A New UNCF Report Sheds Light on Perspectives of African American Parents on Key Education Issues

Despite Public Perception, Most Black Parents Are Involved In Their Child’s Education

New UNCF Report Sheds Light on Perspectives of African American Parents on Key Education Issues

With recent clips circulating on social media that call out the learning gap of Black students or lack of parental involvement, Indianapolis parent advocate and mother of three, Ashley Thomas, says that for many Black parents, this is far from the truth.

Ashley Thomas

“Many times, for a lot of us Black parents, we hear the negative when something wrong happens or, ‘Oh, these parents are not showing up.’” Thomas told BLACK ENTERPRISE.

“We’ve seen a lot of TikToks around what parents are doing, but the parents are really doing the best that they can, and they are literally being game changers…and we get to pat parents on the back for that and say, ‘Hey, that drumbeat, you get to keep that going.’”

A new report by United Negro College Fund (UNCF), “Hear Us, Believe Us: Centering African American Parent Voices in K-12 Education,” affirms Thomas’ sentiments with research that offers a comprehensive analysis of the experiences, challenges, and aspirations of African American parents in relation to race, college aspirations, parental engagement, and more.

Dr. Anderson

“We are really excited about this work and to be able to uplift parent voices, because we know too often that parent voices are rendered silent, but we know that they have been making a difference in education for decades,” Dr. Meredith B.L. Anderson, UNCF Director of K-12 Research, told BE.

While UNCF just celebrated its 80th anniversary uplighting minority students pursuing higher education, the organization also has a K-12 advocacy arm to ensure the next generation is college-ready.

“For the past 12 years, we have been uplifting the voices of the Black community on various issues related to K-12 education: from race, college readiness, equity,” Anderson said.

“And so, my role is creating those research reports, talking to members of the community — be it parents, students, counselors, teachers — and making sure that we’re dismantling some of those deficit narratives when it comes to our Black communities, because we know they’re engaged, they’re informed, they’re ready to make change.”

The UNCF Advocacy Division creates college-readiness tools and has more than 20 publications and resources on the K-12 level alone. The newest report, released May 2, highlights the crucial role that African American parents play in their children’s education. It underscores the importance of understanding their unique perspectives and incorporating them into education policies and practices.

UNCF conducted research with a national sample of Black parents via phone surveys and focus groups. The research also included an oversample of Black parents in Chicago, Indianapolis, Atlanta, Houston, New Orleans, and Memphis. Some of the key report findings include:

  1. Black parents report higher college aspirations for their child and lower instances of school suspensions when there are more Black teachers at their child’s school. For Black parents and caregivers whose children attended schools where many or most teachers were Black, the probability that their child received exclusionary discipline is almost three times lower than when their child attended schools with fewer Black teachers.
  2.  Black parents greatly value higher education and are deeply engaged and invested in their child’s education with 84% of Black parents who believe it is important for their child to attend and graduate college and over 80% check their child’s homework and speak to their child’s teacher on a regular basis. Meanwhile, 93% of Black parents say they want more opportunities to be involved in their child’s education and input into education laws. 
  3. Black parents want to see more Black leaders in education. Seventy percent of African American parents and caregivers believe the involvement of African American leaders and organizations will make school improvement efforts more effective.
  4. School safety is a key concern for Black parents and caregivers, with 80 % of African American parents and caregivers ranking safety as the most important factor for school selection.

Dr. Anderson underscored the report’s focus on the importance of Black teachers.

“We also found that Black parents felt more respected when there were more Black teachers. So we know that Black teachers matter,” she said.

The report concludes with a series of recommendations aimed at addressing the concerns and aspirations of African American parents.

Recommendations for the K-12 Sector

  • Invest unapologetically in Black teachers.
  • Create more intentional opportunities for parent involvement.
  • Create a learning environment that reflects African American history and culture.
  • Partner with local organizations to provide resources and services for families.
  • Value and prioritize support staff in school budgets.
  • Prioritize student safety.

 Recommendations for Higher Education

  • Make intentional efforts to expose students and families to college opportunities.
  • Create intentional pipelines with districts and charter management organizations for increasing educator diversity.
  • Ensure teacher training programs include anti-racist, culturally relevant teaching practices.
  • Partner with K-12 schools and districts to provide financial and literacy to students and families.

For Thomas, the Indianapolis parent advocate, her personal passion of investing in her children’s education has poured into her professional work as founder and CEO of A.N.T. Foundation Consulting, which provides community organizing training, strategic community mobilization, and organizational leadership development. She encourages parents and educators to “co-parent” for their child’s educational success, and to take the calls-to-action in this report seriously.

“I tell parents all the time, ‘When I move, you move, it’s just like that.’ We get to move together in community to make things happen. And so, we’ve got to also make sure that reports like this don’t just sit there; we use them to empower the parents to be able to also move and take their voices on federal, state level, policy level, school district — whatever it is — because our voices are so powerful.”

Access the full report here and tune in Friday, May 3 at Noon ET to BLACK ENTERPRISE’s streaming platforms to the podcast, Class is in Session, where Dr. Anderson discusses the findings of the report and Ms. Thomas offers tips for parents to engage with schools.

RELATED CONTENT: AI Integration In Education Sparks Ethical Debate Among Educators