Designing a Campus Task Force to Increase Parental Involvement Among Latino Families

Author:  Trish Flores, Bilingual/ESL Specialist

 

It is evident that our schools are becoming increasingly diverse with students from different nationalities and language backgrounds represented.  Of these groups, Latinos account for the highest growth rate in the last 40 years.  Latinos are the second largest minority group in the United States and it is projected that in the next 40 years the U.S. Latino population will reach 102.6 million. (Tomas Rivera Policy Institute, 2004) There are an estimated 9.8 million Spanish bilingual students ages 5 to 17 residing in Arizona, California, Florida, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York and Texas.  This data indicates that much thought and consideration needs to be given to the instruction and language development of Latino students who are second language learners.  Authors David Campos, Rocio Delgado and Mary Esther Soto Huerta have researched and explored this subject in their book, Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners. (2011)  In this book they outline a comprehensive plan on how to best meet the needs of this population of students through the increased involvement of Latino parents.

Change needs to occur at all levels of the culture and environment of our schools in order to positively impact Latino students to achieve high levels of academic success.  If schools fail to identify and support the crucial areas of need of these students they will be more likely to drop out of school, not enroll in rigorous academic courses, and not pursue a college education.   Implementing change requires that schools establish goals and desired outcomes to specifically target areas of needed improvement.  For many of today’s educational communities, this change begins with increased parental involvement.

The phrase “it takes a village” resounds especially true in the educational community of today.  Schools cannot reach all of their educational goals alone.  It has become increasingly apparent that schools need parental support to sustain the academic progress of their students.  When parents are actively involved, students are more likely to attend school and master challenging curricula and graduate from school.  This type of partnership requires systematic planning on the part of the district, especially at the campus level.  Campus leadership is charged with forming a plan to welcome parents and involve them to meet the goals of the campus and the needs of their students.  One way to accomplish this is through the creation of a campus task force.

Forming a Task Force

The first step in creating a campus task force is to identify key individuals who can organize and lead this initiative. These staff members should have high interest in promoting a partnership with Latino parents and establishing goals for increased student performance.  Once the task force has been established, there are several steps that need to be accomplished.  To start, the task force should assess the existing perceptions of Latino families at the campus level by conducting a survey or questionnaire of some type.  Some questions to consider include:

  • How is Latino parental involvement perceived by the school staff (inclusive of all staff members) and students?
  • Are there Latino parental involvement initiatives at the district level and, if so, how do they impact involvement at the campus level?
  • Should Latino parental involvement be improved?  Why or why not?
  • What are the desired goals for the campus?
  • What hinders parental involvement?

It will be crucial for the task force leader to hold scheduled meetings with the team to determine who will be collecting the data, who will be interviewed, and how the collected information will be analyzed.  The team leader is responsible for generating a plan for aligning the collected feedback with the predetermined goals and objectives set by the team. Careful consideration needs to be given to the different groups of people who will be interviewed and how the interviews will be conducted.  For example, teachers might answer the questions on written forms or on the computer whereas parents might need to be interviewed in person.   It would also be essential to have documents translated into Spanish so that the written language is not a hindrance to parental participation.

Collected data is read and categorized by the team.  Members of the task force will share their findings and look for common threads to be examined, assets, differences, and potential barriers to parental involvement.  Analyzed responses can be shared with the interviewed groups to confirm the accuracy of the interpretations.

Organizing the Campus

After the Latino parent data is assessed and analyzed, the next step is to assess the organization of your school.  This assessment will enable the task force to make decisions about how to structure a plan to increase parental involvement.  Under the guidance of the principal, the team reflects on the level of change needed for each initiative.  For example, if the goal is to increase parental involvement in the PTA, the team would follow a protocol to determine the key participants and their responsibilities.  A chart can be used to track the changes being implemented and their success.

Deciding on Campus Goals and Action Plans

Campus wide decisions about outcomes should guide the goal setting process.   Key questions to consider when making these goals might include the following:

Is it the goal to have Latino parents:

  • Learn the behaviors/values of the school?
  • Participate in seeking solutions to problems?
  • Become active in voicing their concerns for change?

The action plan needs to be implemented over time and be practical, manageable, and involve school staff at every level.  Additional considerations for the development of an action plan might include seeking grants to fund activities, documenting outreach efforts as a part of the campus improvement plan, using Title 1 funds to add key staff to the campus, ensuring that school practitioners can translate for parents, and hiring certified language support teachers who have the credentials to support students.

Latino students are an ever increasing population in our schools today.  If they are to be successful in their educational careers schools must strive to create partnerships with parents to ensure success.  School staff must perceive this relationship to be an asset and design structures within their campuses to promote positive change.  It is the act of valuing home-to-school relationships that will act as the catalyst for this change and make the difference for all students.

Source

Campos, D., Delgado, R., & Soto Huerta, M. E. (2011).  Reaching Out to Latino Families of English Language Learners.  Alexandria, VA:  ASCD.


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