Family engagement is not a top priority for school districts, but it should be, especially for students of color and their families. We cannot continue to have underperforming schools and low parent engagement. Excuses about parents not being involved no longer fly, or being okay with bare minimum parent involvement by pointing to having a PTA is also not acceptable. Schools need to implement effective strategies for engaging Black families.
There’s a Wrong Way to Engage Black Parents!
Taking actions such as remedial classes for Black parents on how to raise your child or getting your child to behave are insulting and are not good ways to engage Black parents. Another example of how schools fail at parent engagement is by placing posters around the school for Black parents and students to tell them what hairstyles are inappropriate, appropriate, or good for their children like Narvie J. Harris in Dekalb County. Last, don’t let me forget baiting parents with food and giveaways to come to an event to meet a quota for documentation purposes. Black parents are just attuned as their children in knowing when someone doesn’t truly want to engage them on more than a surface level.
Getting Black parents out to events at the school isn’t hard, but schools must be willing to tackle the challenges that prevent them from engaging parents. We have too many Black boys and girls who are not on grade level. Literacy rates are lower than when my great grandmother was in grammar school, and she could read, write, and do basic arithmetic. So, why are so many Black children failing? From my experience, in both traditional public schools and charter schools, it starts with how we engage Black families in student achievement.
There’s a Right Way to Engage Black Parents!
We have to go beyond sending parents notifications on Remind, robocalls, and fliers. Empowering Black parents is key! It takes every faculty and staff member to reinforce the importance of continuing education at home and empowering Black parents to know and understand their rights. This isn’t solely the job of the Parent Liaison. Too often, teachers and parent liaisons are the only school staff members building relationships with Black parents. If Black children are failing, we need all hands on deck to help engage Black parents. The school leaders, counselors, social workers, graduation coaches, instructional coaches, the school nurse, and even the cafeteria manager should be engaging parents, too. The disconnect comes from the misconceptions, biases, and stereotypes some have about Black parents and students. Because family engagement in schools is not valued, other educators outside of teachers aren’t encouraged to engage parents.
3 Misconceptions of Family Engagement in Predominantly Black Public School Districts
- If our school has a PTA, we’ve done our part in engaging Black parents.
- If we have a Parent Liaison, this is the only person responsible for engaging Black parents.
- Family engagement doesn’t impact student achievement in predominantly Black schools.
3 Ways that Family Engagement Supports Student Achievement
- Creating innovative ways to help parents continue learning at home.
- Developing conferences that can take place outside of the school building.
- Using data as a tool to highlight growth and areas of need and THEN providing effective strategies to increase achievement .
Black parents and teachers must first be on the same page with what support Black children need to be successful. However, one barrier that has to be lifted is honesty about what’s happening in the home. In the near future, EdLanta will go into more detail in a forthcoming blog about how shaming Black parents who have children with disabilities is damaging. We all know that a considerable amount of Black parents state they don’t feel welcomed or wanted at their child’s school. The even more alarming fact is their children feel the same way.
Our lack of support and engagement of Black parents in student achievement is a reflection of not truly caring for Black students!
The right way to engage Black parents in student achievement is to build a healthy relationship. If school leaders, educators, and parents are not on the same page, it negatively impacts student achievement.
Black parents want to be included and respected along their child’s academic journey. Many of us do not have good memories of being in school. It’s hard-working in the public education system, so think about how difficult it is to be educated by it. That’s why school districts, leaders, and educators have to think more consciously about our approaches with students and families. We have to be forward-thinking regarding how we engage and build relationships with our parents. School Districts must put more of an emphasis on family engagement in the school turnaround process. We can no longer have parents sitting in meetings. We need to revamp how we present academic data to Black parents in schools that are failing.
We will continue to be in a state of schools failing Black children if we don’t engage Black parents in a more effective manner. Continuing education at home is important for our Black students to be successful. If you truly want to see how a school is educating Black children, see how they’re engaging Black parents in the process.
Jason has worked in education for over 15 years as a teacher, blogger and community advocate. He speaks and writes primarily about the need to improve education for Black boys, particularly increasing the number of Black male educators in schools. In addition to blogging here at EdLanta, Jason is also a featured writer at Education Post.