Exploring Family Civics as a Lever for Building Power to Influence Education Among Youth and Parents of Color

Does an intergenerational leadership initiative support families of color in addressing educational inequalities?

Although more than half of students attending public schools in the U.S. are students of color, most teachers, principals, superintendents, and board members are White. In these settings, families of color are often excluded from decision making opportunities to shape educational institutions in ways that best support their children. This mixed-methods study investigates whether and how a community-based leadership initiative strengthens the civic engagement of families of color and their children in influencing the education system. Geller and colleagues hypothesize that family civics, or the simultaneous leadership and skills development of parents and children, will improve civic engagement more effectively compared to initiatives that engage either youth or adults alone. In partnership with the National Parent Leadership Institute, the team will conduct an exploratory sequential mixed-methods study, beginning with a case study of one site and interviews and focus groups with alumni, stakeholders, and public officials across three sites, followed by a matched comparison group evaluation measuring post intervention impacts at staggered intervals and across four conditions. Next, they will draw on family case studies and alumni focus group data to examine participant and alumni perception of key program components that shape civic practices and engagement. They will also analyze survey data in a difference-in-differences model to examine whether participants exhibit more growth in family civics knowledge and engagement than waitlisted individuals. Next, the team will test family civics as both mediator and moderator of civic engagement and use qualitative data to explore intra-family dynamics and processes. Finally, the team will analyze alumni focus groups and interviews with program stakeholders and public officials. In addition to illuminating how programs may provide support to families of color, this study may inform future work on disrupting power hierarchies as a strategy to reduce inequalities.

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