Home Visiting Programs Help Latino Toddlers

Sometimes even preschool is too late to effectively intervene and boost the achievement levels of low-income Latino children.

But home visiting programs bring school into the home, and help parents become their child’s first teacher. A recent report by the Latino Policy Forum, “Primeros Pasos,” shows how such programs are making a positive difference in Illinois.

The programs are characterized by their work to improve parenting practices as well as parents’ awareness of their child’s development. They also operate as an early alert system of sorts to identify any developmental or health challenges. They also may prevent child abuse and set children on track toward greater success in school.

“Home visiting programs are generally targeted toward those families who are most at risk for adverse outcomes, like teen parents. And home visiting can begin prenatally to coach and equip young parents in how to support their child’s health development,” the report’s author, Jacob Vigil, told WTTW’s Chicago Tonight.

The study also suggests that strong home visiting programs are often those that receive state funding support.

The Early Head Start home visiting program works with children under the age of three. Yuri Gutierrez has two young children in the program and told WTTW that one of the biggest things she learned was the importance of reading to them.

The Latino Policy Forum makes a number of other recommendations on how to improve early childhood learning. They include increasing the number of bilingual early learning educators and providing more training opportunities to such individuals.

They also recommend improving awareness among Latino parents about the importance of early learning and parent involvement. In addition, they encourage the collection of data on infants and toddlers and the service providers that work with such children.

Even the report focuses on Illinois, it is worth a read and could easily be applied to the rest of the nation.

Related Links:

“Early Education in the Latino Community,” Chicago Tonight, WTTW.

“Primeros Pasos: Strengthening Programs that Support Illinois Infants and Toddlers,” Latino Policy Forum.

Home Visiting Campaign, The Pew Charitable Trusts.

‘Juntos’ Programs Target Teens and Parents

A growing number of school districts and universities are working together to push more Latino youth to pursue a college education.

At the same time, school districts also are seeking to boost Latino parent involvement.

A program called Juntos, which means “together” in Spanish, tackles both goals. The program originated at North Carolina State University and now is being replicated at middle and high schools in several states. It is intended for students in the eighth- through twelfth-grades.

As part of the program, Latino teens and their parents attend a six-week-long series of workshops that tackle topics including goal-setting, the college admissions process and seeking financial aid for college.

The Tulsa World newspaper reports that Oklahoma State University and the Tulsa Public Schools are now partnering to implement the program.

“Many Latino parents don’t know how to navigate the American education system and because of where they come from, these parents see the school as the one in power,” said Antonio Marín, a grant coordinator at Oklahoma State. “They need to know they can come to the school to talk to the principal and the teacher and the counselor, and that college is an option for their kids.”

Oregon State University is also leading a Juntos program for students in Madras, Oregon. It is part of the university’s “Open Campus” initiative, which aims to work with K-12 schools, colleges and local government to create higher education opportunities.

Open Campus coordinator Jennifer Oppenlander told KTVZ News that involving parents and their children in the activities makes the program distinctive.

“By attending Juntos together, the experience gives families a comfort level and makes them feel as if they have a support group,” she said.

Are colleges and school districts in your community partnering to work together on similar programs? If not, what is the state of relations between K12 and higher education institutions in your community?

Related Links:

“Juntos Initiative Helps Tulsa Latino Students Succeed,” Tulsa World.

“OSU Program Preps Madras Latinos for College,” KTVZ.com.

“Juntos Summit Unites Latino Students in Quest for Higher Education and Rewarding Careers,” North Carolina State University News Center.

– The Juntos Program

Study Measures Stress Levels Among Hispanic Parents

Hispanic parents who are recent immigrants experience higher levels of stress than U.S.-born Hispanic parents and immigrant parents who have been in the United States for a longer period of time, according to a new study by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles.

Overall, poor parents experience more stress than affluent parents. According to a news release, the findings were based on interviews with several thousand parents beginning one month after the birth of a child, and then at intervals until up to two years of age. Most of the parents were near or below the federal poverty level, defined as $23,550 for a family of four in 2013.

“The abundance of stress for poor parents is clear, potent and potentially toxic for them and their children,” said Chris Dunkel Schetter, a UCLA psychology professor and the study’s lead author. “Both mothers and fathers who were poor and members of an ethnic or racial minority group reported higher financial stress and more stress from major life events like death and divorce than those who were either just poor or just part of a minority group.”

According to the news release, stress was caused by issues such as parenting, finances, violence, deaths and racism. Stress was measured in a variety of ways, which included blood pressure and body mass index measurements.

