What the Research Says on Engaging Native Families

November 2018
parent and child reading on a couch

Research shows that meaningful family engagement is one of the strongest predictors of children’s success in school, and indigenous families are important partners in improving outcomes for American Indian and Alaska Native (AIAN) students.

Our librarians compiled this list of evidence-based resources containing information on what changes schools can make to create a more welcoming school climate and increase the engagement of indigenous families in schools.

Examining American Indian Perspectives in the Central Region on Parent Involvement in Children’s Education

Based on interviews of five groups consisting of 47 self-selected AIAN parents, this study found that factors perceived to encourage parent involvement included a caring, supportive and communicative school staff and culturally respectful environment; access to American Indian programs, resource centers, after school activities and clubs; and the presence of an advocate or liaison in each school. Factors perceived to discourage parent involvement included feeling unwelcome or intimidated at the school and perceptions of racism and discrimination; experiencing scheduling, transportation, childcare and financial difficulties; and having prior negative experiences in their own or their children’s education.

Predictors of Parent Involvement and Their Impact on Access of Postsecondary Education Facilitators Among White and American Indian Parents

This study examined demographic factors as predictors of parent involvement (engagement with school, support of learning, support of child) among parents of children that attended a school implementing a college access program. The study indicated that family characteristics may be important factors in understanding both parent involvement and access of postsecondary education facilitators. The findings also provided support that AIAN parents perceive themselves as active participants in their children’s education, while potentially highlighting the role that demographic factors (e.g., education) play in the access of postsecondary education facilitators, regardless of involvement levels.

Promising Education Interventions to Improve the Achievement of Native American Students: An Annotated Bibliography

This annotated bibliography identifies promising programs, policies, practices and processes—and supporting research—that may benefit educators in their efforts to close the AIAN achievement gap. The 33 articles in this bibliography inform or describe interventions for improving the achievement of AIAN students including parent, family and community involvement.

Our Voice, Your Voice, One Voice: Nurturing American Indian Families for School Success

This report investigates the complexities of low achievement that evidently led to a pernicious dropout problem experienced by North Carolina’s AIAN students. While students in grades 3–12 showed gains on year-end tests, the dropout rate for AIAN students did not improve. Through interviews with North Carolina AIAN parents, the report found that parents are concerned about teachers’ and administrators’ levels of awareness regarding their children’s cultural diversity. Parents also wanted more attention given to North Carolina Indians in social studies and history curriculums and textbooks, more encouragement for their children to be involved in school activities and partnerships between families and schools to incorporate American Indian traditions and culture into their schools.