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

Colorado Teacher Diversity Lags Latino Student Population

The percentage of Latino teachers in Colorado lags far behind the state’s diverse student population.

The Denver Post reports that Latinos made up about 8 percent of the state’s teachers during the 2012-13 school year, and 25 percent of the students. Additionally, the percentage of Latino teachers has increased by only 1 percent over the past decade.

 While about 58 percent of children who are enrolled in the Denver Public Schools are Hispanic, only about 17 percent of the teachers are Hispanic. The percentage increased by only 2 percentage points over the last ten years.

The article describes some efforts being made by school districts to increase the diversity of educators. Denver schools have a teacher-residency program for professionals looking to change careers. It describes how Julio Alas, who was a drug and alcohol counselor, discovered the program through the University of Denver’s Latino alumni association. He is now a kindergarten teacher.

“Being in the classroom as a Latino is important, and then I have to, within the curriculum, also show these students books that they would be familiar with or where they are represented,” Alas told the Post. “That’s huge, for kids to see people of color and underrepresented groups, not only in the classroom but in the curriculum as well.”

Other district are trying to recruit at universities with a substantial number of Latino students. In Texas districts, I’ve noticed that some districts have grow-your-own programs. They have education courses for high school students, and offer incentives for graduates of the district to return as teachers.

The article points out that U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan has said there is an even more severe shortage when it comes to black and Latino male teachers. What I’ve noticed in Texas is also that Hispanic teachers tend to be more common at the elementary level, where there are bilingual teachers who tend to earn more because of their language skills. They are much less common at the secondary level, when students are often looking for role models.

Colorado isn’t the only state to struggle with adequately reflecting its student population. Have you checked on your own state?

Related Links:

“Minority teacher numbers in Colorado lag growth of state’s minority students,” The Denver Post.

Most Colorado Latino College Students Need Remediation

A new report by Colorado higher education officials finds that in 2012, almost 78% of Latino students enrolled in the state’s two-year colleges need remedial education. Latino students  fared better at four-year colleges, where 40% need remedial courses.

By comparison, 57% of white students needed remediation at two-year colleges and 19% at four-year colleges. African-American students fared the worst, with 90% needing remedial coursework at two-year schools and 56% at four-year schools.

The report by the Colorado Department of Higher Education breaks out the rates and numbers of students by college and university. The state also tracks the figures by school district and high school. THe highest rate was found to be 95% at Emily Griffith Opportunity School in Denver Public Schools, and the lowest at just 2% at D’Evelyn Senior High School in the Jefferson County School District.

About 51% of all students needed remediation in math, 31% in writing and 18% in reading.

Even if you’re not a reporter in Colorado, find out how your state tracks remediation rates. Examining which high schools graduate the most students requiring remedial courses can often be just as illuminating as looking at the graduation rates.

Related Links:

2012 Remedial Education Report, Colorado Department of Higher Education. 

“40% of Colorado high school grads need remediation before college,” The Denver Post.

Latino Group Reaches Agreement with Denver Schools, Police

A Latino advocacy group has reached an agreement with the Denver Public Schools and Denver Police Department that limits the role of scope of police in schools primarily to criminal threats to school safety–and not routine discipline matters.

Padres & Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United) has worked for several years to combat what it refers to as the school-to-prison pipeline, which it partially blames on harsh discipline and zero tolerance policies.

The intergovernmental agreement seeks to define the role of police in schools, provide due process protections to students and families, requires input on the policing process, and mandates training prior to police being assigned to schools, Ricardo Martinez, the group’s leader, wrote in a commentary for The Denver Post.

He wrote that instead of the police ticketing or arresting students for non-criminal incidents such as talking back to teachers or swearing, the students should be referred to school administrators for disciplinary action.

The agreement seeks to solve discipline problems without using criminal punishment.

The Denver Post reports that Denver Police Chief Robert White said that “our job is to deal with serious violations of the law, and that’s what we’re going to do.” There are 15 Denver police officers working in 16 schools currently.

Superintendent Tom Boasberg told the newspaper that he expects the agreement to result in lower numbers of suspensions, expulsions and referrals to law enforcement.

The timing of the agreement is interesting, since it seems to go against the increased national discussion about the need for greater police presence on campus following the Sandy Hook Elementary incident.

