in building working relationships based on trust with parents of students in your school can transform meetings into more positive experiences. Mutually satisfactory interactions can create a shared history to be drawn upon when disagreements and misunderstandings arise and reduce the likelihood of escalating conflict.

Imagine the benefits of having the time and space to find solutions to challenging situations. Strategies for success in building strong family relationships can be found in CADRE’s Engaging Parents in Productive Partnerships. This resource covers how to maximize the effectiveness of meeting times, treat all attendees with respect, stay focused on the concern at hand, and effectively listen and show understanding.

When searching for effective professional development, consider two of CADRE’s training and support resources to help with early dispute resolution and prevention: The Working Together Series and the short Tale of Two Conversations videos. The Working Together Series is a five-module course designed to provide foundational strategies for working together with families to avoid and solve problems through conflict. The courses focus on listening and responding skills, managing and responding to emotions, focusing on interest to reach an agreement, and more. The Tale of Two Conversations videos are a two-part program that illustrates common pitfalls that can derail a meeting and techniques that can help foster stronger relationships with parents. Both resources have facilitator guides that can lead peers through professional development activities.

At times, educators and families will encounter communication challenges and difficulty resolving conflicts on their own and would benefit from additional support. Districts can offer a continuum of early dispute resolution services and use an impartial third party, such as a facilitator or mediator.  IEP facilitation is a voluntary process in which a facilitator focuses on creating a collaborative environment, attends to conflicts as they arise, and works to keep the meeting flowing productively, thereby freeing the IEP team up to focus on developing the IEP. For more information on IEP facilitation, see CADRE’s publication Considering Facilitation: A School Administrator’s Perspective.

When a conflict becomes more complex, introducing an impartial third-party mediator to achieve early resolution is another avenue to build the capacity to help solve problems collaboratively. Mediation is cost-effective, both in time and money, and can be expedient. Furthermore, mediation has the added benefit of including those involved in the conflict in creating the solution, while keeping a focus on maintaining collaborative relationships. More information about mediation, including tips to help mediation work for your district, can be found in CADRE’s publication, Considering Mediation: A school Administrator’s Perspective.