Latino parents and the A-G school requirements
The Sonoma Valley Unified School District board voted unanimously June 14 to implement A-G requirements for all graduating seniors at the high school, beginning with next year's freshmen class. The purpose of the curriculum change is to better prepare all of our students for career and college. In general terms, A-G refers to the necessary courses, across six subject areas, plus an accepted elective, that a high school student must complete with a minimum "C" grade to be eligible for enrollment in the UC or CSU systems.
Many of our graduating seniors, especially our Latino students, have not achieved the academic level necessary to face the challenges of college and the workplace. That is not uncommon in California high schools where data from the 2008-09 school year indicates that, statewide, only 23 percent of Latino students met A-G requirements. Similarly, findings from the Center for Latino Policy Research at UC Berkeley have shown that, in 2005, more than 50 percent of all high schools in California did not offer enough A-G courses for all enrolled students.
Now, propelled by a leadership team at Sonoma Valley High School that is seeking to have more of their curriculum accepted as A-G courses, there is a real possibility on the horizon that Latino students at Sonoma Valley High School will find the support they need to meet the necessary graduation requirements and succeed in fulfilling the dream that brought their parents here in the first place.
The Latino immigrant community has made a quantum jump from rural backgrounds with no academic education, to having offspring who can become the first in their families to attend college and achieve professional careers.
Throughout the history of human civilization, virtually all cultures have made this kind of shift, experiencing the "first-one-to-attend-college-in-their families" advancement. Academic education is an evolutionary process created by society, and in this moment in history education - or its lack - is what defines us as a civilization.
The possibility that Sonoma Valley High School will soon be able to provide this opportunity for all students is very important. That has inspired some of us to become more involved in finding ways to inform and support Latino parents regarding the implications of the A-G requirements for their children, and to help them find ways to be actively engaged with their education.
In our Nueva Vida programs, for example, we used our last two community forums for Latino parents to address the issue of what the A-G graduation requirements would mean for their children. In these forums, we engaged the services, of Dr. Juan Carlos Arauz a Latino educator from Marin. He offered an innovative presentation focused on the cultural resiliency of the Latino community and what he said were the five abilities necessary for successful education in the 21st century.
His presentation gave participants a clear understanding of the assets they have acquired through the process of immigrating, including skills that can be passed on to their children to help them succeed in the public school system.
The acculturation process Latino families and their children experience in America requires them to develop critical thinking at a very early age. Navigating borders, both geographically and socially, and confronting a different value system helps to develop adaptability and flexibility. They learn teamwork in having to rely on each other to make their way in a new land, and they constantly practice inter/intra cultural communication, switching from one language to another, from one culture to another and from one way of seeing life to another. These cross-cultural communication skills are very important in a global economy.
The participants identified with Arauz's enumeration of these abilities, and they recognized themselves in his examples, which helped to validate their experiences as immigrants. The parents left the forum expressing interest in a stronger partnership with school district staff to answer specific questions about the A-G requirements, and other school-related issues, in small groups.
I believe that a new era can begin for a true partnership between the school district and the Latino community, especially with the support of our superintendent as a proactive force for making this happen.