By Sharonica Nelson, Ed.D.
Professor, Professional Education Consultant, Author
Once students reach middle school,
parents often become less engaged with their child’s academic environment. They
don’t walk them in the school’s doors anymore, they don’t communicate as often
with teachers, and they are less like to visit the school unless there is a special
program or sporting event after hours. This is especially true for African
As a former classroom teacher in
an urban, predominantly Black school, I have first-hand knowledge of this.
During middle school, school becomes more or less a mystery to parents. However,
under Every Student Succeeds Act, there is a push for parents to be more
involved with academic environment of their child.
Studies show that when parents are
more actively involved in their child’s schools, the child tends to perform
better academically. Therefore, parental engagement is an important concept of
discussion in terms of African American children’s performance.
Although parental engagement has a
strong correlation to student academic performance and achievement, why is it that
African American parents appear disproportionately less engaged than parents of
Studies have shown that there are
many factors that may hinder Black parents from being active in their child’s
schooling. Factors include lacking confidence when speaking to education
professionals or fear of seeming incompetent, being the sole provider in the
household with work hours that conflict with school hours, and not knowing how
to approach school officials with proper questions specific to individual child
These and many other nuisances
keep Black parents from approaching schools to be more active in their child’s
academic career. Nevertheless, for the sake of maximum student success and
potential, it is important that parents are actively engaged in their child’s
It is imperative that Black
parents are not only involved but also engaged in their child’s schools. Parents
must not only be involved through participating in school-planned functions,
but they must also create their own spaces and opportunities for active
engagement to demystify student performance. There are many ways to do so,
Use school system provided platforms to keep up with grades. The school system may provide
this service for free, and it may be associated with a special code or password
for log in. Parents should check with the school secretary for information on
this. Frequently checking student grades and holding them accountable for their
grades can send strong messages to students in terms of performance.
Know when reports cards are due. School systems may send home a calendar with this
information, they may provide automated calls as a reminder, and the dates may
be readily accessible on the school system website. It is ultimately up to the
parents to stay abreast of report cards and not wait until the last grading
quarter to show concern over grades. It’s too late then.
Email teachers. Email is a quick form of communication that most people use directly
from their phones. Most teachers use emails frequently. Make use of this to
maintain constant contact and communication with your child’s teacher. Most
teachers prefer to hear from parents with concerns of student progress and would
happily engage to inform parents concerning their children.
Check teacher webpages. Many teachers have webpages that they frequently update
with pertinent information pertaining to their classroom. This information may
include due dates, skills and concepts to be covered, and materials needed for
upcoming projects and assignments.
Create a parent network. Many parents may not have the time or resources to be
involved with the formal PTA (Parent Teacher Association). They may decide to
create social media groups that keep all parents abreast of current happenings
within the school. This could be a simple, easy way to connect to other parents
of students within same educational setting for accurate, current information
concerning the child’s school.
Regardless, of the age or grade of
a parent’s child, parents have a right to know about the current happenings of
the classroom and school. However, the school and parent relationship shouldn’t
be one-sided with school doing all of the work in terms of providing the
opportunities for parents to become engaged. Parents must understand the
importance of their involvement in their child’s educational trajectory, take
the reins, and create their opportunities for being actively involved.
Although, middle school is the
time when most parents become less engaged in the child’s school, it should be
a time when parents maintain engagement. To demystify further, parent
involvement weighs heavily on children’s performance. And simply put, children
need to see parents in their academic spaces for better performance, even in
middle school and beyond.
By Rajoielle Register
(Head of Brand Strategy and Growth Audience Marketing, Ford Motor Company)
We’re all familiar with the popular proverb, “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a 21st century society, this still holds true, literally and figuratively. For non-millennials, who grew up in a vastly different era, there is a nostalgic mindset that a diverse community of inspiring people interacting with children has a positive and sustained life-changing impact on their development. By no means should this mean the village is responsible for raising your children, but we all have a stake in their development and success.
Rajoielle “Raj” Register says that In order to awaken dreams and inspire the next generation of innovators, problem-solvers and leaders, it’s imperative to expose children to STEAM at an early age. (Ford Motor Company)
Early exposure to career choices are often the first step in the “What do I want to be when I grow up?” conversation. Although definitive decisions won’t be made for years to come, dreams and thoughts about future careers begin early. Whether policeman, fireman, truck driver, doctor, dentist, teacher, musician, sports star, and/or whatever it is their parents and relatives do, most children are passively aware and relate to the limited pool of occupations to which they are exposed.
While teachers offer an impressionable climate for first-hand learnings and experiences, parents provide the most important impact and stimulus on a child’s early life. Early exposure to non-traditional learning environments not only creates a generation of new dreamers and thought leaders, but also provides them with an eye-opening and novel perspective on the limitless opportunities that is their future.
