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Since my tenure on the school board, I’ve been an advocate of investing in raising expectations for Latino students. With my ongoing blog discussion about this issue, I’ve heard from many readers, especially teachers. One educator wrote, “It all starts with the priorities in the home.” Another commented that, “Latino parents need to know that their involvement is critical and necessary.”
A parent responded to the teacher comments by asking, “Can you educate parents on district policies for enrolling our kids and what to do?” That’s an important question. Another teacher agreed with that parent and described how she and her colleagues invest time in families because “parents want to help their kids but they don’t have the tools to do it.” So who’s right?
They’re all correct. Every study about student success identifies strong parent support as an essential factor. This component makes up one of the four legs of the stool that holds up high achievement in school. The other three legs are high academic standards, sufficient resources, and high student expectations. California schools are addressing standards and resources, but haven’t invested in engaging Latino parents or raising student expectations. Why is this?
Raising academic standards and allocating sufficient resources are concepts that are easy to understand. Test score goals and a college-prep curriculum are measurable, so policymakers just need to adjust the benchmarks to raise those standards, which is starting to happen around the state. Governor Jerry Brown’s Local Control Funding Formula provides school districts with funding based on the demographic profile of their students, so financially underprivileged students will have more access to resources.
Increasing parent engagement and raising student expectations are harder to understand. Immigrant Latino parents know little or nothing about our school system and American-born Latino parents are products of the very same system of low expectations that is hampering their kids. Our school systems can’t expect parents to set academic priorities for their children if they don’t even have the means to understanding those priorities.
The misconception within education circles is that Latino parents don’t care about academic success and don’t make school a priority at home. When I served on the school board in east San Jose, a predominately Latino community, I found the opposite to be true. Latino parents were constantly asking me for advice about how to access district administration to share their concerns and seek counsel for their children.
Many school districts have active Latino parent groups that advocate for their students with few resources allocated by the district. With the new funding formula, school leaders now have an opportunity to invest in parent groups that want to be more engaged with their students’ education. For those who say ALL parent organizations, not just Latino parents, should have access to more district resources, my answer is “absolutely yes.”
Raising expectations for Latino students is a little trickier. This is an issue I’ve discussed in past posts. Proponents of educational equity and culturally relevant teacher development have argued with solid evidence that school systems have been historically biased along racial lines, thus creating an environment of low expectations for students of color. In fact, educational equity experts call this the “missing link” in academic achievement. I call it the fourth leg on the stool.
Despite recommendations from the state superintendent of schools and a Silicon Valley Education Foundation report, investing in a comprehensive program to address these real issues has been non-existent. During the last decade of school budget-cutting, policymakers haven’t even considered addressing the fourth leg of the stool. Local control funding provides a historic opportunity to change this.
Academic standards are rising and new school funding formulas are increasing resources. With a growing Latino population, our education leaders can no longer accept the argument that the foundation of academic achievement can only be started “with priorities in the home,” especially when parents are asking for the tools to build that foundation. Educators play a major role in the foundation of academic success and it must start with high student expectations.
By the same token, Latino parents can no longer relinquish the role of setting the foundation of academic success solely on the school system. If school systems provide tools for parents and welcome them to engage in their children’s education, then Latino parents must meet their obligations and responsibilities to guide students toward a successful academic career.
Ensuring a robust economic future for California will hinge on the success of today’s Latino students, who will make up a majority of the state’s breadwinners within a generation. We can no longer put all of the responsibility on the school system, nor can the school system merely rely on the home to achieve this. California’s future rests on a team effort. Schools need to provide all four legs of the stool to achieve success, and Latino parents and students need to answer the call.
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5 thoughts on “Educating Latino Students is a Team Effort”
Along with the four legs to academic success (parent support, high academic standards, resources, and high student expectations), I believe their is a fifth leg: community professionals giving back to their communities. Especially Latino students, they need role models whom they can identify with (i.e professionals who are first generation to go to university). Besides getting rigor in class, Latino kids need to see relevance and make relationships with professionals. Students need to see Latino professional (both men and women) in business, law, politics, medicine, research, education, high tech, police & fire departments, and etc. Not all role models have to be Latino, but at least the role models are compassionate and/or understanding and/or who blend with the Latino Community (i.e. Sister Connie (Sister of Presentation), James & Ann McEntee, Bud LoManaco, Lisa Feldberg, and Bob Booth). When I was working for ESL back in the 1990’s, I joined EWAB (ESL Women Advisory Board), we volunteered at local schools and were involved trying to close the gender gap.
Regarding parent support, parents should help other parents (i.e. parents helping parents; I think even colleges do that too for incoming freshmen parents.) Why not have experienced Parents as Ambassadors to the new and younger parents. When I was a young mother, I reached out to other experienced moms; and they helped me The same with my mother, she knew of other parents who were successful and they gave my mom advice. Bottom line, parents need to socialize with other parents to know what is going on in the educational atmosphere and what to do to help their children be successful. I understand there are shy parents, so their could be outgoing parents who reach out to the shy ones.
Thanks for your comments Nancy!
What you say is true, Eddie. I believe raising standards and encouraging students to believe they can meet and exceed them is a community effort, and takes the engagement and collaboration of teachers, parents, and everyone in the school community. I recently visited Boston Tech Academy on the South Side of Boston, and saw a school that was a showcase of energy, enthusiasm and confidence–and true academic achievement. All of the school staff (including the administrative, security and janitorial staff) have been trained in how to engage in dialogue with students in ways that show their confidence in the student’s abilities and invites the students to take responsibility for their own futures. The results are inspiring–and measurable.
Thanks for your comments Judy!
Eddie, I am gonna play Devil’s advocate, I don’t think main problem lies with the mindset of the school systems. This is straw man argument in my opinion. I think it lies more with the information disseminated to voting base of the Latino community, (all minorities) and the political corruption of a party that would like nothing more than to see all minorities, not just Latinos remain dependent on the gov’t, and on the lower rung of the earning ladder. You are going to get more “encouragement” for the status quo, and to be on social programs which deter growth (not in all cases of course) when you vote for a party that in my opinion ostensibly endorses these programs, and relies on the votes it receives for them.
If you want higher standards, and more encouragement for minorities, you are not going to get there voting 70% for a Party that champions “Life Of Julia”, or should we say “Life of Julia (HOO-lyah)”
I agree 100% with your assessment that Latinos, and all minorities could use more help and be reassured they posses every bit of self worth, utility, and potential as anyone else, but instead of relying on the social welfare politicians we have in California, maybe we should educate them (all minorities) how to look at policies, and not just one party. Lets face it, this state has been one sided for a long time politically, and NOTHING has changed.
I would rather just educate the voters, and not try to change the bias of a party that has been coddling their constituents in California for a very long time. For example, educate them on how their chances of success rates drop exponentially having kids out of wedlock, and that the breakdown of family values is the overwhelming negative indicator of financial independence. Blacks 73%, Latinos 53%, White 29% are the latest numbers I just googled. THAT is much more of an indication of lower income than a school counselor or teacher regardless of your race. I have to be honest, even if the other party was in control of this state, I still would not leave it up to the schools to teach kids self worth. Keep families together, teach family values, and self worth within the family, and leave math etc. to the teachers. I would hit the bricks and teach the families to do this. Grass roots style, community oriented stuff. It is harder work, but then, what worth doing ever isn’t?
Just my opinion.