Cultures and Voices
Research shows a positive correlation between parent and family engagement in schools, so it is critical for schools to understand and listen to the voices of parents. If it takes a village to educate a child, schools must work to understand the families of the students they serve. By understanding their strengths, assets, skills and desires, schools and families can partner together to create mutually beneficial supports and expectations for students, while at the same time defining each of their important roles in the educational process.

The learning process occurs both in and out of school, anytime and anyplace. Parents and families play a critical role in supporting and nurturing their children, establishing high expectations, and extending learning beyond the school day. Parents and families can have the greatest influence on their children in defining and seeking their aspirations, expectations, opportunities, and achievement.

The voices of parents and families should be understood, seen, and heard in the school. Virtually all parents and families aspire for great things for their children; they want their children to succeed academically and to be productive citizens. Virtually all parents and families have knowledge, skills, assets, passions, and strengths that help their children and their school to achieve at a higher level. Highly effective schools are able to partner well with parents and families by tapping into their desires and strengths so the responsibility for education is shared between schools and families.

The voices of parents and families have become more important as schools have become more diverse. The United States admitted more legal immigrants from 1991 to 2000—between 10 and 11 million—than in any previous decade in its history. From 2001 to 2010, another 10 million immigrants came to our country, including many more school-aged children, resulting in more diverse school makeups. Schools that understand, appreciate, and tap into the voices and strengths of families can improve the achievement of all students.

This section focuses on understanding the voices of parents. It highlights their aspirations, expectations, desire for opportunities for their children, and their goals for high achievement by their students so they can maximize their potential, live productively, and have a bright future. A highlight of this section includes videos of parents telling their own stories, expressing their thoughts related to parenting, communicating, volunteering, decision making, learning at home, and the importance of collaborating in the educational process.