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  Family and Community Involvement: Reaching Out to Diverse Populations
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Strategy 1: Know Your Community

Where do teachers, principals and superintendents begin? How can you meaningfully involve parents in ways that go beyond parent-teacher night or a signature on a report card? How will your school work with parents to set goals, implement reforms and evaluate whether they are improving student achievement?

Encouraging more parents and community members to become involved in your school begins with knowing your community. This means identifying leaders and education issues that your community cares about most.

A good way to begin identifying leaders in your community is to talk with individuals who lead the local Chambers of Commerce, community colleges, churches, cultural foundations and social service agencies. City Council members and owners of established, neighborhood businesses also are good sources. Seek out community groups and businesses that have long-time roots in the community. Learn who carries influence and clout in your community. Find out who gets things done. This becomes increasingly important as you build community support for school improvement efforts.

Who’s who in your community:

  • Identify the religious, cultural, political, civic and social organizations in your community that work with minority and low income parents and residents

  • Identify parents, community advocates and business leaders who are well respected and have credibility with culturally and linguistically diverse populations

  • Create a contact list that has the most up-to-date information about leaders and organizations and what issues matter to them most

  • Meet regularly with as many community leaders and groups as possible to discuss ways you can work together

  • Follow-through regularly with community groups on next steps; share information


Don’t forget to overlook less visible community leaders, too. Reach deep into the community to find lesser known, but just as influential advocates: a local grocer, a grandmother, a block captain or housing project leader. While these community members may not be as high profile as others, they are tuned into the issues confronting the neighborhood and can help you craft school events or meetings with these issues in mind. They also know what motivates community members to get involved in schools. Ultimately, parents and community members become involved in schools when they see how education affects what is most important in their lives.

As you connect with community leaders and advocates, provide them with information about your school’s reform efforts, demographics, student achievement results and a calendar of upcoming meetings and events. As you build relationships with these leaders, encourage them to participate in school activities, tutor students, contribute funds or sponsor school activities at their business. They can also encourage their employees or members to become more involved. Work with your school staff to identify how best to tap the expertise and resources in your community.

What issues does the community care about most? Find out by asking your community.

  • Conduct formal and informal surveys, both written and by word of mouth. Ask parents if they talk regularly with their child’s teacher. What concerns do they have about their child’s education? In what ways do parents want to be involved in school? How do they view their child’s school?

  • Attend monthly meetings of different groups representing parents, community members and business leaders. What concerns do these groups raise about public education? How do views vary from one group to the next?

  • Hold a series of neighborhood coffees in parents’ homes and visit work sites to find out from employers and employees what they think about schools. If they were the principal, what school improvement efforts would they put in place?

  Family and Community Involvement: Reaching Out to Diverse Populations
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