I had mixed feelings about Lisa M. Weinbaum’s efforts to highlight the growing distance that immigrant parents feel between themselves and their children, as the children assimilate into U.S. culture (“Straddling a Cultural Chasm,” Commentary, Sept. 20, 2006).
Ms. Weinbaum says that many parents avoid school events because they feel they have little in common with their children, and are uncomfortable in a school setting. She rightly admonishes fellow educators to be more sympathetic to this point of view, letting them know it’s just not true that parents who don’t attend school meetings don’t care.
While I agree that educators need to better understand impediments to parent involvement, we must not let immigrant parents remain on the outside. I direct a project that seeks to increase the number of Latino students who enroll in college, and we have found many effective models for parent involvement. Our experience, as well as a sizable body of research, suggests that parent involvement significantly increases students’ chances of graduating from high school and going on to college. It is particularly important when a student would be the first in the family to enroll in college, and when poverty is a barrier.
I understand Ms. Weinbaum’s decision to forgo future events at her daughter’s religious school, but, by her own admission, she is “a veteran [public school] teacher with plenty of connections, adept at maneuvering through an educational labyrinth,” while many immigrant parents are not. If she stops visiting her daughter’s school, her daughter’s chances of enrolling in college probably will not be jeopardized. I’m afraid we can’t say the same for low-income immigrant families. As educators, we must persist in reaching out to these parents, to allow them to make the same connections that benefit Ms. Weinbaum and her daughter.
Amy Aparicio Clark
Postsecondary Access for Latino
Middle-Grades Students (PALMS) Project
Education Development Center Inc.
A version of this article appeared in the October 04, 2006 edition of Education Week as Educators Must Persist in Reaching Out to Parents