How Strong Community Engagement Can Support Asian-American Students

Last month in this space, we discussed why the “Model Minority Myth” is so harmful to Asian American students. Fortunately, there are concrete steps that schools and school systems can take right now to address it. One of the most important of these is to evaluate how you’re engaging with families—something that has become more important than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic.

At TNTP, we believe strongly that authentic partnership with students and families is a prerequisite for a successful school. Yet too often we see schools fail to make the effort to deeply understand the needs of families—and Asian American families in particular. Here are some tips your school or school system to help you do this effectively:

  • Acknowledge that the group isn’t monolithic. You can’t just speak to a handful of Asian American families and use that as a proxy for the entire group. Have authentic conversations that allow you to understand their experiences—not just tell them what is going to happen.
  • Check your assumptions. Don’t just assume that your proposed plan will work for families. Ask their opinions, and take note of them.
  • Share what you have changed. After listening to families, be transparent about the new policies and practices, and explain specifically how family feedback informed the decisions.
  • Give grace and understanding to family choices. As school buildings start reopen, many systems are working to try to convince students to return to in-person instruction. Asian American families have opted out of in-person learning at some of the highest rates—and for good reasons. If those families do not want to immediately return, systems should respect that choice and be as accommodating as possible.
  • Don’t revert back to your old practices. As things get back to normal, there will be a temptation to go back to “business as usual.” Ensure that your new community engagement practices become permanent.

Now, hear from one of our TNTP colleagues share what this can look like in practice:

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About TNTP

TNTP is the nation’s leading research, policy, and consulting organization dedicated to transforming America’s public education system, so that every generation thrives.

Today, we work side-by-side with educators, system leaders, and communities across 39 states and over 6,000 districts nationwide to reach ambitious goals for student success.

Yet the possibilities we imagine push far beyond the walls of school and the education field alone. We are catalyzing a movement across sectors to create multiple pathways for young people to achieve academic, economic, and social mobility.

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