How Can Parent Engagement Help Resolve the Problem of Inequity?
by Crystal Gammon, on Apr 27, 2021 9:14:28 AM
Equity in education is an ongoing issue. Educators have begun to truly study the problem and start initiatives to create a safe, equitable learning environment for students with diverse backgrounds and within marginalized groups. The fight for equitable education is difficult because there are so many layers to the problem. While there are many opinions from educators on the best way to resolve the issue of inequity, very few times have the voices of the parents and families of marginalized students been heard and considered. Parent engagement and parent involvement can be the biggest key to resolving the problem of inequity.
Studies suggest lack of parent engagement can contribute to the academic gaps in student learning throughout grade levels. One research suggests that higher retention rates, higher disciplinary referrals, and higher drop-out rates among marginalized groups can be attributed to lack of parental involvement (Wong and Hughes, 2006). Does this mean that the parents of these children are not interested in being involved? Absolutely not. One study suggests that parents with culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds often report feeling left out and wish to be more involved in their child's education. This same study indicates that parent-teacher communication is the most prominent driving force for parental involvement, and the lack of proper communication contributes to the lack of parental involvement (Vassallo, 2018). Besides, students from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds report lower parental involvement due to lack of availability from working parents with demanding schedules or inability to obtain childcare for younger siblings (McGuire, 2019).
How can we create more equity for our diverse learners? Well, let's take a look at the often-neglected voice in education advocacy- the parents. How can we make a space for parents in our schools?
- Get to know the Families: Get to know the families and use that knowledge to create engaging events for these families. Send home parent surveys and determine how you can create a space for families to come and be involved in school. Encourage volunteers at all levels.
- Offer Alternative Times for Meetings and Family Nights: Families from more socioeconomically disadvantaged homes will likely work in demanding jobs. Their survival depends on these families being able to keep their jobs, so they often miss parent-teacher meetings and family engagement nights because they work demanding jobs and odd shifts. Try offering more accommodations for times and dates for activities. Try having weekend events, phone conferences outside of school hours, and family engagement events at different days and times so that parents can attend at least one event.
- Offer Childcare or Activities for Siblings: Often, families struggle to attend parent engagement events or parent-teacher meetings because they have no childcare for younger siblings. Many socioeconomically disadvantaged families cannot afford to pay for childcare to attend a school event. Create a more family-inclusive atmosphere at all events and meeting opportunities.
- Create a Parent Panel and Listen to These Families: Often, parents from marginalized groups feel unheard and ignored by their child's school or district. Create a parent panel and include marginalized groups in this panel. Give alternative times and alternative ways for parents to engage families. Use surveys, weekend, or evening meeting times, and be sure to have diverse groups in leadership on these panels. Highlight the voices of marginalized groups and use the panel to create real change within your school or district.
- Acknowledge Your Biases and Actively Break Them Down: Everyone has biases. It is essential to become aware of your biases and actively break them down so that your biases are not creating barriers for your marginalized students and families. Multicultural training is essential for helping educators learn to recognize, acknowledge, and actively fight their own internal biases. Every teacher and staff member needs multicultural awareness training.
- Create a Diverse Parent Engagement Teacher Panel: Create a diverse parent engagement panel of teachers that have experience with diversity. Teachers who grew up in poverty can genuinely be empathetic and understand the lives of children from socioeconomically disadvantaged backgrounds. BIPOC educators can inform districts about ways to engage families with diverse cultural, ethnic, and linguistic backgrounds. Elevate these teachers' voices and make changes within the system.
Increasing parent engagement can be the biggest key to resolving inequity in education. When your parents and families feel heard, seen, and valued, they will become more involved. When the parents become more involved, the children soar.
- McGuire, D. (2019). Why don't parents attend parent-teacher conferences? Retrieved from https://indy.education/2019/11/01/why-dont-parents-attend-parent-teacher-conferences/
- Vassallo, B. (2018). Promoting Parental Involvement in Multicultural Schools: Implications for Educators. Retrieved from https://www.tojned.net/journals/tojned/articles/v08i02/v08i02-13.pdf
- Wong, S. W., & Hughes, J. N. (2006). Ethnicity and Language Contributions to Dimensions of Parent Involvement. School psychology review, 35(4), 645–662.
- (Reference: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2139999/)
- Photo by Nikhita S on Unsplash