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Increasing Latino Parental Involvement through Parental Partnerships with Schools

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Emily Crispell

Multicultural Education

Inquiry Project

April 17, 2014


Increasing Latino Parental Involvement through Parental Partnerships with Schools



            Many Latino parents or caregivers “immigrate with high hopes of expanding educational opportunities for their children, which can lead to economic betterment” (Delgado Gaitan Involving Latino Families,1-2).  Parental Involvement is crucial to student success in the classroom. However, many factors inhibit Latino parent’s level of involvement with teachers and schools. Factors such as work schedules, language, lack of understanding of the school systems, race, class, and cultural differences exclude or marginalize Latino parents and limit their participation in schools. “The cultures and languages of parents that differ from that of the dominant culture, however, are often ignored, denigrated, or at best, treated superficially”(De Gaetano, 145). There is a misconception that Latino parents don’t care about their children’s educations or are not interested in being involved with schools. However, many Latino parents, fueled with hopes for the American dream, have high aspirations for their children’s futures and see education as a way of their children making better lives for themselves. The lack of Latino parental involvement in schools is not a result of apathetic parents, it is a result of a school system that marginalizes those who are not a part of the dominate culture. I hope to explore some of reasons behind the lack of involvement from Latino parents in schools, and different methods of incorporating Latino parents in their children’s educations through Community and Parental Partnerships with schools and after school programs.



The gap in communication between schools and Latino families is one of the main contributors to the difficulties in increasing Latino student achievement. There are many factors that seem to limit communication between schools and Latino parents, especially immigrant parents, such as language or lack of knowledge of the school systems. However it is crucial to students that there is open communication between parents and instructors. So how do we improve communication between Schools and Latino families? There are two kinds of communication between schools and parents, informal and formal communication. Each form of communication is necessary in order to develop a relationship and dialogue between families and schools to improve student achievement. Informal communication could take form in phone calls, notes sent home to parents, parent teacher meetings, home visits, or focus groups (Delgado Gaitan Involving Latino Families, 32). Formal communication could take form in back to school nights, school board meetings, PTA meetings, newsletters to parents, parent teacher conferences, and report cards. (Delgado Gaitan Involving Latino Families, 33). Informal and formal communication are both necessary. You can’t have one be affective without the other.

When thinking about informal and formal communication it is important to take into consideration the factors that limit communication between schools and Latino families. If the parents speak little or no English, it is especially important that all forms communication are offered in both English and Spanish. Even forms of communication such as permission slips, phone calls, and school websites should be offered bilingually because when they are not a burden is placed on the student to translate for the parents. This also sends a message that parents who don’t speak English are excluded from their children’s school experience. In a personal vignette found in Involving Latino Families in Schools, an elementary school principal describes a meeting she had with Latino parents in her school district, which had a large Latino population. “At the end of the meeting they had made a couple of requests that hadn’t occurred to me as something they would need. At the top of the list was to have all communication sent to them bilingually”(Delgado Gaitan, 17). This quote shows that communication is vital to improve the school experience for students and parents. If this meeting wasn’t held their needs and concerns would not have been addressed because according to the principal they “hadn’t occurred to me as something they would need”. Educators and administrators also need to be more conscious of the needs of their students and families. It is everyone’s job in the school to create communication with Latino parents not just ESL teachers. Another, challenge that limits Latino parent’s involvement in school is work schedules or inability to find childcare. Simple solutions to these issues would be to hold meetings and events at times that accommodated parents schedules, such as later at night or on weekends, and provide childcare during those events.



Once communication has been established between Latino parents and schools connections can be formed that make parents more likely to be actively involved in their child’s education. Building connections between parents and schools is also a way to make communication more accessible.

One way educators and school administrators could form connections with Latino parents is to show them respect and acknowledge the importance of their culture. A perfect example of how to do this can be found in the section “Kathy: Anchoring Curriculum in Community Knowledge” in Christine E. Sleeter’s book, Un-Standardizing Curriculum: Multicultural Teaching in the Standards-Based Classroom. In this section, Kathy discusses her Multicultural Curriculum Design and her “farm fresh” unit for first graders. “She wanted the children to learn more about their parent’s work, not in order to become agricultural workers themselves, but to respect the work their parents do… She knew the parents personally and emphasized that “most parents don’t want their kids to grow up to be farm workers… that’s why they want their children to get more education”(March 23, 2004)” (Sleeter, 112). By getting to know the parents and showing them that they are an important part of their children’s lives Kathy was able to build connections with the parents of her students, who were mostly Latino. Valuing parent’s occupations is a way of including them in a space where they are often marginalized and thought of as unsuccessful or uneducated in comparison to the dominate culture.

Another way to form connections is through sharing and listening to each other’s stories. School workshops and afterschool programs give students and parents a space to learn and be heard. “Each workshop began with an icebreaker and a review of what had taken place in the previous workshop session. Care was taken to make connections from one workshop topic to another and to include experiential activities that would concretize the ideas being focused on. There were always some activities or ideas for parents to try out at home with their children as a result of each workshop. Through the workshop topics, parents remembered their childhood and their learning experiences and they spoke about their hopes and dreams for themselves and for their children. At each workshop, time was always allotted for the sharing of ideas, experiences, and thoughts” (De Gaetano, 153). Icebreaker activities are fun and give everyone a chance to speak and be heard in a less formal setting.

Parents know their children best and when you give them the chance they will talk about them.



“Parental involvement policies treat all parents as if they had the same needs or the same experiences as White, middle-class parents. He suggests that the one-size-fits-all framework does not address ethnic diversity and is fueled by unacknowledged structural racism”(De Gaetano, 146). While there may be many resources available for parents or ways to get involved they may not necessarily be accessible to people who are not part of the dominate culture. Resources that could be helpful to getting Latino parents involved are PTAs, volunteer school positions, and after school programs. However in many cases the resources available are do not address the needs of the Latino community. In these cases it would be best to develop, with guidance from parents, new programs specifically for the Latino community.



There is a misconception that Latino parents don’t care about their children’s educations and therefore are not interested in being involved in their student’s educations. However, there are many factors that marginalize and exclude Latino parents. In order to improve Latino student’s educational experiences and opportunities, schools should make raising Latino parental involvement a priority. By creating a space that takes into consideration the needs of the students and parents and allows for open communication between educators and parents through informal and formal forms of communication, Latino parents will be more likely to be involved in schools. Also, by forming connections between schools and parents, communication is made more accessible. Ultimately the parent’s level of involvement with the school depends on trust, respect, and communication.














Works Cited

De Gaetano, Yvonne. "The Role of Culture in Engaging Latino Parents' Involvement in School."  Urban Education 42.2 (2007): 145-62. Print.

Delgado-Gaitan, Concha. Involving Latino Families in Schools: Raising Student Achievement        through Home-school Partnerships. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin, 2004. Print.

Sleeter, Christine E. "Students as Curriculum." Un-standardizing Curriculum: Multicultural           Teaching in the Standards-based Classroom. New York: Teacher College, 2005. 104-25.    Print.