- In an effort to better communicate with immigrant and non-English speaking parents, Minneapolis Public Schools recruited help from Somali, Native American, African American, Hispanic and Hmong communities. Forming these connections is part of the district's initiative to better serve students of color and immigrants, Education Week reports.
- The program is not simply about translation, but also about cultural communication strategies. District leaders are seeking input from each of these groups to better understand what the parents' concerns and how they would like communication to occur.
- This outreach is part of the "parent participatory evaluation" method, which is being implemented by districts around the country with the intention of collecting better data from a larger group of parents. In Minneapolis, nearly 65% of students are black, Hispanic, Asian and Native American, and there has long been an achievement gap between black and white students.
Past efforts to increase engagement in the schools among minority parents include the Mexican American Defense and Education Fund teaming up with the National Education Association to launch the Minority Parent and Community Engagement initiative. In their report, they noted that language barriers often limit communication between minority parents and the schools which can interfere with parents being able to support their children's learning. Studies have linked parent involvement to student success, and best practices outlined in that report include valuing parents' voices, hiring staff that understands the different cultures in the communities and developing parent trainers that can bridge the cultural gaps.
Misunderstandings between parents and school staff members and minority parents' lack of trust in school officials are the greatest hurdles, the report said, adding that a lack of funding hinders efforts to bridge the gaps. But the authors also noted that not only do partnerships between schools and families help students grow academically, but they also create greater support for the schools in the community.
Different minority communities need different engagement approaches. For example, in the African American community, parents often respond to efforts that teach them how to advocate for their communities and take on leadership roles in districts. In Native American and Alaskan American communities, engagement is rooted in the school's ability to understand how tribal identity plays a part in every day life. Allowing a tribe to be involved in the education system fosters trust. Once trust is developed, minority communities, and the parents in them, will begin to engage.