Engaging Diverse Families - Challenge Map
Challenge Map

Family Engagement

Engaging Diverse Families

The Challenge

Many districts need to provide programs and services for families from a variety of racial, ethnic, educational, and linguistic backgrounds. Schools are striving to meet diverse families where they are to provide a range of opportunities for involvement that reflect their backgrounds, needs, and interests. But certain populations – including families of color, those experiencing poverty, and non-English speakers – have been historically disenfranchised and may feel unwelcome in schools. Many districts are struggling with how best to reach, engage, and impact marginalized groups. School staff and teachers need strategies and support to build welcoming relationships, mitigate effects of stereotype threat, and provide culturally-relevant opportunities for diverse families.

In the Words of District Leaders

When you're dealing with a district as diverse as ours with over 100 languages, family engagement is always a challenge, because people engage in different ways. There's plenty of barriers that we need to overcome, so I think it's constantly trying to meet families where they are and do things differently.

“We are becoming increasingly aware of the fact that we might not be effectively communicating well enough with families where English isn’t their first language at home, and with some of the economically-disadvantaged families.”

“We’ve got an equity plan that we’re working on and family engagement is one of those [focus areas], and for students who are not doing well, sometimes those are the families that we can’t reach.”

Ideas from the Field

  • At least two districts have launched parent universities to provide a broader array of opportunities for diverse caregivers to develop additional skills, knowledge, resources and confidence around aspects of parenting.
  • Simple steps such as incorporating text messages in Spanish are helping districts communicate with non-English speaking families.

Resources

Check out the following research-based resources for more information about engaging diverse families:

Best Practices in Engaging Diverse Families – From Hanover Research, this report examines literature and case studies on engaging diverse families in public, K12 settings. It focuses in particular on the experiences and needs of large, urban public school districts, and on the experiences and needs of African-American and Hispanic families.

Engaging Parents as Coteachers – From ASCD, this article describes that guiding parents to co-teach STEM lessons shows one way to address increasing diversity in classrooms.

Resources on Diverse Families – From NAEYC, a set of articles exploring research related to supporting diverse families.

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