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Citation:Butterfield, R. A., & Pepper, F. (1991). Improving parental participation in elementary and secondary education for American Indian and Alaska Native Students. In P. Cahape & C. B. Howley (Eds.), Indian nations at risk. Washington, DC: U.S. Dept of Education.

This article provides a summary of one of 20 papers commissioned by the Indian Nations at Risk Task Force to provide native perspectives on a number of school-related issues. The authors start by explaining their view that there are two types of parental participation recommended for student success: Òparental involvementÒ and Òparental support.Ó They define parent involvement as participating in school life in supportive advisory and decision-making roles, while parental support means encouraging children to value education and to achieve. The authors caution that while parental support is realistic and essential for most Native parents, parental involvement may be unrealistic due to historical barriers to this kind of involvement. The barriers discussed include staff attitude, school environment, declining Native parent participation as children progress through school system, the isolation of reservation schools, and the rapid social change and lack of cultural sensitivity in urban schools. The article includes a short review of research on parent participation and a review of literature on cultural influences in schooling. The article also offers descriptions of successful models that build more effective parental support and models that encourage Native parental involvement. Finally, the article recommends strategies for local school districts and tribes to follow, such as: initiating trust-building through outreach to Native communities, working through transformational leaders to involve Natives in decision making, developing home-school advocates, and involving tribes in school decisionmaking. Recommendations for state and federal agencies include: mandating parent advisory committees at the district level, enforcing regulations to ensure parent involvement, offering incentive grants to districts that reach out to Native communities, providing technical assistance, developing and distributing parent education materials, and monitoring exemplary programs and supporting research that captures strategies that lead to success. This short article offers the reader concrete suggestions for improving parental support at home, and involvement at school among Native American parents.

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