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Investing in Latino Parents Today Brings Success Tomorrow December 18, 2012

Posted by latinoschoolleaders in Parent Engagement.
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By Gini Pupo-Walker, NCLR Fellow and Director of Family and Community Partnerships, Metro Nashville Public Schools

Padres Comprometidos graduatesThis past Sunday, two dozen Latino parents and their children gathered at Casa Azafrán, the new home of Conexión Américas, an NCLR affiliate in Nashville, Tennessee. They were there to celebrate the close of another successful semester as facilitators for Padres Comprometidos, the outstanding series of parent workshops developed by NCLR to inform and empower Latino parents across the country. These parents began as students in a Padres Comprometidos class, learning about adolescent development, role playing parent teacher conferences, and planning for their children’s college education. Upon graduating from the class, parents often volunteer to be trained as facilitators, suddenly and improbably becoming leaders and a trusted resource in their community.

In Nashville, and across the country, we have seen Latino parents come to get help with DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) applications, often bringing folders full of proof of doctors and dentist appointments, photographs of school soccer championships, report cards, honor roll certificates, perfect attendance awards, and high school diplomas. These papers reveal the incredible value that Latino parents place on the educational journey of their children. They savor every single success, yet too many Latino parents also experience anguish when their children turn to gangs, drugs, or dropout of school due to pregnancy.

According to a 2009 report from the Pew Hispanic Center, 89 percent of Latino parents believe that college is important for success in life, yet less than half feel that they have the knowledge to help their children prepare for college. Our schools need more programs like Padres Comprometidos, where Latino parents learn from one another, and bolster their sacrifice and hard work with information and strategies that are concrete, often complex, and always focused on empowering parents to fulfill their role as the first teacher and primary influence of their children. The reality is that across the United States Latino parents are often ill equipped to support their child’s learning, or to come to the school when they have questions or concerns.

Glengarry Taller8]Schools across the country are responding to the expanding number of Latinos in their midst, and are reaching out to parents to support learning at home and to become part of the fabric of the school. As a matter of policy, Title I schools are required to involve parents in the education of their children. However, the very best efforts at Latino parent engagement provide crucial culturally responsive approaches: making sure interpreters or bilingual community leaders are on site, translating pertinent school information, offering meetings on weekends, providing child care, and most importantly, treating parents as valued and knowledgeable partners in the education of their children.  These approaches require funding and the training of teachers, administrators, and community members. That’s why it is imperative that the reauthorization of ESEA include an increase in funding for parent engagement for Title I schools. An increase in the current set aside from 1 percent to 2 percent would allow schools to invest in more staff, programming and training in reaching out to all parents.

We know that the future of this country is closely tied to the success of our Latino students, and their graduation from high school and entrance into college. But we also know that this work begins in the home, which is why we must have many more celebrations full of parent leaders and community partners working together to support Latino parents as they fulfill their dreams for their children.

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