Parents breaking down parent engagement barriers

Sometimes it takes a parent to help a parent. In ABC Unified School District, fifty-seven languages are spoken and more than 90 percent of the student population come from diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds. When trying to break down barriers that can prevent parents from coming to their children’s schools, the district tapped a wise source: parents who had been new to the system – and the country – several years ago.

“I give a lot of credit to the immigrant parents who, five or six years earlier, were trying to navigate the system,” says Superintendent Mary Sieu. “They felt a lot of other parents were in the same boat, and they wanted to create a network of other people to talk to.”

This core group of parents organized the Parent Leadership Academy and Conference, an annual event that is supplemented with monthly classes and workshops, led by parents, and offered in multiple languages. About 100 parents went to the first conference, but it’s grown to more than 5,000 attendees.

“It brings parents together,” says school board member Maynard Law. “We are such a diverse school system. The program brings everyone together to be successful.”

Another noticeable benefit is the growth in student achievement. The district now exceeds the state average on California’s Academic Performance Index.

Learn more about ABC Unified School District, Cerritos, California at