Providing equity-based opportunities for family engagement can help parents and caretakers become effective advocates and culture-bearers in schools, which in turn improves educational quality and relevance, a report from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation finds.
The report, Cultivating a Community of Champions for Children Through Transformative Family Engagement (36 pages, PDF), highlights insights and outcomes from thirty family engagement projects supported by WKKF grants totaling $13.7 million between 2014 and 2017. Implemented in seventeen states and the District of Columbia, the projects centered parents and caregivers as experts and leaders in local schools and built institutional capacity and resilience through curricula reforms and activities designed to address asymmetrical power dynamics. According to the report, the equity-centered efforts boosted culturally relevant instruction and teaching, which is critical in 2019, given that students of color comprise the majority of K-12 students while only 20 percent of public school teachers are persons of color.
According to the report, when family members were invited to participate in school activities and contribute to decisions affecting their kids, attendance, parent-teacher conference participation, and parent volunteerism all improved. Measures of student literacy and social well-being also improved, while families became better informed about school and educational policies and felt more empowered to advocate for their children. The report outlines key lessons learned from the experiences of families, children, teachers, and grantee staff, as well as lessons with respect to systems and policy change, including the need for flexibility, the importance of quality in relationships over quantity, and the importance of local contexts.
"Family [e]ngagement works best when it focuses on student learning, is built on foundations of trust and healthy relationships, and families and teachers see each other as equal partners," Carla Thompson Payton, WKKF vice president for program strategy, writes in the report’s introduction. "In the places where structural racism and historic oppression had actively disengaged families, healing and growth have often been the most powerful."