Laura Brady, Stephanie Fryberg, Hazel Rose Markus, Camilla Griffiths, Jenny Yang & Perla Rodriguez

The coronavirus pandemic has allowed a long-standing educational myth to take on new force.

Educators often claim that their efforts to serve some groups of children, primarily Black, Latino, and Native American, are hindered by things their families fail to do—things like supervise homework, comply with school requests, and communicate with teachers. During pandemic-initiated distance learning, these family contributions may be even more important than during normal classroom learning and even less possible, given that COVID-19 has hit families in these groups particularly hard. Concerned for their students, many educators fear that the pandemic will exacerbate the “family-disengagement problem.”

We take a different view. Family disengagement is not inevitable during the pandemic or at other times. Our team of researchers and practitioners working toward school improvement in the Forest Grove, Ore., district believes that families of every background are ready to partner with schools when schools speak the right cultural language.

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