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Working with Culturally Diverse Families

PACER Resources

Achieve The Plan Game - for School Staff

This fun and easy-to-play game will guide your staff along the path to “Achievement City.” Players will learn of shortcuts to their parent involvement goals and discover some traps to avoid along the way. This great conversation starter will provide ideas to improve your school’s parent involvement.

Download the Gameboard, Rules and Action Cards Here

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.

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Multicultural Families

Strategies for Equitable Family Engagement

State Support Network (2018)

This resources provides an overview of evidence-based strategies that schools and districts may use to promote equitable family engagement practices. It includes summaries of research on the topic and examples of school and district practices.

Six Steps to Partner with Diverse Families

National Association of Elementary School Principals (2016-17)

Buchanan, K. & Buchanan, T.

Best Practices in Engaging Diverse Families

Hanover Research (2016)

This report examines literature and case studies of engaging diverse families in public, K12 settings, with a particular focus on large, urban school districts, and the experience of African American and Hispanic families.

New Guidance for Partnering with Diverse Families: The National Framework for Dual Capacity-Building [Webinar]

Schools Moving Up v2 (2014)

Mapp, Karen

An interactive webinar with Karen Mapp, Senior Lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education, describing what educators need to do to reach all families and embed family engagement in all school and district systems.

Overcoming the Language Barrier: Effective Strategies parent groups use to reach out to non-English speakers

PTO Today (2014)

Beck, Evelyn

This online article explains ways in which language barriers can effect parental participation in school activities and how to overcome these obstacles.

FACE Handbook on Family and Community Engagement

Academic Development Institute / Center on Innovation & Improvement (2011)

Redding, S., Murphy, M., & Sheley, P., Eds.

Topic 12: Bridging Language and Culture, by Patricia Gándara, pgs. 117-120

Topic 13: Minority Families and Schooling, by Susan J. Paik, pgs. 121-124

Topic 15: Families of Children with Disabilities: Building School-family Partnership, by Eva Patrikakou, pgs. 131-134

(Includes practice guidelines)

Culturally Diverse Families: Enhancing Home-School Relationship

National Association of School Psychologists, Communiqué Handout, 38 (6) (2010)

Jones, Janine M.

Includes characteristics of culturally responsive and collaborative home-school environments, key strategies to enhance collaboration, and summary.

Minority Parent and Community Engagement: Best Practices and Policy Recommendations for Closing the Gaps in Student Achievement


Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund, Los Angeles, CA, and National Education Association, Washington D.C. (Report based on the Ethnic Minority Parent Engagement Summit in Los Angeles, CA)

This report provides best practices for engaging ethnic minority parents, including African Americans, Latinos, American Indians, Asian Americans and other racial, ethnic, and minority communities. It identifies dynamics that hinder parental engagement, successful strategies that strengthen parental engagement, and provides recommendations for improving state and national parental engagement policies.

Growing Your Capacity to Engage Diverse Communities by Working with Community Liaisons and Cultural Brokers

National Center for Family and Professional Partnerships, Family Voices, Inc., Albuquerque, NM (2009)

Jones, W. and Thomas, T.

Handbook on one approach to family engagement: using community liaisons and cultural brokers to reach families of diverse backgrounds.

For Diverse Families, Parent Involvement Takes on a New Meaning. National Staff Development Council

30(4), 65-66 (2009)

Nelson, S.W. & Guerra, P.L.

This article offers a definition of parent involvement, parent engagement, and parent empowerment, and explains that some forms of involvement, especially in the case of linguistically, culturally, and economically diverse families, may go unrecognized by schools. The article discusses five categories of ways in which parents and families may be involved in their children’s education that go beyond the traditional forms.

Communicating Effectively with Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Families

NASP Communiqué, Vol. 36(8) (2008)

Guerrero, C. and Leung, B.

This column is intended to raise awareness of the issue and to enhance competencies of school psychologists in their work with students and families from CLD backgrounds.

