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Elevating the Voices of Black Parents and Caregivers: Effective Practices for Partnership and Engagement

Tuesday, April 9, 2024 @ 2:00 pm - 3:00 pm EDT

Elevating the Voices of Black Parents and Caregivers: Effective Practices for Partnership and Engagement

Presented by Nisaa Kirtman, Ph.D., Research Principal, Rockman et al Cooperative; Alex Gurn, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate, Rockman et al Cooperative; Rebecca Honig, Chief Content and Curriculum Officer, ParentPowered; and Mallary Swartz, Ph.D., Senior Director of Learning and Impact, ParentPowered

Sponsored by ParentPowered

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Research shows that Black parental involvement in their children’s education is a key determinant to Black student success. However, barriers created by institutional and systemic racism in the U.S. education system create pervasive and chronic stressors for Black families, impacting their ability to be heard and engaged. These disparities also shape Black students’ academic experiences, engagement, and achievement.

Educational leaders are responsible for promoting inclusive, anti-racist, and culturally respectful learning environments that support all students to succeed. Building strong relationships with Black families is a critical component of this work. In this edLeader Panel, researchers and family engagement experts:

  • Explore literature on effective strategies for engaging Black families, emphasizing technology-based interventions and culturally tailored, text-based methods
  • Share insights from interviews with education leaders and practitioners and Black parents/caregivers of PreK–middle-school students around best practices for family engagement
  • Explore processes for collaborating with families to develop content and experiences that authentically reflect families’ voices, experiences, strengths, and needs

Don’t miss this opportunity to enhance your district, school, or organization’s responsiveness to the needs of Black families and their children. You gain tools and knowledge to foster strong, empowering relationships with families and ensure a more inclusive and equitable educational landscape.

This recorded edLeader Panel is of interest to PreK-12 teachers, librarians, school and district leaders, school counselors and social workers, and those in parent/community involvement, family engagement, and school improvement roles.

Nisaa Kirtman

About the Presenters

Nisaa Kirtman, Ph.D., Research Principal at Rockman et al Cooperative, is a social psychologist with 20 years of experience designing and conducting research studies in educational settings, communities, and the public health sector. She uses a Culturally Responsive and Equitable Evaluation (CREE) framework when approaching both research and evaluation. She studied social cognition; historically underrepresented communities of color in STEM; educational inequities; health inequities; diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) climate assessments at institutions, organizations, or within post-secondary educational departments; stereotypes and stereotype threat; and identity. She has managed both long- and short-term evaluations and has managed several multi-year professional development projects at historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and out-of-school programming for historically underrepresented youth and girls of color, such as Black Girls Code.

These projects are often funded by Minority Science and Engineering Improvement Programs (U.S. Department of Education), the National Science Foundation, or private foundations such as Google. Dr. Kirtman is currently a member of the American Evaluation Association (AEA), the American Psychological Association (APA), the Association of Black Psychologists (ABPsi), and the Expanding the Bench Advancing Culturally Responsive Evaluation (ACE) Network. She also serves as Co-Chair for AEA’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Work Group. Dr. Kirtman has a bachelor’s degree in psychology from Scripps College (the women’s college) in Claremont, California, and a master’s degree in social psychology from San Francisco State University. She earned her Ph.D. in psychology from Northcentral University.

Alex Gurn

Alex Gurn, Ph.D., Senior Research Associate at Rockman et al Cooperative, has over 12 years of experience conducting applied educational research and evaluation with school leaders, teachers, and young people in and out of schools. He has taught English language arts and English as a second language in public schools, as well as college courses in teacher education, qualitative research design, and sociology. Dr. Gurn served as an education specialist at the Massachusetts Department of Education, where he led capacity building and evaluation of out-of-school time programs.

At Rockman et al, Dr. Gurn has conducted external evaluations of informal STEM learning, youth media, social-emotional learning, and arts-integration programs, including projects funded by the National Science Foundation’s Advancing Informal STEM Learning (AISL), NSF’s Innovative Technology Experiences for Students and Teachers (ITEST), and the Institute of Museum and Library Services (IMLS). Dr. Gurn earned a B.S. in human development and family studies from Cornell University, an M.A. in applied linguistics from the University of Massachusetts Boston, and a Ph.D. in curriculum and instruction from Boston College. Dr. Gurn’s dissertation examined the role of corporate philanthropy in urban public education. Outside of work, Dr. Gurn volunteers as the Chair of Fundraising at San Francisco Public Montessori School and enjoys hiking and biking in the Bay Area.

Rebecca Honig

Rebecca Honig is the Chief Content and Curriculum Officer at ParentPowered. She has authored numerous curricula, parent guides, and children’s storybooks for Sesame Workshop, Scholastic, Disney, Compass Learning, PBS, WGBH, HITN, Nickelodeon, Mo Willems, and The Norman Rockwell Museum. She has also served as a Curriculum and Content Specialist for Sesame Street and spent ten years teaching in public, private, and after-school programs. Rebecca has a master’s degree in early childhood education from Bank Street.

Mallary Swartz

Mallary Swartz, Ph.D., Senior Director of Learning and Impact at ParentPowered, brings over 20 years of experience as an applied researcher and thought leader in early education and family engagement. In her current role, she serves as a subject matter expert and leads research, impact, industry relations, and grant fundraising efforts. Dr. Swartz has spent her career cultivating relationships, managing partnerships, and leading research, evaluation, and innovation projects at family-focused organizations. She strives to ensure that equity and diverse family and community voices are centered in her work. Before joining ParentPowered, Dr. Swartz served as Vice President, Family Engagement Learning and Strategy at Start Early and Co-Principal Investigator (PI) for the Office of Head Start National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement. Other past affiliations include Brazelton Touchpoints Center and Fred Rogers Productions, where she served as PI of two National Science Foundation grants. Dr. Swartz has a Ph.D. in Child Development from Tufts University, an M.S. from the University of Pittsburgh, and a B.A. from Duke University.

Learn more about viewing the live presentation and the recording, earning your CE certificate, and using our new accessibility features.

Join the Community & Family Engagement community to network with educators, participate in online discussions, receive invitations to upcoming edWebinars, and view recordings of previous programs to earn CE certificates.


Research shows that families play a powerful role in fostering children’s development. ParentPowered is on a mission to help K–12 districts provide accessible, evidence-based family engagement curriculum, without adding more to teachers’ plates. Our program — for PreK through grade 12 — supports, inspires, and activates parents and caregivers with simple, strengths-based insights they can turn into everyday teachable moments. Learn more and request a demo at

Boost academic outcoems and well-being with effective family engagement

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