The Auditor General says some schools believe they have better relationships with whānau than whānau think they do.
The watchdog delivered its second report looking at how well the education system supports Māori.
It suggested higher decile schools and those with low proportions of Māori students might have to work more on their relationship with Māori whanau.
It said Maori needed to know who the people behind the school gate were.
The Auditor-General said teachers should not be surprised to learn that small things, such as regularly meeting whānau at the school gate, could affect the quality of relationships.
The watchdog said its report provided an opportunity for people to think about their schools and their relationships, to understand the differences between schools and to work to build and use relationships more effectively.
The government said 95 percent of Māori students in years nine to 13 were in mainstream schools, and said further improvement in relationships in that areas will have a big effect.