Creating Culturally Responsive Parent Engagement

Intercultural Development Research Association, San Antonio, TX (2008)

Rodriguez, R., Lopez del Bosque, R., & Villarreal, A.

This article addresses the question: What can I do to ensure that culturally responsive engagement takes place? It shares effective and proven strategies used in schools that serve a diverse student body, particularly at the secondary level.

Working with Cultural and Linguistically Diverse Families

RTI Action Network, a project of the National Center for Learning Disabilities (2007-2008)

RTI Action Network

Provides information to schools about cultural competence, why it’s important, and how to ensure effective collaboration with culturally and linguistically diverse communities.

Reaching out to Diverse Populations: What Can Schools Do to Foster Family-School Connections?


National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools

A strategy brief with recommendations for increasing school and family connections for families from diverse backgrounds. Contains practical steps for putting these recommendations into practice at the school level, related research, and other resource books on this topic.

Culturally Responsive Parental Involvement: Concrete Understanding and Basic Strategies

The American Association of Colleges for Teacher Education (2002)

King, Sabrina Hope & Goodwin, A. Lin

This booklet explores culturally biased beliefs many educators frequently have toward their students and their students’ families, including misconceptions. It also explores ways educators and parents can work together to benefit students. This paper is meant to help professionals develop an understanding of culturally responsive parental involvement.

Building Support for Better Schools: Seven Steps to Engaging Hard-to-Reach Communities

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory (2000)

Southwest Educational Development Laboratory

This guide introduces seven steps for engagement, including: know your community, identify issues, designate facilitators, train facilitators, recruit participants, locate meeting sites, handle logistics and follow up with participants. Includes suggested activities. Available in Spanish.

Family Engagement

Teaching, a project of the Southern Poverty Law Center

Southern Poverty Law Center. (n.d.)

Brief article with tips for how teachers and administrators can welcome and communicate with culturally diverse parents and examples of how teachers were able to successfully reach out and overcome the barriers to engagement. Video interviews included.

Family Engagement Self Assessment

Family Support Council, Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council

Family Support Council, Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. (n.d.)

Self-assessment tool created to help organizations evaluation whether their services or agency is family friendly at all operational levels.

Immigrants, New Americans and Families of English Language Learners

Parent and Community Engagement

Education Week Spotlight, June 2017

This issue focuses on ways that schools can build meaningful relationships with families and their communities and features articles such as “Home-School Connections Helps ELLs and Their Parents” and “Parents Are Partners (Even if they Miss Back-to-School Night).” The article includes a list of tips for parent leaders.

Connecting with Immigrant Parents: One group’s innovative event to help immigrant parents adapt to US school culture provides lessons for reaching out to families

PTO Today (2014)

Catalano, Patty

This is an online article about a local PTA leader’s attempt to connect parents from immigrant communities with their local school by breaking down the barriers that prevented them from engaging. The article includes a list of tips for parent leaders.

Immigration Overview

Minnesota Compass (2014)

Brief overview and statistics by group (Hmong, Mexican, Somali and Vietnamese)

A Guide for Engaging ELL Families: Twenty Strategies for School Leaders

Colorín Colorado! (2011)

Family Support Council, Ohio Developmental Disabilities Council. (n.d.)

This guide provides 20 big ideas to help schools create a new ELL family engagement plan.

The New Age of Immigrants: Making Immigration Work for Minnesota

The Minneapolis Foundation (2010)

Otteson, Christa

This report summarizes a study commissioned by the Foundation to lay out immigration facts and pose unanswered questions. It forms the groundwork for informed, constructive discussion on immigration-related programs and public policies in Minnesota.

Increasing ELL Parental Involvement in Our Schools: Learning from the Parents

Theory Into Practice, 49, 106-112 (2010)

Panferov, Suzanne

Engaging parents as advocates for school success in the home is particularly important for English Language Learners (ELL). Tapping into the experiences of ELL parents in their own lives about schooling and literacy is a resource educators can use to increase parental involvement. This article describes the stories of two parents and compares their experiences with schools, their personal views of literacy, and how the home environment might support school literacy and academic success.

