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Importance of Latino and African-American Parental Engagement

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Family
Wordcount: 3675 words Published: 6th Aug 2021

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Disengagement of parents is a critical issue that can cripple the success of a school. It’s well known in education that engaged parents generally increase and enhances the attitude and experience of their child.  Engaged families create a welcoming environment and allow families to feel as they are part of the school community. I have attended schools where there was minimal parent engagement opportunities. I have also attended schools that had parent engagement opportunities, but they weren’t culturally engaging to their main demographic. Lastly, I have worked in schools that have begun to scratch the surface of culturally competent and successful parent engagement.  In my experience I have worked with predominantly Latino and Black families. It isn’t particularly challenging to individually connect with these families, but systematically I have encountered obstacles. School’s not providing strong engagement opportunities for families of color is an issue in many schools, even those that predominantly serve minority populations. Culturally contextual family programming has the ability to create strong, diverse communities which would enhance the fabric of that community. I have experienced this in my educational workplaces and have not always had the answers to combat disengagement and the lack of opportunities provided by the school. I have also witnessed this issue in schools that are predominantly white. The families of color already feel at a distance, and lack of good programming only pushes them further away. As the demographics of our country shift, we are often slow to adapt to the different needs of our rising minority families. I am specifically thinking about minority families who attend predominantly white schools for this proposed intervention. Minority, at risk students would benefit from stronger engagement between the school and their parents. This would increase school trust, participation and communication. All factors that could help decrease a transfer or dropping out.

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This paper will address the issue of Latino and African-American ( I will also refer to as black and brown in the paper) families not being engaged in their high school community. My suggestions will hopefully be applicable in any school that has the necessary staffing to address these issues. A specific staff person would need to lead the charge, ideally someone who is not always in the classroom and has time to work with families throughout the day. Administration would be needed for approval and support and teachers would be a necessary component as they could also assist in this intervention. Teachers would also help market the engagement opportunities to students and use the groups as a way to further connect with parents outside of parent teacher conferences.

Literature Review

The literature confirms the importance of strong parent engagement and the dangers of its absence. Latunde’s article (2016) about black parents as untapped resources identify the lack of culturally relevant parent engagement opportunities. Latunde also mentions that the majority of schools operate with old irrelevant models of parent engagement. Latunde’s (2018) other article about the Black Parent Council highlights how Black parents use their own networks to solve issues, due to distrust of school administration. This demonstrates the dangers of not having strong parent engagement with Black parents, which leads them to use their resources without the support of the school. Terriquez (2013) describes the obstacles that Latino parents, specifically fathers, face. The case study revealed that although Latino fathers wanted to have high levels of involvement, they often couldn’t based on income level, or even more if they were immigrants. Other research demonstrates that even schools which have existing programs can still miss the mark on engaging families, particularly Latino parents (Pena, 2001) While a lot of the literature doesn’t necessarily give a lot of concrete examples on how to close these gaps, it does confirm the dangers of the lack of proper, culturally engaging parent involvement opportunities. The literature establishes the differences in engaging Latino and Black parents in comparison to a white majority and how even attempts at providing different support isn’t always successful.

The issue is being attempted to be addressed at my school by me and a few co-workers. However, this does not mean we have found the perfect solution for engaging families of color. Prior to my arrival at the school, there were a few programs put in place to help engage our black and brown families. The Building Bridges program was created as a space for Black families to network, connect and speak with school staff members about issues impacting their sons. What I inherited was a  parental group that met often, with little guidance and aired more grievances without looking to address them. I concluded that this culture was set by mismanagement by my predecessor, who may have aimed to fire people up but not enable them to create a better climate for their son. The Latino parents did and do not have a dedicated parent group. There was a few meetings a year, where the families would come in to receive information. I felt that they were being underutilized, but ran into issues organizing them since they were not accustomed to it historically at our school. Although I cannot statistically prove it, I felt that this lack of constructive engagement carried over to negative experiences for their sons at our school.

The literature used for this article clearly identifies issues that are relevant to my school. A major theme in almost all of the articles states that parents must be brought in and seen as a partner in order for them to be fully utilized. Utilized is used in the sense that they can bring their resources to the table, instead of participating in a school sponsored initiative or event without any of their input.

