(inter)FACE: A Study of Black Families Advocating for their Children’s Education
Brown, Tara M
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Black students are consistently overrepresented in categories of academic underachievement. Parent engagement has long been touted as an effective strategy for improving the educational outcomes of Black children. However, most parent engagement research reflects deficit based perspectives frame Black parents as problems that must be fixed or mitigated before they can positively contribute to their children’s education. Consequently, parent engagement research and frameworks ignore the perspectives of Black parents and the assets they use to participate effectively in parent engagement. In this case study, I draw on individual and focus group interview data, documents, and observations, to examine how fifteen Black families, collectively known as FACE: 1) define and participate in parental engagement, 2) experience barriers to and opportunities for engagement, and 3) experience benefits of engagement for their children and their own personal development. Guided by Black Feminist and Critical Race Theories, I show how Black families in this study used a myriad of engagement strategies to improve their children’s educational experiences which were invisible to schools and how they used school-sanctioned engagement activities to meet their own objectives. Ultimately, I argue that school-centered parent engagement frameworks and models are ineffective for empowering Black families and accounting for the essential ways that these families contribute to the well-being of their children. Based on my findings, I discuss implications for theory, practice and policy, and research, and make recommendations for a more family-centered approach to parent engagement.