The study found that low-income Latino parents were less likely than white or black parents to feel that their lives are uncontrollable and overwhelming. They also reported less stress from major life events.

Related Links:
“Study of Young Parents Highlights Links Among Stress, Poverty and Ethnicity,” UCLA Newsroom.

Do School Districts Need Hispanic Outreach Positions?

The Prince George’s County School System in Maryland came under scrutiny after the county’s executive recently appointed three new members to the Board of Education — none of whom were Hispanic.

Of the district’s approximately 123,000 students, roughly 25 percent are Hispanic (though no Hispanics serve on the 13-member board).

After the backlash, The Washington Post reports that the district recently hired Maritza Gonzalez, as a diversity officer charged with overseeing Latino affairs. The district, which has a student population that is majority black, is now experiencing Hispanic growth.

The article reports that in Gonzalez’s position, she is already taking on tasks such as translating at meetings for parents. The newspaper notes that in her new role as a liaison, she has also heard from Hispanic parents that they want more pre-K classes and English classes for adults.

She also has set an agenda that includes focusing on offering dual language Spanish immersion programs and promoting college.

“I hope that she helps to address the needs of the growing student body here,” state Sen. Victor R. Ramirez told the Post. “I feel right now there’s a disconnect.”

Many districts have turned to hiring translators and creating parent involvement offices geared at improving outreach to various minority and immigrant communities. Is this a trend you are seeing in your area?

Related Links:

“Prince George’s Schools Hires Diversity Officer to Focus on Latino Affairs,” The Washington Post.
“Hispanic Leaders Upset Over Latino Representation in Prince George’s,” The Washington Post.
Prince George’s County Public Schools

Survey Finds Parent School Preferences Vary By Ethnicity

A survey of parents of school-age children finds that their views of an “ideal” school often vary by race, ethnicity and economic status. The Thomas B. Fordham Institute surveyed more than 2,000 parents a year ago online for the “What Parents Want” study.

Despite differences, parents across different backgrounds agreed on core “must haves” such as a strong reading and math curriculum and emphasizing STEM (science technology, engineering and math) programs.

Elsewhere, the parents diverge.

Hispanic, black and low-income parents viewed an ideal school as having high test scores and strong preparation for the state exams more so than white and affluent parents.

Hispanic and black parents focused less on prioritizing learning good study habits and self-discipline than white parents. But minority parents were more likely to say that they wanted their child to be admitted to top tier colleges.

The report offers further details on how parents rated various factors.

Related Links:

– “Parents Favor ‘Niche’ Schools, Fordham Institute Market Study Finds,” Education Week.

– “What Parents Want: Education Preferences and Trade-Offs,” Fordham Institute.

Poll Reveals How Latino Parents View School Quality

A new poll shows that Latino parents are more likely than other groups to say that a lack of  high-quality teachers at their children’s schools is an extremely serious problem, while black and white parents tend to point to school funding as a big problem.

Latino, black and low-income parents are also more likely to say their children’s schools have serious problems than white or wealthy parents.

The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research surveyed 1,025 parents of children in grades K-12 from June 21 to July 22, 2013. The survey also found that parents polled believe that parents and teachers play more of a role in determining school quality than education funding.

About three-quarters of the parents supported public funding for universal preschool for four-year-olds. Most parents said standardized tests are effective ways to measure school and individual student performance.

Other findings found significant differences in the views of Hispanic and white parents on important education issues:

– About 90 percent of Hispanic parents support a publicly funded plan to offer preschool to all four-year-olds, compared with 76 percent of all parents and 70 percent of white parents (this is interesting since Hispanics have the lowest preschool attendance rate of any group).

– Only about 40 percent of Hispanic parents said they volunteered at their child’s school, or donated to support it. This was dramatically lower than white parents, at 76 percent, and black parents, at 66 percent.

– About 54 percent of Hispanic parents felt that they have a lot of influence in their child’s education, compared with 34 percent of white parents.

– About 90 percent of Hispanics said it is very important that teachers have a college degree in the subject area or grade level in which they are teaching, compared with 71 percent of white parents. Additionally, 77 percent of Hispanics said it was important that teachers have master’s or other advanced degrees, compared with 22 percent of whites.

– About 71 percent of Hispanics feel that teaching experience is important, compared with 37 percent of whites.

– About 73 percent of Hispanic parents and 60 percent of black parents said they thought it was important that teachers share their values, compared with 43 percent of whites.

– About 59 percent of Hispanics say they want to make it easier for schools to fire poor-performing teachers, compared with 80 percent of whites. All parents felt it was important for districts to help low-performing parents improve their performance.

