The path to success for immigrant children
Over the past decade, I have observed parent and family participation in schools from a number of perspectives. During my graduate work, I studied participation in the Latino community for several reasons, both personal and professional. I was curious to understand how a family’s support of their children’s education impacted both my past and present worlds.
This need to understand the motivation and courage required by immigrant parents to be active participants in their child’s education has been the driving force behind my research.
Parent participation is a multifaceted issue that increases in complexity the more one strives to understand it. The reasons behind participation, or the lack of it, require a close examination. Generalizations can lead to misunderstandings that do not allow one to fully understand the problem; therefore, the solution cannot be “a one size fits all” remedy.
A significant number of parents believe that parent involvement is crucial. Most of them believe it will lead to student success. Defining parent participation solely as active school volunteering or event attendance is not an accurate measure of involvement. The definition of involvement varies from person to person and from situation to situation.
Ensuring that students arrive at school on time, everyday, with a nutritious breakfast, providing a quiet place for homework, checking in with the classroom teacher, attending meetings, being on campus every day, making sure the gardens are watered, are all valuable and important methods of participation. Sometimes parents need support and encouragement to be active members of the school community. As an educational leader, it is my responsibility to help support involvement and to create an atmosphere of acceptance and encouragement.
Research has proven that parent participation can increase student achievement and have a positive impact on children’s social development. The book, “A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family and Community Connections on Student Achievement” (Warner 2002), states that students who have involved parents, regardless of family income or background, are more likely to achieve in a variety of ways. These students are more likely to:
• Get better grades and test scores.
• Pass their classes and not be held back in a grade.
• Have good school attendance.
• Adjust well to school, with better social skills and behavior.
• Go on to higher education.
Understanding that family participation in our local schools does have a positive impact on the school, students and staff is critical. Encouraging that participation and providing a number of activities and opportunities is a responsibility to be shared.
Being raised in a family where one parent did not speak English certainly presented its share of challenges. My father could not fully participate in my education. I remember trying to teach him to speak English using my schoolbooks. His lack of English created challenges for me, but his command of multiple languages, being a political refuge, and his undocumented immigrant status, gave me the passion for my daily work.
La Luz, one of our local nonprofits, helps support our families by developing English language, technology and many other skills. Knowledge in both these areas helps parents support their children with schoolwork, both at home and at school. The foundation that La Luz builds for our community helps to create leadership and active participants, which benefits all aspects of our community, schools and businesses.
La Luz offers family services, classes and forums for Valley family members. As a principal, I often call on La Luz to support a family with health, financial or legal services. La Luz is always willing to lend a helping hand or provide a referral.
By offering both educational and family services, La Luz supports families and individuals, and the result is that we become a more caring community. La Luz helps to create an awareness of others, our similarities and differences, thus creating a compassionate community in which our children can grow and learn. I encourage you to visit their website to learn more about its services: laluzcenter.org.
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Maite Iturri is the principal of El Verano Elementary School and a board member of La Luz Center.