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Engaging Families of African American Learners

Download: Engaging Families of African American Learners

This piece,  part of our Addressing Critical Equity Issues series, delivers ideas and practices for cultivating outreach approaches that engage African American parents and families. Download Engaging Families of African American Learners.

Engaging Families of African American Learners


In the context of 21st century educational practice, African American learners are continuously called upon ‘to beat all odds’ to successfully achieve and perform in a global, technology‐ mediated community, nation, and world. The nature of this challenge is both immediate and far reaching, giving more meaning than ever to the ancient African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” With this in mind, it has become increasingly critical for schools and school communities to become aware of the full scope of what it takes to fully reach out to African American parents and family members. By building school classrooms and school climates in which parents and families are integrally and constructively involved as participating partners in their children’s education the likelihood of academic success increases for every child. Beyond the traditional ‘Back to School Night,’ quarterly report card, parent conference, or discipline referral conference, today’s school communities must intentionally cultivate outreach approaches that engage African American parents and families at all grade and developmental levels on an on‐going basis. Essential questions to be answered in this regard include: (1) How does the school make it a
practice to bridge racial, class, and cultural differences? (2) What extra efforts are made to recruit and welcome families of all backgrounds?(3) What opportunities does the school provide for parents and families to offer their insights about the school climate? (Henderson, Mapp, Johnson& Davies, 2007). Such progressive approaches require raised levels of awareness within school communities about the scope of cultural and institutional factors that impact teaching and learning (Lindsey, Robins & Terrell, 2009). Concurrently, it is critical to provide opportunities to establish and sustain mutual understanding among parents, families, and schools about culturally responsive and socially just practices.



  • Henderson, A.T., Mapp, K.L., Johnson, V.R., Davies D.D. (2007) Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential
    Guide to Family‐School Partnerships. New York, The New Press.
  • Lindsay, R.B., Robins, K.N., Terrell, R.D. (2009). Cultural Proficiency: A Manual for School
    Leaders.Thousand Oakes, California, Corwin Press

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