Building Collaboration between Schools and Parents of English Language Learners: Transcending Barriers, Creating Opportunities

Practitioner Brief of the National Center for Culturally Responsive Educational Systems (2008)

Waterman, R. and Harry B.

This policy brief discusses barriers to engagement with the school for parents of ELL students, and concrete suggestions for overcoming them.

Promoting ELL Parental Involvement: Challenges in Contested Times

Arizona State University (January 2008)

M. Beatriz Arias, Ph.D., Milagros Morillo-Campbell, Ph.D.

This policy brief analyzes factors related to the implementation of effective parental involvement with English Language Learners (ELLs), including characteristics of the ELL student and parent population; barriers to family engagement with schools; and traditional and non-traditional parental involvement models.

Involving Refugee Parents in their Children’s Education

Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services Spring 2007 Spotlight (2007)

Bridging Refugee Youth & Children’s Services

This article discusses some of the barriers that immigrant and refugee families face when engaging with their child’s school, including cultural differences, language barriers, educational levels, and logistical considerations. It includes specific recommendations to address these barriers.

Immigrants in Minnesota: An increasingly diverse population

Minnesota State Demographic Center (2000)

Ronningen, Barbara J.

(Search under publications by date and topic “immigration”)

Contains immigration dates, history of immigration to U.S. and Minnesota, non-English speaking students, and population maps by group.

Multicultural Families of Children with Disabilities

Decreasing Dropout Rates for Minority Male Youth with Disabilities from Culturally and Ethnically Diverse Backgrounds

National Dropout Prevention Center for Students with Disabilities (Clemson University, 2012)

This monograph explores the problem of high school dropout rates among American Indian, African American, and Latino males with disabilities. It provides an in-depth look into the specific obstacles that impede this young population from graduating, while offering direction and articulating crucial changes that must be made to better serve these students.

NTACT Focuses on Strategies for Decreasing the Dropout Rate for Males with Disabilities from Culturally and Ethnically Diverse Backgrounds

National Technical Assistance Center on Transition (2017)

List of strategies for parent engagement and cultural diversity that schools can use to help with school completion for males with disabilities from culturally and ethnically diverse backgrounds.

Quick Guide: Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Youth-Secondary Transition

This guide provides information about ways that staff can support culturally and linguistically diverse families and student in the transition process. It also discusses perspective barriers and contains a list of resources.

Involving immigrant parents of students with disabilities in the educational process

Teaching Exceptional Children, 34(5), 52-58 (2002)

Al-Hassan, S., and Gardner III, R.

This article contains practical suggestions for schools (teachers and administrators) to help overcome the main barriers for immigrant groups to participate, including language barrier, lack of information, teachers learning about culture, effect of parent’s negative educational experiences, unfamiliarity with U.S. educational system, and differing views on parent involvement.

Serving the Underserved: A review of the research and practice in child find, assessment, and the IFSP/IEP process for culturally and linguistically diverse young children

ERIC and Council for Exceptional Children, Arlington, VA. (2001)

ERIC and Council for Exceptional Children

Looks at initial identification, referral, evaluation, assessment and development of the IFSP and IEP for young children.

Hispanic/Latino Families

Parental Involvement in children’s education: considerations for school counselors working with Latino immigrant families

Professional School Counseling, 16, 185-193 (2013)

Gonzalez, L. M., Borders, L. D., Hines, E. M., Villaba, J. A., & Henderson, A.

The Hoover-Dempsey et al. (2005) model of parents’ involvement in their children’s schools has recently been applied to Latino immigrant families. This article reviews that literature and then describes culturally appropriate strategies for school counselors to work with this population, focusing on teacher and counselor invitations to the family; parent and partnership-focused role construction; and flexible formats for involvement that respect families with limited time. The article includes a sample Latino family night program.