Article Summaries

Tite: Untapped Resources Black Parent Engagement that Contributes to Learning

Yvette LatundeAzusa,Pacific University

Angela Clark-Louque, California State University San Bernardino

This study focuses on the often untapped resources of black parents, which is often caused by outdated and culturally ignorant practices held by schools. The authors used two frameworks for their study which include the theory of multiple influences and cultural reciprocity.  The authors surveyed 130 black parents of K-12 black students throughout the US. The parent participants were identified through a number of Black serving organizations. The survey aims to identify strategies and resources that are being used to engage with their child’s education. The results were ultimately tabulated and presented as percentages.

The results reveal that Black Parents are involved in their children’s education in two major ways. First, by assisting with teaching at home by reading stories, helping with homework and tutoring when possible. Secondly, by involving their student in outside educational experiences which involves various community based activities. These results imply that schools and community agencies could further explore opportunities to engage parents as partners in already existent outside learning systems. The authors also conclude that Black parents could be more deeply connected if the schools adopted more culturally relevant practices and viewed them as partners and not simply respondents. I believe that this article gives concrete steps to how to engage Black parents in a school, a task that I have seen often limited educators attempt to enhance. These steps would push against treating all parents the same and adopting more culturally inclusive practices for different parent groups.

Article 2

Latino Fathers’ Involvement in Their Children’s Schools

Veronica Terriquez

This article focuses on identifying the impact of fathers’ participation in chidlren’s schools, particularly Latino fathers. The author also focuses on the differences and similarities in participation between white and latino fathers The author used the National Household Education Survey (NHES) Data was submitted through phone calls, where one adult was interviewed. The survey was limited to two parent households, which included stepfathers. The author also used logistic analysis to compare the involvement of white and Latino fathers. The results reveal that white and Latino fathers demonstrate similar levels of paternal responsibility in regards to parent meetings. The survey also concluded that the fathers with higher income levels and educational background were more likely to participate in school activities. The study also revealed that immigrant father were less likely to participate in all activities.

This study gives evidence that there exists some obstacles for immigrant Latino parents. I was particularly drawn to the data which demonstrated the impact socioeconomic status has on parent participation. This can help understand the role certain fathers can play in school involvement, and hopefully allow schools to create equitable and sensitive ways to bring them into the school building.

Article 3

Expanding their Opportunities to Engage: A Case of the African American Parent Council

Yvette Latunde

This case study focuses on African American parents and how schools can encourage and support their engagement. The study is fueled by the fact that there is a lack of literature on how Black parents create opportunities to be engaged within their child’s schooling. This case study was descriptive and focused on the strategies used by Black parents in the Doe Unified school district in california. The study also identifies the district’s efforts to promote Black parent involvement. The author then applies Critical Race Theory, to allow the case study to be presented as counter-storytelling. The case study concludes that Black parents had a lack of trust towards the district, which caused them to use their own networks to solve issues. Black parents also wanted to be more involved in the decision making processes within the school. This case study makes it clear that Black parents have a lot of cultural and community capital to bring to the table, but school’s often fail to recognize their funds of knowledge. This study can help guide school leaders to not fall into the same trap and instead utilize the vast resources that this group of parents can bring to the table.

Article 4

Parent Involvement : Influencing Factors and Implications

Dolors C Pena

This case study covers the involvement of mexican American parents in their children’s education. This year long case study was executed in a middle school in Texas that has a large population of Mexican American families, at least seventy percent The main question fueling this study was how are Mexican American parents involved or not involved and what are the factors that influence that decision. The middle school which was used had an existing parental involvement program. Data was collected through parent interviews, surveys and direct observation of parent meeting at school. The study found that parent involvement was driven by factors that included: language, cultural influences, attitude of staff members, parent cliques and more. School staff addressed some of these issues, but failed to recognize the influence that these factors had on their involvement and participation levels. This study demonstrates that even schools with implemented parent programs can sometimes miss the mark, by not properly addressing some of the issues that Latino parents are facing.

The significance

The issue I’m addressing is how to appropriately and successfully engage our black and brown families in order to better serve their at risk students. The ideas shared in this paper will likely be applicable to public or charter schools with similar demographics. Attempts to address this issue have been partially successful in the eyes of the administration, but I view them as half done and futile. I came to this conclusion after taking over parent groups and speaking with many of the parents.

