During a recent panel on the state of education for Black students, an interviewer asked, “What can we do to get more of the Black community involved in education?” The implication that the Black community is not involved or does not care about its children’s education is far from the truth.
There is an assumption that Black families are not interested in the education of their children because they do not engage the same ways White parents do by joining PTA meetings or running for a school board position. But Black parents are involved in culturally relevant ways by reinforcing their child’s self-worth and giving them the tools and courage to fight against discrimination and injustice.
A recent poll of Black and Latino parents shows that it is not only in their interest to improve their children’s education, but the poll also demonstrated their awareness of structural inequities. Parents want public schools to provide rigor, safety and great teachers.
The history of this country began with laws that prevented Black people from reading and writing. Brown v. Board of Education started with twenty Black parents who sued on behalf of their children to end legal segregation of public schools.
Unfortunately, Black parents continue to bring lawsuits against states and school districts who have failed to fulfill the promise of Brown. There are over 200 desegregation cases still on the federal dockets.
Black parents not only care about their children’s education but also view education as a powerful tool towards social, economic and political freedom. The Black community and parents are and have always been invested in education, so schools should do much more to provide inclusive communities. Research shows that when schools, communities and families work together, children do better in school.
Schools are often the center of communities. Teachers and administrators must understand the history and culture of the locations that they operate in. In order to do this, teachers must make an effort to know their students and their parents.
Teachers should reach out to parents not only to deliver bad news, but to celebrate achievements and build relationships with them. Some schools have achieved this by requiring teachers to visit children and parents at home.
One of my teachers who I learned the most from knew her students’ personal and academic strengths and weaknesses. She was able to manage her classroom very well because of the connection she had with each of her students and their parents. She also gave space for parents to volunteer in her classroom.
Schools must be welcoming to children as well as their families so that students can grow personally and academically.
By providing parents with opportunities to volunteer in classrooms, meeting informally and formally with teachers, and spending more time on campuses, schools could provide parents with more opportunities to engage in their children’s education.
Although Black parents have always been involved in their children’s education, schools can do more to better connect with parents and build communities within schools.