• by Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., Juanita C. García, Ph.D., and Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D.  • IDRA Newsletter • September 2011 •

Dr. Abelardo VillarrealJuanita GarciaRosana RodriguezIDRA has developed a series for educators to give ideas and help educators gain greater benefits from effective parent and community engagement  to ensure school success for all children. There are seven issues in the series, one for each month of the school year. Each includes a theme for the month, classroom tips, an equity goal for the month, ideas for breaking down barriers, a self assessment tool, an action planning guide and resource suggestions. What follows is an excerpt from the first issue.

Parent and Community Engagement Leads to Student Success

Research confirms that strong school-home partnerships enhance teaching and learning. Engagement is a shared responsibility that builds trust over time and nurtures and supports students’ graduation and college readiness. Strong relationships with parents and community are built on valuing students, their families and communities as partners in education. Thus, positive attitudes are key to establishing a culture of engagement. Actively honoring and preserving language and cultural traditions are key to supporting successful engagement. It has been said that a people without knowledge of its language and culture is like a tree without roots. Parents, families, educators and communities help to foster the values and culture that sustain an ever-emerging civilization. Language is not only the expression of a culture; language generates culture. This series is designed to give you ideas to create a culture of engagement with parents and community as partners to ensure school success for all children.

This Month’s Theme…

Knowing the history, culture, knowledge and wisdom of the community we serve empowers educators to be more effective.

What We Should Know…

  • Parents have unique contributions that support children’s learning that must be tapped by the school.
  • Parent and community involvement enhances, deepens and accelerates children’s learning at all levels.
  • Learning is enhanced through mutual trust and respect between educators and community.
  • Effective partnerships of parents, educators and community for learning are built upon a valuing model (no-blame, no-deficit).

What We Can Do…

Schools and communities must respect the language, history, culture, knowledge and wisdom of one another.*

  • Incorporate the community’s wisdom into the curriculum.
  • Honor the knowledge, language and resources of families and communities.
  • Make the school’s policies and practices more understandable, inclusive, and accessible to the community.
  • Work toward mutual understanding and trust.

Apply This Month’s Equity Goal

Ensure equitable treatment for all students. Patterns of interaction between individuals and within an environment are characterized by acceptance, valuing, respect, support, safety and security such that students feel challenged to become invested in the pursuits of learning and excellence without fear of threat, humiliation, danger or disregard. Some examples:

  • Implement decision-making strategies that seek parents’ engagement as equal partners.
  • Create and support positive cross-cultural interaction among staff, parents and students.
  • Set policies to assure non-discrimination under Title VI, Title IX, Section 509 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Catalyzing for Action

Challenge: Form a community of practice involving community, family, students and school stakeholders that reflects a range of perspectives to conduct a self-assessment of a school’s status in relation to the equity goal addressed in this month’s issue. Conduct an assessment of your current engagement by reflecting upon and discussing each of the following items. Then use this self-assessment to plan for effective engagement in the section below.

  • 1) Is training provided for staff, students and parents in prejudice reduction, non-discrimination, and the eradication of racism, sexism and classism?
  • 2) Are training and development being provided in areas such as problem solving, decision making, conflict resolution, interpersonal and cross-cultural communication?
  • 3) Does the staff create and implement plans for decreasing isolation, separation, and segregation between and among racially and culturally different students?
  • 4) Do the interactions of all individuals – including staff, students and parents – reflect sensitivity to and respect for the language, cultural and class differences of others?
  • 5) Is there evidence of equitable support, treatment, assistance and guidance given to students, parents and staff?

Plan Together for Effective Engagement

Action: Use this section to continuously improve your community engagement using an equity lens. Determine one action that each stakeholder will implement. Review the progress being achieved around each of the equity goals already addressed.

  • What’s working?
  • What’s holding us back?
  • What can be improved?
  • Next actions
  • By when?

Classroom Tips for Establishing Partnerships for Student Success

Proverbs cleverly express the folk wisdom of diverse cultures in memorable ways. Many people, including speakers of other languages, have grown up with proverbs taught to them by parents, grandparents and other family members. Try these ideas…

  • Use proverbs to honor culture.
  • Teach students how to play with language and how to deal with life.
  • Draw on the arts to help students appreciate their cultural heritage.
  • Strengthen students’ linguistic skills through cultural and ethnic literature.
  • Improve students’ abilities to cope and thrive in our complex world by discussing scenarios.

Related Resources



IDRA Classnotes Podcast

IDRA’s Community Engagement Series for Educators, by Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., Juanita C. García, Ph.D., and Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D., is available from IDRA for $15 per set of seven issues.

Rosana G. Rodríguez, Ph.D., is director of development. Juanita C. García, Ph.D., is an education associate in IDRA Field Services. Abelardo Villarreal, Ph.D.,  is the director of IDRA Field Services. Comments and questions may be directed to them via e-mail at feedback@idra.org.

[©2011, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the September 2011 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]