At Family Engagement Lab, we are committed to studying and supporting schools’ efforts to equitably engage families in their child’s learning. Our commitment extends to combating racism in this area. There is ample evidence that, despite the best intentions of schools and educators, families and children of color experience multiple layers of racism. A 2019 study by Karin Kitchens found that, at an institutional level, schools enrolling Black students receive less funding, and while their families have a higher tax burden, fewer Black students are afforded the same educational and career opportunities as their White peers.

In the area of teacher to parent communication, sociologist Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng has found that race, ethnicity, and immigration status factor strongly. In his study, teachers were more likely to reach out to parents of Black and Latino students about behavioral problems. And teachers were less likely to reach out to parents they perceived as uninterested and uninvolved.

At Family Engagement Lab, we know all families care about their children. We envision a future where communities of color are treated with compassion, dignity, and respect as individuals. We are committed to a continued investigation of how racism inhibits equitable family engagement and developing anti-racist family engagement strategies. We are currently examining our activities across research, content development, product design, and teacher training. Below is a list of books, online events, articles, and research that are informing our journey:

  • “Between the World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Written as a letter to his teenage son, Coates provides a powerful perspective as a Black parent and challenges the notion of the American Dream.
  • “White Fragility” by Robin Di’Angelo highlights how avoiding uncomfortable conversations sustains racism.
  • W.K. Kellogg Foundation’s Healing in Action event (organized by Family Engagement Lab Board Director and WKKF Program Officer, Icela Pelayo) illuminated the many ways racism affects all of us, and offered concrete steps that everyone can take to heal and fix broken systems. Educators will appreciate suggestions from Diane Wolk-Rogers, teacher and survivor of the Parkland, FL school shooting.
  • Child Trends provides several resources on understanding student data from a racial equity perspective, and how to use data in ways that are empowering for marginalized communities.
  • How Discrimination Shapes Parent-Teacher Communication, from The Atlantic, November 15, 2016. 
  • Brown University economist, Emily Oster, questions why more attention is placed on how to open bars and less on how to open schools, and highlights how COVID-19 learning loss disproportionately affects Black and Latino students.
  • Is school funding equitable? Studies (Kitchens, 2019; Casio & Reber, 2013; Gordon, 2004) from the 2009 stimulus and across the history of Title I show that we have a long way to go.

Sincerely,

Vidya Sundaram
Co-Fou nder, Family Engagement Lab