Strategies for Equitable Family Engagement: Building Relationships Between Staff and Families

No school can work well for children if parents and teachers do not act in partnership on behalf of the children’s best interests.

– Dorothy Cohen

Building Relationships Between Staff and Families

Welcome families in consistently appropriate and culturally competent ways.

So that all families feel welcome at all events and engagement opportunities, educators must build cultural competency at both systemic and individual levels. Staff training in parent engagement, as well as in topics of diversity, is essential to support these activities. All staff should be welcoming, accessible, and available to minimize barriers to family participation. In practice, this can include agreed-upon processes for interacting with parents in the school building.

Provide families with relevant information about school systems.

Families often need basic information about how education systems work, such as how to seek services or enroll their children in advanced learning opportunities. Certain populations, especially immigrant families facing linguistic barriers and families of students with disabilities, may need more information about how the local education system works so that they can advocate effectively for their children.

Districts can begin the school year with informational events and related communications that provide this background knowledge before expecting parents to access services or network with staff.

Communicate based on cultural norms and priorities.

Families communicate and engage in a variety of different ways; for some schools, there may be significant differences between typical communication practices and family preferences (e.g., families preferring texting rather than after-school calls or informal conversations rather than formal conferences). Using only a limited range of communication methods can hinder family engagement over time.

Adapting communications to reflect both school and family cultural norms and priorities can make it easier for families to engage and help school staff build rapport and trust with families.

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