What the Research Says on Engaging Native Families

Date 

November 2018

Social 

Parent and students in Alaska classroom

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 (2008)

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 (2016)

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 (2015)

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 (2004)

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.

General Resources

Partners in Education: A Dual Capacity-Building Framework for Family–School Partnerships (2013)

This paper presents a framework for designing family engagement initiatives that build the capacity of educators and families to partner with each other around student success. The framework outlines the goals and conditions necessary to chart a path toward effective family engagement efforts that are linked to student achievement and school improvement. Many technical assistance providers use this U.S. Department of Education resource to develop systemic family engagement practices.

Family Engagement Action Plan/Alaska State Board of Education & Early Development (2010)

Many in Alaskan communities have been working diligently on improving family engagement by making concerted efforts to grow a culture of trust and partnership between families, community members and formal educators toward the goal of growing successful and happy graduates. This statewide plan begins with six components of family engagement, then outlines actions that can be taken at the state, district, school, community and family levels to encourage people at all levels in the education system to foster more opportunities for intentional engagement.