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.

The Challenge for Latino Children in Illinois

The Chicago Public Schools have faced numerous difficulties in the past year: school closures, neighborhood violence and persistently high dropout rates. Latino children make up about 44 percent of the district’s enrollment.

On the Huffington Post Latino Voices blog, Latino Policy Forum Executive Director Sylvia Puente writes about the conditions in Chicago and Illinois, noting last year’s struggles.

“The eyes of the nation were fixed on our corner of Illinois — not just to follow the controversy, but also because as one of the country’s global, diverse cities, Chicago is [a] litmus test of educational realities across the country,” she writes.

Puente writes that improving outcomes for Latino children depends on increasing access to quality preschool programs. Additionally, as Illinois phases in required bilingual education for English Language Learners in preschool, more training is needed for teachers. Lastly, Latino students need access to quality teachers and more Latino teachers.

“Understanding the issues is step one,” Puente writes. “But action — in the form of investments in increased access to quality early care and education in Latino neighborhoods, resources for teachers to pursue linguistic credentials, and strong teacher preparation programs that encourage diverse talent in the profession — is critical, in Chicago, in Illinois, and across the country.”

Read more here.

Related Links:

– “Chicago’s Next Education Crisis Isn’t Limited to Chicago — Here’s Why,” The Huffington Post Latino Voices.

– Latino Policy Forum.

“Abriendo Puertas” Program to Expand in Chicago

The “Abriendo Puertas” program aims to empower Hispanic parents to be their children’s first teacher. The initiative, which stands for “Opening Doors” in English, targets parents in Spanish who have children ages zero to five years old.

The Latino Policy Forum recently announced an effort to expand the program’s reach in the Chicago area. The Forum, which has offered the program since 2010, plans on training 1,000 parents in the region by the end of its third year. About 540 parents have been trained since its inception.

Nationally, the program has sites in 31 states serving more than 22,000 families. Parents learn in ten sessions about topics including nutrition, parents as advocates and communication.

The Forum has tracked the attitudes of participating parents. Among the findings:

  • About 22 percent of parents were not confident about teaching their children language before going through the program, compared with 83 percent afterwards.
  • About 18 percent of parents said they knew “little” to “nothing” about school expectations at first, compared with 74 percent after completing the program.
  • About 98.5 percent of the parents felt confident about teaching their children before they enter kindergarten, after completing the program. This included basic skills such as counting, learning colors and letters.

A recent study by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley, surveyed hundreds of parent participants and found that they improved their knowledge about early learning and brain development , developing literacy and helping their children be successful at school. They also came away more confident about their parenting skills.

The Policy Forum will be offering a workshop on how to train parents from Nov. 26-28 in Chicago. The group expects 14 organizations that serve Latinos to attend, including schools districts and nonprofit groups.

Other programs focusing on Latino parents with similar parent involvement models include HIPPY and AVANCE.

Related Links:

– “Metro Chicago Latino Parent Leadership Program to Train 1,000 by End of its Third Year.” Latino Policy Forum.

– “Abriendo Puertas” Program Gives Latino Parents a Boost. Latino Ed Beat. 

– “Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors Network.” National Head Start Association. 

Report Outlines Education Agenda for Latino Students in Illinois

Nearly one in four Illinois public school students is Latino. And their story is no longer confined to the Chicago Public Schools, where Hispanics are 43 percent of the enrollment. Most of the  state’s Latino student population is now in the suburbs and rural areas.

new report by the Latino Policy Forum lays out the challenges facing the population. Only one in three Latinos are enrolled in preschool. By the time they reach the third grade, these Latino students lag white students by 31 percentage points in reading scores.  English Language Learners, 86 percent of whom speak Spanish, lag 48 points in reading by third grade.

“Such statistics are alarming, and these trends left unchecked will have devastating implications for Illinois: ensuring positive outcomes for their community is no longer simply a Latino issue,” the Shaping Our Future report says. “The well-being of Latinos–whose population has increased by nearly 500,000 over the last decade–is inextricably linked to the well-being of all of Illinois?”

So, what can be done?

The report identifies areas of interest and specific action items to be taken on:

Raising Academic and Instructional Standards:

The report suggests providing linguistically appropriate tests for students, such as increasing students’ time to take tests and allowing students to respond in Spanish. In addition, it advises that students complete college prep coursework and be provided programs such as dual-language instruction.

Preparing Teachers and Academic Leadership:

The Forum urges racial diversity among the teacher and administrator workforce. It urges that bilingual and mainstream teachers have proper training to deal with the diverse student population. In addition, it seeks to promote Latino students’ access to highly qualified teachers.

Addressing Funding and Facility Concerns.

The state’s heavy dependency on property taxes to fund schools has perpetuated continued unequal funding districts, with high-minority districts receiving about $1,595 less per student than low-minority districts. The Forum promotes advocating for increased funding and new strategies for distributing funds. In addition, it suggests building schools to be able to prevent overcrowding and increasing students’ access to technology.

Fostering Partners in Education.

The organization has planned the Acuerdo group geared at bringing Latino organizations and leaders together to advocate for the community’s needs and push initiatives forward.

Partners with schools, classrooms and school districts can include community-based organizations, foundations, businesses, faith-based organizations, health organizations and families. They can provide resources for issues such as funding support and providing support such as gang prevention programs.

The report also stresses the importance of family involvement initiatives, such as sharing with parents school information such as the benefits of preschool. Schools can also be educated themselves about how to go back to school and learn English. In addition, the report points out that suburbs often have fewer community organizations that provide services than Chicago, and are in need of more partners.

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The Latino Policy Forum also hosted a discussion today along with leaders from the National Council of La Raza, Chicago Public Schools and Illinois State Board of Education in conjunction with the report’s release. WestEd’s Aida Walqui, an expert on ELLs, also spoke about the common core standards.

Related Links:

– “Shaping Our Future: Building a Collective Latino K-12 Education Agenda.” Latino Policy Forum. 

– Education Acuerdo

Latino Policy Forum