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Working with Culturally Diverse Families


Engaging Culturally Diverse Families for Student Success

A student with a disability is first, and foremost, a student who is a member of the school community. In order for parents of students with disabilities to be meaningfully involved as a member of their child’s Individualized Education Program team, they first need to feel welcomed and valued. They must also understand how “regular education” works.

When schools are intentional and proactive in using culturally-competent strategies to provide information and support to families who are from diverse cultures or speak another language, they pave the way for meaningful family engagement, and better outcomes for students.

Video Series - Parent Voices on Parent Involvement

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Research on Parent Involvement with Diverse Families

In order to work effectively with families from diverse backgrounds, schools professionals need to understand the culture of the families they work with, and design outreach and communication strategies that respond to the specific social, cultural and linguistic needs and values of that group.    This page includes a representative list of recent research literature on multicultural parent involvement and engagement, particularly those which address the interests and needs of educators.

National Researched-based Practice Guides & Tools for Engaging Families from Diverse Cultures

This compilation of family engagement resources is a representative list of research-based practice guides and tools, particularly those which address the interests and needs of educators. The list is not exhaustive, and inclusion on this list is not an endorsement of the particular resource. The publications are arranged in order of the date of publication.

Resources for Parents from Diverse Cultures

These tools are designed to help schools work with parents from diverse cultures to support the family’s engagement in their child’s education.  Tools are provided to help parents support their child’s academic performance, become more informed decision makers about their child’s education, and improve home-school communication and partnership. The tools for parents are also available in Spanish, Hmong and Somali.

Resources for Educators

Recorded professional development trainings that provide strategies for building effective partnerships with families. Related printed resources are also made available.

Parent and Educator Perspectives

In addition to research-based information on effective family engagement practices, we wanted to hear directly from culturally and linguistically diverse parents and other family members about what they need to be meaningfully involved in their child’s education.  We also wanted to hear from educators about what tools, support, or resources they need to promote family engagement with these families, with the shared goal of increasing student achievement. We gathered this information by conducting culturally-specific parent focus groups and facilitating interactive school-staff discussion groups.

National Parent Involvement and Family Engagement Organizations

Links to organizations with helpful information and resources for outreach to multi-cultural families.  

About Us –

The Minnesota School and Family Connection project is a 5-year collaborative effort by PACER Center, Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) and Minneapolis and St. Paul school districts to increase effective family engagement with culturally and linguistically diverse families, with a focus on families of children with disabilities. MDE defines family engagement as “the collaboration of families, schools and communities as active partners in the shared responsibilities of ensuring each student’s success in lifelong learning and development.” The project has been funded by the MDE’s federal State Personnel Development Grant award.

Schools with high numbers of children with disabilities who are also English Language learners or from minority backgrounds face unique challenges to student achievement. Research, as well as experience, has shown parent involvement and engagement to be key factors in student success.

Building on a foundation of current research and supported by parent focus group and school staff feedback, PACER parent advocates and multicultural specialists worked with school staff to design customized training and resources for families and educators. The strategies, activities, tools and resources have been researched, produced, piloted, refined, and made available for use by educators and families.

Training videos, research literature, practice guides and tools are offered for educators and school administrators to build effective home-school communication and promote meaningful family engagement. Families will find corresponding resources created just for them and translated into Spanish, Somali and Hmong on our Parent Page. Be sure to explore the parent tools and resources and share them with families you are working with, or use them in your parent outreach events at school.

Thanks for all you do!

The parent is the expert on their child. The educator has expertise in their field. Together we can make a difference!

“I am not sure about school expectations and the level of support for such engagement. I feel the school needs to provide encouragement and support for parent involvement.”
~ A Hmong parent

“We do care and want the family’s support. We cannot do it alone.”
~ A classroom teacher