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Bolstering connections between children, teachers and communities

Jill Petty
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
Tel: 269.969.2079 or 617.291.1528

BATTLE CREEK, MI — In many schools, traditional family engagement activities—opportunities for parents and caretakers to make meaningful connections with staff—
are limited to serving as PTA members, trip volunteers or event planners.

The W.K. Kellogg Foundation (WKKF) report, “Cultivating A Community of Champions for Children Through Transformative Family Engagement,” highlights how equity-based family engagement creates opportunities for parents and caretakers to become effective advocates and culture-bearers in schools, which boosts relationships, improves educational quality and strengthens communities.

The report focuses on the work of 30 organizations in 17 states, tribal nations and the District of Columbia, in underserved communities where parents and caretakers navigate many barriers—
including constraints on time and money, and other obstacles. The grantees, awarded $13.7 million for work completed between 2014 and 2017, built greater capacity and resilience in schools through curricula and activities that tackled power dynamics, and centered parents and caregivers as experts and leaders.

Each equity-centered effort boosted culturally-relevant instruction and teaching—an essential for success, given teacher and student demographics. Currently only 20% of teachers are teachers of color, yet students of color make up the majority of K-12 classrooms. Projects highlighted in the report include:

The Power of Families (Tulsa, Oklahoma) https://csctulsa.org/the-power-of-families-project/
ran a summer camp designed to serve as a trial run for students entering pre-k and kindergarten, which helped to ease separation anxiety during this transition and welcomed parents into their children’s learning environment.

The Indian Creek Community School Garden
(Clarkston, Georgia) http://cdfaction.org/indian-creek-elementary-school-education-garden/ provided a space for families to plant produce from their home countries and share experiences with their children. At least 60 languages are spoken in this community, a site for refugee settlement since the 1990s.

Bass Museum of Art
(Miami Beach, Florida) https://thebass.org/ conducted a six week outreach program in underserved communities where adults and children read, painted and learned about art in their native languages.

The Intercultural Development Research Association
(San Antonio, Texas) https://www.idra.org/ formed a community council where people across the city were invited to discuss early childcare and resource and quality gaps in local preschools.

In just three years, impressive strides were made in schools and communities across the U.S. Children—including autistic and English Language Learner students, often the targets of bias—advocated for themselves in the classroom. Students felt more connected to their family history and culture, took new pride in their schools, and experienced increases in both literacy and social well-being.

Families became more confident as they gained new skills and knowledge, and became more informed about school policy at local, state and federal levels. Many immigrant families even spoke openly about challenges like fear of deportation. “I actually feel as though my input was heard and will make a difference,” said one parent involved in the K’é Early Childhood Initiative in Denver, Colorado https://collegefund.org/ And schools reported increases in student attendance, parent-teacher conference participation and parent volunteerism.

To access a PDF version of this study:

To access PDF versions of the executive summary and infographic:


The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, founded in 1930 as an independent, private foundation by breakfast cereal innovator and entrepreneur, Will Keith Kellogg, is among the largest philanthropic foundations in the United States. Guided by the belief that all children should have an equal opportunity to thrive, WKKF works with communities to create conditions for vulnerable children so they can realize their full potential in school, work and life. The Kellogg Foundation is based in Battle Creek, Mich., and works throughout the United States and internationally, as well as with sovereign tribes. Special emphasis is paid to priority places where there are high concentrations of poverty and where children face significant barriers to success. WKKF priority places in the U.S. are in Michigan, Mississippi, New Mexico and New Orleans; and internationally, are in Mexico and Haiti.

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