Effective Ways to Engage Underserved Students

Written by Dr. Gail L. Thompson on November 16, 2017

Presented by Dr. Gail Thompson – Transcription Below

Introduction

Hello everyone. Welcome to the Illuminate Whiteboard Series. I’m Dr. Gail Thompson, Professional Development and Equity Expert at Illuminate Education. I’m also an author and researcher. Today, I want to talk about parent engagement because educators know that parent involvement is important and it’s correlated to many other outcomes such as higher grades, higher test scores, better school attendance, and higher graduation rates. However, many school leaders and teachers find that in some schools, participation rates are lower among some of the parents of historically underserved students, and I’m talking about African-American, Latino, English language learners, and low-income students.

Increase Parent Involvement
So here are some simple strategies to increase parent involvement. First of all, it’s important to make sure that the school climate is welcoming and here’s a questionnaire/checklist that you can use as a guide to determine if that school climate is welcoming. First of all, do all students, regardless of race, gender, and socioeconomic status, receive equal educational opportunities? Do all school leaders, teachers, and staff treat all parents and guardians respectfully? Do district and school level decision-making processes involve the parents and students who have historically been underserved? So make sure that school climate is welcoming.

Watch Out for Barriers
Second, it’s important to identify mindsets, unconscious biases, stereotypes, and fears that will impede your work with parents or guardians because that’s one of the biggest complaints that I hear from African-American in particular parents and guardians. It’s how they are treated at schools and how their children are treated as a result of negative mindsets of school leaders and educators.

Don’t Wait Until It’s Too Late
Also, it’s important not to wait until the situation has gotten of control before contacting the parent or guardian. Start early in the year and send the parents and guardians positive information about their children, so if the time comes when there is a problem, they’ve already gotten to know you and you’ve already made an effort to reach out to them about their child before the situation gets out of control. It’s important to present the parent or guardian with a balanced picture, try not to be defensive, do not talk down the parents or guardians, and then put yourself in that parent or guardian’s shoes. If your child were in a predicament of that parent’s child, how would you want to be treated?

Workshops May Be A Good Idea
Then make sure that parent and guardian workshops are offered on a regular basis at your school and in your district because these workshops can help parents learn strategies that they can use to help their students academically. Also, make sure that these workshops provide parents and guardians with resources and information that can help them prepare their children for college, information that can enable them to work together with educators and school leaders. And then also, these workshops are a subtle way of many parents and guardians know that they are truly welcome at the school site. And then these workshops are another opportunity to let the parents know that you do care about underrepresented students and their parents and guardians.

In Conclusion
So let me conclude by reminding you that all individuals, including underrepresented students and their parents or guardians, want and deserve to be treated with dignity and respect. The simple strategies that I’ve shared with you can help you improve your relations with both of these groups. However, whenever you are in doubt about how to treat an African-American, Latino, English language learner, a low-income or Latino parent or guardian or student, remember to result to the golden rule and that is treat that individual in the same way in which you would want to be treated if you were in their shoes. Have a wonderful day, hope to see you again soon.

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One thought on “Effective Ways to Engage Underserved Students”

  1. Great article. I have always worked in schools with a high Title 1 and minority population. I find the parents I work with have great intentions, but very limited time. Involving all parents and treating them with respect regardless of background should be a given! We also need to respect parents who feel they do not measure up to the “new way” teaching and learning take place. Methods used to teach concepts, especially in schools where project based learning and high DOK’s level instruction is integrated, does not always align to what our parents and guardians are used to. I have found using technology strategically can be very effective in honoring their time and lifestyles of our families. For example, I send weekly updates via email–pushed out through Google Classroom–with brief tips and tutorial videos to help parents/guardians and students. These are very effective and less daunting than a full blown newsletter or on-site class. Creating home-school bonds takes persistence, time, and patience, but has great payoffs; especially when equitably reaching out to all parents and guardians.

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