Latino families have been hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic, not only in terms of illness and economicdistress but also in terms of education.
While families are struggling to meet basic needs such as paying for food and rent, 83 percent of Latino parents also said they are concerned about their children falling behind in school, according to a new nationwide survey by Latino Decisions and the parent empowerment organization Abriendo Puertas/Opening Doors.
The new report, titled “Latino Parent Voices: What Our Families Need Now” said Latino parents are asking for more direct communication with teachers, tutoring for their students, better ways to monitor their students’ progress, and more tech help for online learning tools.
Many of those requests are policy changes that Speak UP either has been advocating for or has responded to through our new iFamily and iTutors program, which provides free tech training for parents and free virtual 1:1 tutoring for low-income students.
The survey found that 65 percent of Latino parents feel “learning is more difficult now because it is harder to communicate with teachers.” The communication need is greater for Spanish-speaking parents, with 90 percent saying they want more feedback on daily/weekly assignments to learn if their child is meeting expectations. Nearly 75 percent asked for more virtual instruction directly from the children’s teachers.
A parent survey by Speak UP conducted in June showed that in Los Angeles 1 in 3 students had contact with their teachers only once a week after schools closed in March, and less than half of their students received daily live online instruction. Latino students were three times more likely than White students to have participated in live classes once a week or less and seven times more likely than White students to have never interacted with teachers.
The Abriendo Puertas report outlined some solutions for schools to best support Latino parents, in particular immigrant families. In comparison with Latino families overall who responded to the survey, 86 percent of immigrant Latino families said they need 1:1 tutoring for their children, and 84 percent said their children need more in-person/virtual time with their teachers.
Other top needs of Latino families included more tech support (76%), and more reliable Internet (60%).
“National and local leaders need to pay attention to what’s happening in these Latino communities and offer the specific solutions they need in order for their children to have a successful experience with remote learning,” said Adrian Pedroza, National Director of Strategic Partnerships for Abriendo Puertas, in an interview with Speak UP.
“When we talk about districts that are so large, it comes down to school by school and those principals and the type of leadership that they provide to those teachers on the ground,” he said. “Remote learning is very dependent on that teacher, that teacher’s ability and resources to best interact with students and families.”
The report highlights that Latino families are the second largest racial group behind White non-Hispanics, according to the Pew Research Center, and make up 28% of public school students.
“Our systems and institutions think our families are not paying attention or not doing their best at home, especially families that live in poverty. This report clearly shows that these families want their children to continue learning in this environment, they don’t want them to fall behind and they know what’s needed,” Pedroza said. “So this report intends to elevate their voice, so parents can be seen as partners working towards solutions.”
Just days before the beginning of the school year, Los Angeles Unified School District reached an agreement with its teachers union (UTLA) for a district-wide online instruction policy. The current policy includes a consistent school day from 9 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. and live online teaching from 45 minutes a day for preschool learners to 90 minutes a day for kindergarteners and nearly three hours for secondary students. Parents were not part of the negotiations.
“Unions are naturally set up to advocate on behalf of the teacher, and make sure they have the right conditions to be good teachers, and many times that leaves out the voice of the families,” Pedroza said. “If you are a good union and have a good local representation, you’re doing the parent engagement and you’re representing those families, but we know that’s not always the case.”
Pedroza said in those cases that responsibility lies on community-based organizations, which right now are the most essential. “The (school) communities that are most effective in responding to the community’s needs are those that are open to partnerships with community organizations that have established trust with families. That goes a long way right now as families are looking for trusted sources, and if we can work with our educational partners to elevate that voice for families, we’re going to be able to respond to the needs of families in a more effective way.”
Some of the things the report suggests as practical steps that school administrators can take to effectively help these families is by providing parents with some kind of orientation to understand how to use video conferencing (Zoom, Google Hangout etc.) and guidance on creating at-home learning schedules or lesson plans.
Pedroza noted that the racial disparities unveiled during this pandemic, along with the historic social uprisings in the name of Black Lives Matter are bringing equity and racial justice to the forefront of the national conversation. “This is the time for Latinos, Blacks, Asians and Native American communities to work together towards a more just educational system for all students.”
To read Abriendo Puertas’s “Latino Parent Voices: What Our Families Need Now” report, which was conducted from June 12 to June 19 in both English and Spanish, click here. To read the Speak UP parent survey findings on school reopening and distance learning, click here.
Source: Speak Up United Parents