As we close out Black History Month, our call to action should be to more effective engage Black parents in our school turnaround work to increase student achievement. 

Many school districts across the nation are working to wrap their hands around innovative and effective ways to engage the families of Black boys. In order for us to dismantle the school to prison pipeline, we have to reform public schools with the families of Black boys. Currently, our public schools lack innovative ways to engage Black parents on common issues. However, these issues become roadblocks that Black boys face in public schools. Disengaging Black families and teachers plays a critical role in the success of Black boys.

Building Parent Capacity Matters in Increasing Success Rates of Black Boys! 

Public schools push the responsibility of communicating and engaging parents to one person. However, one person, whether a teacher or Parent Liaisoncan’t do it alone! Family Engagement Specialist, Tonya Winters Buford, says that “Engaging parents in education is a basic foundational skill. As educators, we have to help parents level up with their kids each year!” One way we can better support family engagement programs in schools is to have a family engagement team as opposed to just the Parent Liaison being responsible for the engagement and support of all parents. 

In order to ensure the education of Black boys is effectively continuing at home, bringing Black parents and stakeholders to the table to help drive this work is necessary. I recommend schools have quarterly professional development sessions with faculty and staff at the beginning of the 1st (beginning of school) and 2nd quarter (after winter break/January) with parent and community leaders to help lead areas. Implementing monthly leadership team meetings that incorporate parent, community, and administrative leaders can be done in partnership with school parent groups, alumni, and community groups.

Yet, this is a common practice in public schools across America. I’ve found success supporting schools as they engage communities and families by implementing Family Support Teams, hosting Family Nights, and driving professional development. A Family Support Team pulls together all the school support staff that work directly with students and families. This includes the parent liaison, graduation coach, nurse, social worker, school psychologist, SEL coordinator, behavior specialist, attendance clerk, registrar, and front office staff. The PTA’s name alone reminds us that we all play a role in the success of students. 

Challenges Public Schools Face with Engaging Families 

  • Transportation (meeting parents where they are and creating partnerships with community organizations and businesses)
  • Childcare (incorporating children’s activities/care in school meetings/events)
  • Inclusion of behavior, SEL, and communal (adult education, economic development, career-building) resources in engagement
  • The transition of grade levels
  • Preparation and registration support for summer, after school, and weekend enrichment initiatives
  • Knowledge of student records, data, and reporting systems

All these areas contribute to the success of Black boys in public schools. Family engagement is a needed resource for Black boys to be successful in schools. It connects Black parents to resources to help their sons overcome deficiencies and continue to grow in areas of proficiency. By collaborating and providing fluid communication increases the ability of strategies working at school to be continued at home. The consensus of the needs of Black boys in schools must be transferred to their families.

One of the major concerns of Black parents is communication from public schools. It’s either too much coming from various areas at one time, or it’s not consistent. The family support team is a remedy for success to help public schools with this.

Getting Black Parents Engaged is Hard Work! 

District family engagement teams across the nation are working to beef up their level of parent engagement. The Family Night concept works. It’s a two-hour block of planning, professional development, family, and fun! The concept consists of having leadership development and planning led by parent groups, data review led the principal and academic leaders, followed by academic presentations led by students with enough time to have a wellness activity with all stakeholders. It’s a great opportunity for parent groups to meet, school leaders to present data, and students to show their gifts, talents, and academic accomplishments. The family night concept is also accompanied by a morning principal coffee and conversation or breakfast with parents and stakeholders to review school data and receive feedback. 

Engaging parents is an intricate part of school turnaround work. If we aren’t seeing an increase the academic achievement of Black boys, it’s heavily due to our inability to engage their parents in continuing education at home. 

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