Teresa Garcia was frustrated. Her Spanish was much better than her English, and that hindered her from communicating with her children’s teachers. She was hardly alone. In the Federal Way school district, north of Tacoma, Wash.,18 percent of the 22,500 students are native Spanish speakers. In all, students in the diverse district speak 118 different languages. “I couldn’t support my children in the best way that they deserve because I wasn’t able to speak English. I know that too many families need this information in their home language to support their children,” Garcia explains. Garcia and other parents worked with the district to change how schools communicate with families and to ensure information is translated into a host of languages. She also lobbied the state legislature to increase bilingual education statewide. “The most important advice that I can give to any parent,” Garcia says, “is don’t feel afraid to speak up. Don’t feel afraid to ask about what you need. Don’t feel afraid to go to the school and speak your language.”
Coverage of how parents work with educators, community leaders and policymakers to make informed decisions about their children’s education is supported by a grant from the Walton Family Foundation, at waltonk12.org. Education Week retains sole editorial control over the content of this coverage.