Family Engagement in Schools Is An Untapped Resource for the Success of Black Boys.

There’s a popular neighborhood saying, “family over everything”, which ironically is quite the opposite of what it actually happening with modern day American families in school Districts across the Nation. Pew Research Center stated in a recent article that “Two parent families are on the decline in America!” This statement is proven by the high rates of divorce, prison entry and death rates. The Pew’s article on social change discusses how changes in family unit have been happening for decades.

“Family engagement  is an essential ingredient for student success!” – Dr. Karen Mapp

The changes in the family structure have definitely been seen in how schools operate and succeed. More importantly, it’s been seen the success rates of Black boys in public schools. School Districts across the Nation have challenges with understanding and implementing successful family engagement best practices.

What we have learned is that many programs, organizations and some school Districts are using Parent Engagement strategies that are outdated. Parent engagement and family engagement have similar goals but speak to different audiences, hence “parent” and “family”.

As a long time advocate and Educator around this work, I’ve been able to gauge what families think about how they’re engaged by their school leaders and districts. Black families, especially those on the west and south side of the city often feel overlooked and neglected by school district and school leaders. If they are a grandparent, god parent, foster parent, homeless shelter Director, family member or loved one caring for children, information sent home under “parent engagement” doesn’t connect to them. This isn’t just a communication problem, but an engagement problem.

Schools Can’t Turnaround Progress if Families Aren’t in the Mix!

We play a role in the failure of children by not fully supporting families and communities that have a huge stake in rearing children. Effective family engagement programs ultimately helps children to find success, handle stress and deal with disappointments appropriately. These best practices of family engagement help to eliminate the many road blocks that come to those who don’t understand how to engage with schools and districts. However, school districts can create unwanted road blocks simply in the way that they communicate information to and about the families they serve.

Family engagement also helps support programs such as SEL (Social Emotional Learning)! SEL practices are needed for Black boys to be successful in schools.  Getting families and communities to collaborate with schools through family engagement successfully helps schools to turnaround the success rates of Black boys.

Family engagement supports Black boys by helping schools in some of the following areas:

  1. Attendance
  2.  Emotional development
  3.  Socialization
  4. Behavior and Discipline
  5. Achievement

Family engagement programs in school districts are designed to support the families of all student. We have a lot of non traditional families as well as we have schools. SW Atlanta for example has the largest number of grandparents raising school aged children. A lot of them are raising Black boys and don’t feel supported by their schools.

A 2009 report on marriage in America by the Institute for American Values in America highlights how marriages have changed since 1950’s. Over the last several decades, marriage has become less common than before the age of technology and social media. Os Hillman stated about family that culture is shaped positively or negatively by early childhood experiences.

Family and community engagement in schools is more critical to the success of Black boys than we may think.

How we view family, impacts our way of life and the success of our children. Perspective is key! The saying, “it takes a village to raise a child!”, was once very popular among American households and communities. The way the media and society presents Black boys is negative and fear driven. Now, in inner city communities you have next door neighbors who don’t know the Black boys in their community; so they become targets.

I’m advocating for us to encourage school leaders to require family and community engagement programs in schools.  This is the best holistic approach in teaching the whole child. The program is a resource for Black boys by helping increase their success rates in school. We cannot do this without connecting to who they live with and where they live. Family engagement programs helps schools to do this efficiently. Let’s do more than begin the conversation. In order for our children to have a better opportunities academically, economically and holistically, it begins with engagement.

The strength of a school’s success is dependent on how it engages it’s families and communities!


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