'A Better Life for Their Children'
Roberto and Guadalupe Perez have lived in their home in southwest San Antonio for 12 years. Roberto is bilingual, graduated from high school, and earns the minimum wage working for a construction company. Lupe is a native of Mexico. She understands some English, but speaks only Spanish and stays home to care for their five children, whose ages range from 2 to 17. The Perez children are either bilingual or are learning the two languages.
The couple's two oldest children, Juan and Teresa, have dropped out of school. The other three attend 2nd, 4th, and 6th grades and do below-average work. Lupe walks to school with them every day because she is afraid something will happen to them.
Roberto and Lupe would like a better life for their children. Lupe wants her children to stay in school, but she fears that her younger children will follow in their older siblings' footsteps. She desperately needs help and support. Unfortunately, she does not know where to go for it.
Perhaps out of sheer desperation, or the persistence of a parent-outreach worker, she attends a parent-involvement program offered in her community. After several sessions, Lupe begins to realize that the education of her children isn't all up to the teachers, and that she can participate in decisions that affect their schooling.
She is delighted--and gratified--to discover that she has rights in the public schools, and that she can count on support from within the community to act on behalf of her children's academic success.
Nearly everyone involved in public education realizes that working more closely with parents and families is essential for improving not only student achievement but also the quality of education offered in public schools.
Hispanic parents have as much to offer toward their child's education as any other parents. However, involving them is a time-consuming and challenging process, but one that can result in handsome payoffs for all who make a serious, long-term commitment. In addition to such logistical barriers as the lack of transportation, child care, and time (which aren't unique to Hispanic families), there are language limitations and cultural differences.These factors combine to create many misconceptions and misunderstandings between the family and the school.
Many Hispanic parents, like Roberto and Guadalupe, believe they have very little to contribute to the education of their children.
This stems from several factors: beliefs about the limited role of parents in formal education, fear of the school system, their own low educational attainment and lack of economic resources, and feelings of being less than--instead of different from--the "mainstream" population.
Hispanic parents are not used to taking a leading role in the education of their children. The role of decisionmakers and leaders in the educational process has traditionally been left to teachers.
Parent-involvement programs for Hispanic parents must acknowledge and address these special concerns. Such programs must give them greater under- standing of how the school system works; bilingual and culturally appropriate information on parent roles, rights, and responsibilities; and parental support.
When this happens, Hispanic parents can become effective advocates for, and play meaningful roles in, their children's education.