SSN Memo

Why Community Engagement Efforts in School Districts Must Address Existing Inequalities

Policy field

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University of California-Davis

Below is an excerpt from a memo written by Sean Arseo for SSN in January, 2020

The issues of family and community engagement and local control are often at the heart of debates
about education policies and school reform. This makes sense, since research shows that students,
communities, teachers, and administrators often benefit when education professionals, families, and
community members collaboratively identify shared educational goals that support student success.

However, research also shows that some community members – most notably privileged parents –
have the resources and time needed to more fully engage with local school districts, leading to some
intentionally and unintentionally leveraging their networks to promote policies that hoard resources
and opportunities for their children. This means that community engagement efforts often leave out
the voices of minority and disadvantaged community members, further widening the inequalities
plaguing the nation’s schools. For community engagement efforts to be established and expanded
thoughtfully, school districts must enact policies that allow for more flexibility, support, and
opportunities for all community members.