– Hispanic and black parents are more likely than white parents to support paying teachers more if their students do well on standardized tests. About 70 percent of Hispanics, 57 percent of blacks, and 39 percent of whites support this.

– Hispanic and black parents are more likely to feel that it is very important that children be assessed to determine if they are making state standards. About 85 percent of Hispanics agree with this, compared with 69 percent of white parents. Additionally, about 42 percent of Hispanic parents and 12 percent of white parents say standardized tests measure school quality well.

– Hispanic parents had a more positive outlook on the new common core standards than white parents.

Read the full report here.

Related Links:

– “AP-NORC Poll: Race, Income Divide Views of Schools,” Associated Press.

– “Parents’ Attitudes on The Quality of Education in the United States,” APNORC.

Schools Reach Parents With Spanish Radio Broadcasts

Several years ago, Denver Public Schools officials recognized the enormous popularity of Spanish-language radio among Hispanic parents and turned that knowledge into a successful new vehicle for community outreach.

Under the leadership of the then-director of multicultural outreach Alex Sanchez, the district launched the Educa Radio broadcast on local radio stations. The stations already had a built in loyal audience of Spanish-language music fans. Sanchez told The Denver Post that immigrant parents often listed to radio while at work, whether it be in a restaurant or  on a construction site.

“We are getting information to parents in a medium they are comfortable with,” he told the newspaper.

Educa Radio broadcasts have tackled thorny topics including high teen pregnancy rates among Latinas, bilingualism,  discipline,  bullying of gays and lesbian students and how to apply for federal financial aid. A weekly segment profiles schools doing particularly well with Hispanic students.

The radio programs also increased Hispanic parent involvement. The web site Take Part reports that after the radio station launched, the district saw an increase in parent calls to the district and attendance at school district-related events promoted on the radio.

The radio station broadcasts three hourly shows a week.  The initiative also has a web site with blog posts, podcasts and internet broadcasts. The show has been so successful that it has attracted Colorado state senators as guests.

The broadcast’s goals include informing parents about their rights and responsibilities, teaching them how to support their children in the home and at school, encourage involvement in parent meetings and familiarizing themselves with the Denver Public Schools.

The original host of the  Denver program, Alex Sanchez,  has now created a similar Sunday-morning program in the Austin Independent School District in Texas, known as Educa Austin. Sanchez is a Mexican immigrant, and is the district’s director of public relations and multicultural outreach.

“What I recognize is that if parents don’t participate in the education system in this country, it’s not because they don’t care about their kids, it’s because they don’t know how,” he told Take Part. “Active parents can demand services and programs that will help their kids graduate from high school on time, go to college, and have a better shot at the American dream. And who doesn’t want that?”

Related Links:

– “Parental Involvement: Radio Keeps Latino Parents in Tune With Their Kids’ Education,” Take Part.

– Educa Radio (Una iniciativa de las Escuelas Publicas de Denver)

– Radio helps Latinos, DPS stay tuned in to each other. The Denver Post.

– AISD to pilot Spanish radio program on weekend mornings, Austin American Statesman.

– Educa Austin

Illinois School District Trains Hispanic Parent Leaders

After noticing that few Hispanic parents were serving on school district committees, an Illinois school district superintendent decided to create a program to teach parents the skills they need to become effective leaders.

Elgin Area School District U-46  superintendent Jose Torres tasked family and community engagement employees with creating the two-year Hispanic Parent Leadership Institute in 2010 to foster greater parent involvement, The Daily Herald reports. The district even compensates parents with $1,000 stipends for their participation.

The school district is the second largest district in Illinois next to the Chicago Public Schools, and its student enrollment is about half Hispanic.

In the first year of the program, parents meet one Saturday a month to learn about the district and go through leadership training. In the second year, parents meet every other month engaged in hands-on learning opportunities.

The district already has some success stories to share about Hispanic parent participants. Teresa Aguirre serves on a middle school Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO). Other parents have advanced to positions on various committees and advisory councils. One parent was elected to the school board.

Elementary school parent Tomás Figueroa, is a participant in the program.

“Like most parents, I wanted to get more involved in my kids’ education and find out who’s making the decisions on what they’re learning,” Figueroa told the Herald. “All those questions were answered. I would recommend it to everybody.”

I previously blogged about the Elgin district this spring when it decided to require teachers at ten of its low performing elementary schools to earn English as a Second Language teaching credentials.