Why Latino parent engagement in education is crucial

NBC Latino. (2012)

Ramos, Elaine

This is an online article that describes the barriers to Latino parent engagement. It contains a short description of two programs that are taking steps to increase the involvement of Latino parents by identifying these barriers and finding ways to overcome them.

Communicating with Latino Parents and Families

NASP Communiqué, Vol. 37(4) (2008)

Pena, Anna M., Silva, Arlene, Claro, Carolina, Gamarra, Alberto, & Parra, Elena.

Contains the following sections: General characteristics and demographics of the U.S. Latino population; identity development and acculturation; general family beliefs regarding mental health and disabilities; communication styles; strategies to increase Latino parent participation in the schools; and suggestions for cross-cultural collaboration or advocacy.

African American Families

Reconsidering Parental Involvement: Implications for Black Parents

Online Publications of Undergraduate Studies, Department of Applied Psychology, New York University (2014)

Roberts, Steven O

The purpose of this review is to shed insight into a more culturally sensitive conceptualization of parental involvement by furthering our understanding of how black parents may seek to promote their children’s academic achievement, especially in light of the suggestion made by current literature that black parents are less involved in their children’s academic lives than they actually are.

Engagement without Judgment: Building Effective School, Family and Community Partnerships for African American Learners: A Primer for Teachers and Administrators

ISAAC (Institute for the Study of the African American Child), Wayne State University, Vol. 1(2) (2010)

Williams, T., Pemberton, K. & Dyce, C.

A case is made for teachers and administrators to understand how to build effective engagements with African American families and communities without prejudging the sociocultural practices, mores, experiences, daily realities, and historical memory of this community. We provide culturally sensitive, responsive, and community appropriate strategies for teachers and administrators to more effectively engage African American families and communities for the betterment of African American learners.

“The Need for Advocacy with African American Parents.” Counseling Today

American Counseling Association, Alexandria, VA. (May 1, 2012)

Griffin, Dana

This article reports on a focus group study on perceptions about parent involvement of a small group of African American women. The conclusion drawn from the group's participants was, “The mothers in this study said school counselors should take a more proactive role in helping African American children and their families in advocating for equality in the schools.”

African American families in the special education process: Increasing their level of involvement

Intervention in School & Clinic, 45(2), 85–90 (2009)

Brandon, R. R., & Brown, M. R. (2009)

The authors look at a variety of factors that may explain why many African American parents are reluctant to engage with school administrators and teachers, and they offer practical solutions for schools to encourage family participation. The strategies presented address the academic needs of these students, the concerns of their parents, and the challenges facing schools.

Effective Communication with Black Families and Students

NASP Communiqué, 37(3). (2008)

Chandler, D., A’Vant, E. R. & Graves, S. L.

Contains sections on background on black families, communication styles, help-seeking behaviors, attribution of handicapping condition, and suggestions for effective intergroup collaborations with black clients.

African-American and Chinese-American Parent Involvement: The Importance of Race, Class, and Culture

Harvard Family Research Project, Boston, MA. (2006)

Diamond, J., Wang, L., & Gomez, K.

This research report compares African American and Chinese-American parent involvement. In particular, it focuses on each group’s involvement orientations and examines how they identify and activate resources to support their participation.

Best Practice Issue #2: Engaging Families of African American Learners

Mid Atlantic Equity Consortium. (n.d.)

Includes a summary and other resources on the topic.

Native American Families

Striving to Achieve: Helping Native American Students Succeed

National Caucus of Native American State Legislators, Education Committee (2008)

This report is the result of a commissioned study on the academic performance of American Indian, Alaskan Native and Native Hawaiian students and policy recommendations for State legislators compiled by the NCNASL. It contains a section on “Strengthening Parent, Family and Community Support” on pages 25-28.

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

State Advisory Council on Indian Education 2004 Report to the State Board of Education. (2004)

This report contains a chapter on Family Involvement in Education on pages 38-48.

