Patricia A. Ackerman: How and Why Urban Schools Fail to Engage Parents of Color

Jun 28, 2011 by



“Can you hear me, now?” was a popular query in a cell phone ad a few years back. The caller was seeking confirmation that two-way communication was occurring. By inference, and assuming no language barrier or auditory impairment, any caller could depend upon that brand of phone for clearly transmitted conversations. By contrast, when it comes to communication between urban schools and parents concerning involvement in the children’s education, either something gets lost in the transmission or the schools fail to connect in a meaningful way. Miscommunication between schools and parents can have serious consequences for both, but especially for the parents who may be affected more negatively.

Since the positive correlation between parent involvement and student achievement has been well documented, the under-representation of urban parents appears to be solely their fault. Conventional wisdom is that schools bend over backwards to get every parent involved, but for whatever reasons (ignorance? fear? unconcern? other priorities?) many urban parents choose not to do so. “They” are the problem. “They” don’t know what’s important. If “they” really loved their children… and so it goes. That communication from the school may be misdirected is never a consideration.

Schools seldom see themselves as part of the problem. They fail to consider that the opportunities for involvement they are offering may not be what urban parents really need, at least initially. Traditional parent involvement tends to be student-centered and/or school-based, characterized by activities conducted in or out of the school with the child and/or the teacher. For parents whose personal and family circumstances afford them the confidence and comfort to involve themselves in these activities, student-centered opportunities can be very attractive.

via Patricia A. Ackerman: How and Why Urban Schools Fail to Engage Parents of Color.

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