The district’s treatment of Hispanic students hasn’t gone without some criticism. A federal discrimination lawsuit was filed against the district in recent years, accusing schools of running a segregated gifted program that placed elementary students whose native language is Spanish in a separate program from gifted native English speakers.

Related Links:

– “U-46 hopes to train more black, Latino parent leaders,” Daily Herald.

– “Illinois District Requires ESL Training for Some Teachers,” Latino Ed Beat.

Ads Promote Autism Awareness Among Latinos

A new ad campaign from the group Autism Speaks is reaching out to Latino and African-American parents to generate greater awareness about autism and encourage earlier identification.

The “Maybe”  PSA campaign includes TV and print ads in both English and Spanish. The ads outline key warning signs and behaviors a child with autism may exhibit, such as a preoccupation with objects and avoiding eye contact.

Last year, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) released a study showing large increases in the number of Latino and black children identified as autistic. The CDC estimated that there were about 7.9 diagnosed cases of autism per 1,000 Latino children, an increase of 110% over 2002. Despite that increase, prevalence is much higher among white (12.0) and black (10.2) children. The report noted that the wide variation between groups could be attributed to awareness levels in the communities.

The average age of diagnosis is four to five years. But the average age of diagnosis is higher among Latino, black and low-income children.

“Earlier diagnosis [is] so important because if we can get a child by 2 years old, in most cases, with help that child can go to regular kindergarten,” Liz Feld, president of Autism Speaks, told NBC Latino. “The window between 2-5 years old is the most important time to deal with treatment.”

Related Links:

– “Aiming Autism Ads at Hispanic and African-American Parents,” The New York Times.

– “Autism Cases Identified Among Hispanic Children on the Rise, CDC Says,” Latino Ed Beat.

– “Autism Speaks launches new campaign to reach Latino, black parents,” NBC Latino.

– “Prevalence of Austin Spectrum DIsorders in Hispanic and non-Hispanic White Children,” Pediatrics.

– Autism Speaks

Harvard Criticized Over Dissertation on Hispanics’ IQ

Harvard University students have gathered 1,200 signatures protesting the John F. Kennedy School of Government’s approval of a dissertation asserting that Latinos have low IQs.

The Boston Globe reports that the petition calls on the university to investigate how the dissertation by doctoral candidate Jason Richwine was approved. “Academic freedom and a reasoned debate are essential to our academic community,” the petition said. “However, the Harvard Kennedy School cannot ethically stand behind academic work advocating a national policy of exclusion and advancing an agenda of discrimination.”

Richwine’s thesis argued that Hispanic children attending U.S. schools will not improve past their immigrant parents. “No one knows whether Hispanics will ever reach IQ parity with whites, but the prediction that new Hispanic immigrants will have low IQ children and grandchildren is difficult to argue against,” Richwine wrote in the paper.

He also called the average IQ of Hispanics “effectively permanent.”

Richwine’s thesis, “IQ and Immigration Policy,” came to light and stirred controversy this month after he co-authored a Heritage Foundation report asserting that the effective cost of immigration reform would be $6.3 trillion. Richwine has since resigned from his position at the foundation.

George Borjas, chair of the Kennedy School’s Standing Committee on Public Policy, which accepted the work, said the dissertation was sound. Borjas, who was born in Cuba, is an economist and professor who also has promoted reducing immigration to the United States.

So far, Richwine has stood by his conclusions, in which he says immigration policy should be based on IQ. “The dissertation shows that recent immigrants score lower than U.S.-born whites on many different types of IQ tests,” he wrote in the National Review online. “Using statistical analysis, it suggests that the test-score differential is due primarily to a real cognitive gap rather than to culture or language bias.”

Petition spokesman Berdion Del Valle, who is Hispanic, said that it is important that research be academically rigorous and ethical.“If Harvard doesn’t apply rigorous academic standards for its research, how can we guarantee our policy discussions are not affected by irresponsible scholarship?” he told NBC Latino.

This debate reminds me of difficult issues that we have faced since the implementation of No Child Left Behind testing began. Speaking in support of the passage of that law, President Bush referred to the “soft bigotry in low expectations” that blocks progress in closing achievement gaps from happening. This debate exposes the unfortunate truth that there are many people out there, even those with advanced degrees, who still do not expect much of minority children.

What is being done to change these attitudes?

Related Links:

– “Harvard students erupt at scholar Jason Richwine’s claim in thesis,” Boston Globe.

– “Harvard students demand investigation into Jason Richwine immigration thesis,” NBC Latino.

– “IQ and Immigration Policy,” Jason Richwine.