October 19, 2016
By Danielle Dreilinger
Latino parents want to be involved in their children's education -- and schools could be doing a lot more to include them. That's the conclusion of a survey recently released by Our Voice Nuestra Voz, a parent advocacy group.
Nuestra Voz is hosting meetings Wednesday and Thursday (Oct. 18–19) to discuss the results.
"New Orleans' Latino parents face challenges in getting their children educated because of the parents' limited English proficiency, the school system's decentralized administrative structure and the nuances of the centralized enrollment process," the report says.
However, "the problem is the solution: schools," Nuestra Voz director Mary Moran said.
The group analyzed 331 surveys from families at 43 public schools, and it warned against drawing broad conclusions due to research limitations.
Though scant, the responses provide a new look at a community whose influence is spreading. Public school enrollment has gone from 1.2 percent Latino the year before Katrina to 5.1 percent in 2014-15, the study says. Nuestra Voz parents have begun attending school meetings, often sporting the group's neon-green shirts.
New Orleans and Jefferson Parish schools have struggled to accommodate these families, drawing federal civil rights complaints. U.S. schools legally must provide equal access to students and parents with limited English proficiency, and they must also enroll all children regardless of immigration status.
Complicating matters in New Orleans is the city's unique school system, which is composed mostly of independently run charters overseen by both state and local boards. There are no automatic school assignments based on home address, so parents must apply for the schools they like.
Latino respondents named a number of issues with schools, including motivating their children, bullying, working with teachers, helping with homework, figuring out where to go with problems and navigating the decentralized enrollment system.
The homework problems might be due to a language barrier: 70 percent of respondents did not speak English, and a majority said schools did not provide translated homework.
Parents generally wanted to be involved in their children's education: 82.5 percent said they would attend workshops or classes "about how parents and family members can help their children learn at home." Suggested workshop themes included English as a Second Language courses for adults, health care, paying for college, immigration/legal services, career options for their children and college admissions.
Nuestra Voz suggests translating homework and outreach materials such as newsletters into Spanish, and it urges community and school groups to "capitalize on Latino parents' willingness to learn" by offering the workshops they seek.
Although Nuestra Voz began with a focus on New Orleans, the group is now surveying parents in Jefferson Parish, Moran said. One-quarter of the total public school student body there is Hispanic or Latino.
Source: The Times-Picayune