Somali Families

Khalid’s Story: A Mother’s fight against stigma in her own community

Star Tribune, Minneapolis, MN (2013)

Brunswick, Mark

This article discusses parental advocacy, cultural perceptions of disability, and mistrust of government services.

Somalis in Minnesota

Minnesota Historical Society Press (2012)

Yusuf, Ahmed Ismail

This is a great primer to learn more about Somali culture. It is very easy to read and well-structured.

Teaching Somali Immigrant Children: Resources for Student Success

Canadian Multicultural Education Foundation, Alberta, Canada (2012)

Mulki, A., Franklin, K., Harvey, K., Hussein G., Lees, S.L., Munro, J., & Yelich B.

Helpful sections in this large document include: A guide for educators on understanding Somali culture and immigration; connecting your school with the Somali community; and lesson ideas to use with Somali immigrants around identity and their immigration experience.

Journey into the Somali Culture

National Association of School Psychologists Communiqué Online, Washington, D.C.

Castel Abigail F., &, Kurata, Susie

Provides information on the history of Somali immigration and refugee status, the role of religion on culture, family practices and values, stressors for refugee children, and cultural entry experience and implications for school psychology.

Becoming Minnesotan: Stories of Refugees and Recent Immigrants

American Council of Catholic Bishops, Washington, D.C.

An excellent compendium of resources for Somali youth, parents, and professionals.

Positive Youth Development and Somali Youth, Bridging Refugee Youth and Children’s Services

MN Historical Society

MN Historical Society (2004)

Brief interview with Abdisalam Adam, Somali resource teacher in the St. Paul Public Schools.

Charter Schools: Choice of Somali-American Parents?

Bildhaan, 11, Macallister College, MN. (Feb. 20, 2010)

Hussein, Farhan

Contains a research study about why Somali parents chose charter schools in Minnesota, the factors that influence their educational decision making, and what they consider to be a priority for their child’s education.

Hmong Families

Family Engagement (General)

Teachers Involve Parents in Schoolwork

National Network of Partnership Schools, Johns Hopkins University. (n.d.)

A useful teacher-parent partnership process that aims to forge a three-way relationship between teachers, parents and their children through a creative approach to homework. This tool was developed by the John’s Hopkins Center National Network of Partnership Schools.

Ways to Build Involvement: Getting more parents to participate is as easy as A,B,C when you follow this list of best practices

PTO Today (2014)

Bystrynski, Craig

This is an A-Z list of best practices for building parent engagement.

Is Your School Family Friendly?

PTO Today (2013)

Underhill, John

An article from PTO that describes the steps that parents and administrators can take to assess how welcoming their school is to parents and other visitors. It includes a checklist for “How to Evaluate Your School” and “Ideas for Creating a Welcoming School.”

Strong family-school collaboration can help all students succeed

AMLE (Association for Middle Level Education) Magazine (September, 2013)

Hutchins, Darcy

This article reviews the lessons learned from a study of policy and practice in middle schools. The findings should help other educators improve school, family, and community partnership programs that contribute to student achievement and success in school.

Getting Parents Involved in Schools: Meeting the Challenge (May 1, 2013)

The Center for Comprehensive School Reform and Improvement

This article offers research-based advice and resources designed to help schools and districts foster successful parent involvement.

Family Involvement

Harvard Family Research Project. (n.d.)

Resources and publications include:

Parent’s Guide to Student Success (Grades: Kindergarten – High School)


National PTA

A guide for parents to learn the key things their child will learn in English/literacy and math in kindergarten through high school, ideas for activities to help your child learn at home, and topics of discussion for talking to your child’s teacher about his or her academic progress.

Local, State and National Family Engagement Initiatives


Connecticut School-Family-Community Partnerships: Ten Steps to Success for Developing Title I Family School Compacts

Connecticut State Department of Education. (n.d.)

Title 1 parent involvement resources, including planning tools for districts and educators.