From elementary to middle school, efforts to prepare students for college and beyond are taking hold earlier than ever as a childhood surrounded by books, scholastic support and diverse role models leave permanent impressions on a young person’s mind well into their late teens. That’s why early exposure to science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) fields are especially important.
Reflected in its legacy history, American industry was built on innovation. To awaken dreams and inspire the next generation of innovators, problem-solvers and leaders, it’s imperative to expose children to STEAM at an early age. If engaged, receptive and they’ve developed an interest by eighth grade, they’re three times more likely to pursue careers in STEAM fields later in life.
STEAM careers are at the forefront of some of the fastest-growing industries. Conversely, they also have some of the largest gender gaps as women comprise only 26 percent of all science, tech, engineering and mathematics jobs. As they continue to grow, women are getting left behind.
Many young girls are turning away from STEAM careers during their developmental years and have completely opted out by high school. That must change and we, the village (with torches in hand), must step up to lead, advocate and champion that change.
For over three decades, the Ford Motor Company has been committed to supporting innovative initiatives that encourage and inspire young people to pursue and succeed in STEAM fields—a career path many, if not most, of today’s youth (especially African American youth) believe are out of reach for them.
Both within and outside the village, this is an important conversation that we must have as the future of our children is at stake. In addition to sponsorships, scholarships and aligning with synergy partners such as the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), Ford has demonstrated its commitment in a hands-on way, connecting with and supporting a host of STEM and STEAM focused initiatives including Girls Who Code, Tech Sassy Girlz, STEMinista project, Destination Imagination, School Retool, Michigan Technological University, Amphi Middle School’s Girl Power in Science & Engineering, FIRST® Robotics and #WomenInSTEAM, among others.
Here in the U.S. and around the world, women are severely underrepresented in STEAM fields—career fields that are expected to grow more than 9 million jobs by 2022. No surprise, both women and men are needed to fill those jobs and we, individually and collectively, must do our part to begin to narrow the gap, especially among African American youth.
For African American communities, integrating young women in science and technology begins with planting the seed at an early age, nurturing that seed to show the impossible is possible and, cultivating girls to become a part of those fields. Ever shifting, the formative and impressionable years between teen and young adult are a principal cause for why young girls are looking away from STEAM.
Ford remains committed to inspiring young people to seek knowledge, be curious, solve problems and—like Henry Ford himself—make their dreams of a better world come true.
Whether parent, educator, leader, STEAM alum, or just someone who cares about the village and its children, you can play a role in supporting an up-and-coming generation of young girls interested and desirous to pursue a career in STEAM.
Let’s unite as one to stimulate, inspire and change a life. At the end of the day, we’re all stakeholders in the future and success of our children.
Rajoielle “Raj” Register leads cross brand strategy and growth audience marketing at Ford Motor Company. A proud STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics) graduate, Raj embraces her education advocacy and is especially passionate about advancing impactful educational initiatives as highlighted by her oversight of visionary community programs that support HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) and STEAM.
In an effort to encourage young people to pursue and succeed in STEAM careers (Science, Technology Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics), Ford announced a new quarterly column dedicated to showcasing opportunities in STEAM. The column will appear on BlackPressUSA.com and will be available to NNPA members through the NNPA Newswire.
The NNPA is a trade group that represents more than 200 Black-owned media companies, operating in the United States; the member publications reach more than 20 million readers, combined, in print and online every week.
The new column will begin in March.
“Rest assured, this will not be a self-serving platform,” said Renah Carlisle, a sales zone manager for Ford’s Phoenix Region. “Both Ford and the NNPA support STEAM initiatives and it is a reminder to our children, that the impossible is possible.”
This year, there will be more than 8 million jobs available in STEAM and the federal government alone will need an additional 10,000 workers for information technology and cybersecurity, Carlisle said.
“In tandem with other programs and initiatives, with the launch of this new STEAM column, we’re excited to not only put a focus on an important issue impacting our youth, but to also offer [another avenue] to increase awareness, consideration and participation in exciting, dynamic career opportunities available to all young people everywhere,” said Carlisle, in a press statement about the new STEAM column.
NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis Jr., said that the NNPA was excited to join Ford in this important conversation about the future of our youth.
“Across the country, our members serve as the voice and advocate for the communities they serve,” said Chavis, in a press statement about the new STEAM column. “The unsettling fact that every 26 seconds a student drops out of high school should be impetus enough for leaders, mentors and all who care about the future of our youth to develop a pipeline for future leaders in STEAM careers.”
The statement continued: “Both NNPA and Ford share a mutual commitment and support for STEAM initiatives and are excited to support innovation, differentiation and opportunities that help our youth ‘Go Further’ in tech,” and explore the limitless potential of the future.