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My intervention will be creating specific parent organizations  for the Black and Latino families, that will create a direct line between the administration and the families. Each group will have specific resources and programming tailored to utilize their cultural capital. These groups will also create a space to build a bridge between administration and parents. This would increase trust and allow parents to feel more comfortable confronting issues together. We know from the readings that Black families already bring their own wealth of educational resources to use at home (Latunde, 2016) Therefore, their group would exit to allow them to share those resources with other families and to allow staff to inherit some of those skills as well to enhance the student’s academic achievement. Each group would have specific programming tailored to their cultural realities or needs. For example, we might give a presentation about HBCU’s to our Black families. This would be in addition to the regularly scheduled college programming  provided by the school. For our Latino families we could provide presentations on the current status of DACA, or immigration resources as well. We would also rotate the presentations to allow different stakeholders to share ideas. This would allow staff members, parents and administrators to present about issues they are knowledgeable about. These specific groups would hopefully also serve as a launching pad. I would want leaders in the group to also be leaders in the larger school community. It would be unsuccessful if these families only siloed themselves in these smaller groups. I would also want the students present, even if they were doing homework in the same room. I would want them to see their parents being active in the school community, as this can help change their attitude and perception about school. These groups would also allow for each meeting to have a dedicated time to discuss challenging issues or questions. With staff members and administration present, they can directly discuss these issues and not have to wait on an answer. Lastly, these parent groups would be present in the larger school community, and would assist in attending larger school events or hosting their own for others to join. Active and visible parents create a winning attitude for everyone in the school community. I believe these parent groups will be significant, because often groups like this only exist for students during the school day. To expand these opportunities to parents would demonstrate the cultural competency a school needs to contextually serve all of their families.

Based on the literature, handing over more control to parents can be beneficial for the school community. The case studies confirm that sometimes parents can feel disenfranchised and do not trust the adults in the school. (Latunde, 2018) This leads me to believe that inviting parents to have more power can actually be a positive action that can lead to change. Instead of always working at them, it’s important for schools to work side to side with families. It’s also clear through the readings that socioeconomic status impacts the ability to be actively engaged (Terriquez 2013.) Because of this, schools should be sensitive and adaptive when choosing meeting times for families. For example, an 11am meeting on a school day would not work for most parents.

Program Implementation

I would implement my specific intervention by scheduling the parent meetings prior to each year. This will ensure continuity and avoid any scrambling for date setting and meeting frequency. I would also have to meet with key staff members and administration to ensure that we are supported and receive the financial backing to host these meetings. Outlining a tentative mission statement for each group would be a necessary step, which can later be edited by the parents in the meetings. I would also begin to market the group as early as possible, and survey parents to see if they have any specific ideas ahead of time.

Ideally, various staff members could be involved or serve as guest speakers. I would attempt to match staff skills with the needs of the group. For example, having a bilingual staff member present at the Latino parent group would be key. Administration would attend the meetings, but largely provide institutional support for the group and its initiatives. Students would participate by watching the parents in action, as the group is largely for the parents and not directly for the students. Families can attend as little or as much as they like, and they are welcome to assume larger roles within the group. It would be perfectly acceptable for a family to come once and not come for the rest of the year. The group exists so that a parent can come at any time and not feel left out or disengages.

Challenges and Conclusion

An obstacle I would foresee could potentially be low participation from parents. Parents are busy and if our programming is not strong, they will not be incentivized to participate or even show up to meetings. I have seen this happen in some parent groups, were a mom or dad will attend for the first time and not come back because they were not impressed. Another obstacle could be lack of institutional support from administration. I could also see non minority parents become defensive at the idea of these groups and asking something like “why are we secluding them?” or “What about a group for the white parents?” These are similar sentiments that I’ve actually heard before and could be consistent in the creation of these groups. A quite different obstacle we could face would involve the parents having too much control, which reduce a balance between the school and the parent group. This could allow the group to feel like anything they say goes, and put staff an administration consistently ont he defensive. I’ve witnessed this before, which is why I believe it’s possible. However, if  the group is created and executed properly, this should not be the mentality of the parent group.

Assessments can be identified through leadership committees within the groups and through surveys. If an open dialogue exists between myself, the staff and the parents, we should always have a good idea of what the pulse of the group is. To officially quantify that pulse of the parent community, we will also provide surveys that allow for honest feedback. We would also track the students of the parents involved to see how the parent engagement might be impacting their school grades and activities.

Ideally this intervention could be planned over a year and implemented the next. The reason for a year of planning would be to allow faculty and staff to understand the value of the groups and to assist in its creation. Administration would also have to feel confident in putting time and resources behind this initiative. This time is needed to schedule the future meetings, create topics, schedule speakers, and reach out to parents and families that could serve as leaders and liaisons to the group. If rushed, this initiative could be unveiled in a diluted state, which might disengage families when they attend.

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