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The Path to Educational Equity

Inspired by the messages of MLK, the Harvard Family Research Project produces a resource to help families lead the way

January 15, 2015
A photo of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial in Washington, DC

As school communities across the country commemorate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the Harvard Family Research Project (HFRP) has produced a set of action steps aligned with his messages of justice and equity.

Developed for educators, researchers, and policymakers, these broad action items “highlight family engagement as a way to address educational equity issues,” says HFRP Associate Director M. Elena Lopez.

“It’s vital to understand that promoting educational equity necessitates family engagement, both in school and out of school,” she says. “Our contributors inspire different roles for families in the quest for educational equity: from ‘parenting for high achievement’ to participating in program evaluations; from interacting with children in informal and formal learning spaces to sustained advocacy in social and educational policy.”

The six action steps are part of an online resource, Promoting Educational Equity Through Family Engagement: The King Legacy, that connects to six papers written by Harvard faculty, researchers, parent and community activists, and organizational leaders. 

Created to be “transformative, broad, and far-reaching,” Lopez says, the action steps encompass the following principles:

  • Underscore how family engagement benefits society as well as children.
  • Stimulate a social movement that engages parents for high student achievement.
  • Provide family and institutional guidance for children's learning in a digital world.
  • Develop policies that connect equitable in-school and out-of-school learning opportunities.
  • Build inclusive evaluation approaches to reduce privilege and racism.
  • Support ongoing and sustained parent advocacy.

Each of the related papers expands on the six action items and helps families extend the conversation. They include Parents as Agents of Change, Getting Serious About Excellence with Equity, Family Engagement as a Shared Responsibility in a Digital Learning Environment, Reframing Family Involvement in Education: Supporting Families to Support Educational Equity, How Can Evaluation Address Racial Equality? and Creating Parent Advocates to Work Toward Educational Change.

“The legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. lives through the many people committed to reducing the opportunity gap in education by engaging families as partners and advocates in children's learning,” says Lopez. “Although family engagement is a key predictor of children's school success, many families — especially those impacted by racial and income inequities and immigrant status — often lack genuine opportunities for engagement. Through this work and these resources, we see the opportunity to grow engagement and opportunity for all students and families.”

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