Related Links:

– “Agreement keeps Denver police out of most school discipline problems,” The Denver Post.

– “As School-To-Prison Pipeline Continues to Swallow Students, Denver Works to Stem Flow,” The Huffington Post. 

– “Guest Commentary: Limiting the role of police in our schools,” The Denver Post. 

– Padres & Jovenes Unidos (Parents & Youth United)

Program Educates Spanish-Speaking Childcare Providers

Many Latino children who are not yet of school age do not attend preschool–they spend their days in the care of family members, friends or neighbors.

With that in mind, the United Way of Weld County, Colorado, began offering the Providers Advancing School Outcomes, or PASO, program.

PASO targets Spanish-speaking childcare providers who care for children ages zero to 5 in their homes. The program works with providers who have little or no training in early childhood education. The goal is to provide them enough training so they can better prepare children for school and future academic success.

PASO is modeled after the Child Development Associate program, and includes 130 hours of training over a 15-month period. The training deals with topics including cognitive, language, social and motor skills.

The women also receive home visits from mentors known as “tias” (aunts) twice a month, to check on their progress with the children, each of which lasts about 90 minutes.

One example is Mexican immigrant Cecilia Carro, who watches her grandson Charlie and four other children.

“Since I’ve arrived here, I’ve always taken care of kids,” she told KUNC radio. “They grow up; younger ones come to take their place.”

Despite her years of caring for children, before she took part in the PASO program, she didn’t think about reading or teaching activities. Now, things have changed. She tries to focus on writing, reading and making crafts.

Programs such as this one are especially important given the recent emphasis on the importance of early education. According to the Annie E. Casey Foundation, between 2008 and 2010 about 63 percent of Hispanic three- and four-year olds were not in pre-K programs.

I found PASO an interesting twist on programs that work with Hispanic immigrant mothers to teach them how to become their child’s first teacher (such as AVANCE and HIPPY). The instruction models are very similar. But this program takes into account the fact that many immigrant mothers work. The mothers then turn to informal childcare providers who provide care for free or at a low cost, because they can’t afford professional daycare services.

“We have to meet families where they are, that’s the key,” Jeannine Truswell, president of the United Way of Weld County, told KUNC. “As agencies and organizations, we can’t expect to be sitting here and have people come to us.”

Related Links:
– “Starting Early: Combating the Rising Latino Achievement Gap.” KUNC: Community Radio for Northern Colorado.

– “United Way, child care providers to increase Latino students’ success rates.” Greeley Tribune.

– FFN PASO Program.

Colorado Considers In-State Tuition For Undocumented College Students

For the seventh consecutive year, activists are fighting for passage of legislation that would provide in-state tuition to undocumented immigrant students attending Colorado’s public colleges and universities.

Much like the long-debated federal Dream Act, the measure has repeatedly failed. But this year, Democrats are hopeful that the legislation, dubbed ASSET (Advancing Students for a Stronger Economy Tomorrow) will finally pass, since the party now controls both the House and Senate. Supporters of the bill held a press conference Tuesday, announcing its introduction in the state Senate. Students, educators and elected officials attended the event. Supporters include Denver Mayor Michael Hancock.

If ASSET passed, Colorado would join other states providing in-state rates to immigrants, including Texas and California. In November, voters approved a Maryland ‘Dream Act’ law. The bill would provide in-state tuition to students who attended  high school in the state for at least three years before graduating or earning a GED. The proposal does not include providing state financial aid.

Last June, the board of trustees of the Metropolitan State University of Denver, a public institution, decided to establish a non-resident, Colorado graduate tuition rate last year benefiting undocumented immigrants. The university’s decision was controversial, and even spurred critics to accuse leaders of defying state law. The Denver Post reported that 237 students enrolled under the new rate last fall.

Related Links:

“ASSET backers upbeat, confident.” EdNews Colorado.

“ASSET Bill is Reintroduced in Colorado Senate to Give In-State Tuition for Undocumented Students.” The Huffington Post.  

– “Supporters of in-state tuition for illegal immigrants hope 7th time is the charm.” The Denver Post.

– “A College Lifts a Hurdle for Illegal Immigrants.” The New York Times.