Parker School officials battle history to make parents partners in kids’ education

South Coast Today (May 18, 2014)

DeCosta, Steve & Kozma, Carol

A report on the outreach efforts undertaken by an underperforming school district in an effort to increase parent engagement. Discusses some of the barriers to parent engagement and reasons that parents may not already be involved. This initiative is one of several efforts being made by the school to increase student achievement.


Collaborating for Success - Parent Engagement Toolkit

(April, 2014)

Michigan MDE

A comprehensive, research-based resource that includes pertinent and practical information, proven strategies, and tools to assist school professionals and parents in enhancing parent engagement efforts. Materials are available in Spanish and Arabic, and address ways to engage parents from diverse backgrounds in “Strategies for Strong Parent and Family Engagement, Parts I, II, & III.”


Office of Student, Family and Community Engagement

Minneapolis Public Schools (n.d.)

Parent-Schools Partnerships

University of Minnesota Extension (n.d.)

How to Engage the Uninvolved Parent

University of Minnesota Extension (n.d.)

Outlines six key areas of parent best practices that contribute to children’s academic success: high expectations, structure, learning, support, relationships, and modeling.


Overview of Family and Community Support Programs

Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (n.d.)

New Mexico

Working Together: School-Family-Community Partnerships (A Toolkit for New Mexico School Communities)

New Mexico Public Education Department and the Center for the Education and Study of Diverse Populations, New Mexico Highlands University (2006)

New Mexico Public Education Department

A framework and resource rich toolkit designed to support sustainable family engagement initiatives that build capacity among educators and families to partner with one another around student success.

(Info regarding working with diverse families is on pages 43, 64-65, 69, 95-97, 322-323, 364, & 367; ELL: pages 105-106)

North Carolina

This is the website for the North Carolina State Improvement Project, which provides personnel development and program support services to significantly improve the performance and success of students with disabilities in North Carolina. Includes info for parent on how to support their child in math and reading instruction.


Tennessee State Personnel Development Grant (n.d.)

Resources for educators, parents and other professionals on parent engagement, including videos, literacy toolkits, and downloadable publications.


Tips and Strategies for Increasing Parent and Family Engagement in Virginia Schools (Improving Student Achievement and Outcomes through Parent and Family Involvement)

Virginia Department of Education and the Center for Family Involvement at the Partnership for People with Disabilities at Virginia Commonwealth University

Center for Family Involvement (n.d.)

Suggested tips and strategies for effective family engagement based on the results of a parent survey filled out by over 1,000 parents, teachers, and school administrators across Virginia.


The Family & Community Partnership Office: Be Informed, Be Prepared, Be Involved

Federal Way Public Schools (n.d.)

This webpage provides the district’s core information resources (Partnership 101 booklet and video) for facilitating discussion between parents with teachers; parents and their children; family liaisons and teachers; and parents with each other.


Multicultural Partnerships: Involve All Families

Eye on Education, Inc. (2012)

Hutchins, D. J., Greenfeld, M. D., Epstein, J. L., Sanders, M. S., & Galindo, C. L.

This books provides a step-by-step approach on how to increase parent involvement – including immigrant and refugee parents – in their children’s education at school and at home. The book contains a summary of current research on this topic, important logistical considerations, and an array of activities that support the creation of a multicultural school that welcomes all families, respects differences, and honors their common goals for student success.

Beyond the Bake Sale: The Essential Guide to Family-School Partnerships

The New Press, New York, NY (2007)

Henderson, Anne T., Mapp, Karen, Johnson, Vivian and Davies, Don

Refer to Chapter 6: Addressing Differences: How Can You Deal with Issues of Race, Class and Culture?

Webinars / Videos

Partnering with Diverse Families and Community Members


School Turnaround Learning Community

The webinar offers tools and guidance on ways to develop rich partnerships with diverse families and community members. The session explored the following questions, and featured school and district strategies to address and embrace diversity in ways that enable partnerships among home, school, and community: What must be considered when cultivating partnerships with families and community members from diverse racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds? How do we build “cultural competency” among our school and district staff? Who is responsible to lead this work?

Organizational Websites with Parent Engagement Resources