Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Untapped Resources: Black Parent Engagement That Contributes to Learning

Academic journal article The Journal of Negro Education

Untapped Resources: Black Parent Engagement That Contributes to Learning

Article excerpt

Margaux and her husband were active at their children's school. They volunteered at book sales, attended PTA meetings, and helped in the classrooms when needed. They also spent significant amounts of time working on school related projects outside of school. So Margaux was shocked when she received her daughter's report card with low scores in math and reading fluency. She had just spoken with the teacher informally, and no mention was made that the child was struggling. The couple requested a face-to-face meeting with their daughter's teacher. During the meeting, Margaux and her husband expressed their surprise that they had not been informed of the teacher's concerns about their daughter. They were further frustrated when they realized that information they had shared with the teacher regarding the child's learning styles and strengths was not being used. They left the meeting confused and distrustful of the teacher and the school.

Margaux and her husband are not the only Black parents with negative experiences with their children's school. Black families often feel their efforts to engage with their children's education are largely ignored by schools and in literature. This may be due in part to schools operating on an outdated and culture-ignorant model. One of the most commonly used models for parental involvement is Epstein's Framework for Six Types of Parental Involvement (Epstein et al., 1997). This framework offers ways for schools to identify parental involvement and specific areas to target for improved involvement. In practice, however, Epstein's model has become a checklist for schools and lacks a cultural lens by which the intersections of race, ability, disability, income, and education can be examined (Harry, Kalyanpur, & Day, 1999). Furthermore, when the conversation about the achievement gap between Black students and others is loosely tied to the topic of parenting, schools imply that students are victims of parental apathy to the goals of education.

The topic of parental involvement is of particular significance for families with Black children because Black students lag behind their peers on major academic indices (Delpit, 2012; Jeynes, 2005; Kunjufu, 2012). Black students continue to experience harsher punishments, more suspensions, and expulsions at three times the rate of their peers who engage in similar behaviors (Delpit, 2012; Kunjufu, 2012), although Black parents strive to be a part of the school community. In addition to the punishments, Black students continue to be over-identified for special education and under-identified for gifted and talented and advanced placement programs (Boone & KingBerry, 2006; Harry & Klingner, 2005; Kunjufu, 2012). Disparities in educational outcomes and inequitable treatment have strained the relationship between Black families and schools (Delpit, 2012; Louque & Latunde, 2014).

Like most parents, parents of Black students actively support their children's education. They advocate, engage in family literacy exercises, expand on concepts taught at school, and expose children to educational opportunities in the community (Brandon, 2007; Thompson, 2004; Williams, 2007). In a meta-analysis of parental involvement, Jeynes (2005) concluded that Black parents held high academic aspirations for their children and the parents' involvement in their children's education contributed positively to student achievement. However, their involvement has not always been effective in closing the achievement gap. For some time, Black parents have voiced their frustration with the interactions and communication between home and school (Latunde, 2009; Thompson, 2004).

This study examined the engagement strategies of Black parents of children in K-12 schools in the U.S. by first addressing the complexities of defining parental involvement. The definition has great implications for strategies and assessments. Next, the research describes the benefits of home-school collaboration, explores issues related to current practices for involving Black families, and details specific strategies Black parents use to support their children's learning. …

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