As the summer days become shorter and school supplies begin lining stores in anticipation for fall, many parents will soon begin planning for the start of the new school year. In addition to the new school clothes and colorful folders for students, parents should not forget to plan for their involvement in their child’s education itself. As an issue, education consistently ranks among the highest priorities for U.S. Hispanic families, and is the gateway through which their children can achieve the American Dream and build on the accomplishments of the previous generation. However, to best prepare children for success requires parental involvement, awareness, and advocacy.
Academic Success Begins At Home
Economic hardship, language barriers, and cultural barriers can create greater challenges for some Hispanic children. However, studies have repeatedly shown that in spite of various barriers, the most critical factor for student success is parental involvement.
According to the Department of Education:
“When families are involved in their children’s education, children earn higher grades and receive higher scores on tests, attend school more regularly, complete more homework, demonstrate more positive attitudes and behaviors, graduate from high school at higher rates, and are more likely to enroll in higher education than students with less involved families.”
This ought to encourage families from all backgrounds to prioritize personal involvement in their child’s education. Reading to your child, communicating with teachers, showing up to school events, and checking homework are investments that can yield lifelong results in your child’s ability to succeed.
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the future of our nation
In addition to influencing their own children’s future, Hispanic parents stand to influence the future of our nation. Nearly 50% of the Hispanic population in the U.S. is under the age of 18, and according to the National Center for Education Statistics, the percentage of Hispanic students in public schools across the nation is quickly increasing. Between the fall of 2003 and the fall of 2013, “The number of Hispanic students enrolled increased from 9.0 million to 12.5 million, and the percentage who were Hispanic increased from 19 to 25 percent.”
With such a large number of our children invested in public schools, it is critical not only for parents to be involved in day-to-day academic activity, but also to ensure their schools are adequately meeting the needs of their children. Too often minority students are relegated to failing schools based simply on geography. This barrier to opportunity often creates such a disadvantage that former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice called it the civil rights issue of our day.
Parents can play a pivotal role in holding schools to a high standard, but without measures of accountability it is nearly impossible. The following three things are critical to empower parents to take control of their child’s education.
- Know how your child’s school is performing.
Your neighborhood school could very well be the best school for your child, but with a little research, you can learn if your school is performing well. For instance, in Colorado, Colorado School Grades allows parents to easily learn about how their schools are measuring up.
- Be aware of your options.
What choices are available in your state? Determine if a local charter or magnet schools, or even open enrollment is available to your child. Some states also have robust scholarship granting organizations that make private school affordable for families.
- Advocate for school choice.
Every state has an opportunity to amplify a parent’s ability to choose the best academic environment for their child to thrive. Find out what is next in terms of advancing school choice in your state and add your voice to help empower parents with the ability to pick the best school for their children.
Education can still open the door to the American Dream, but the key lies in active parental involvement – from being engaged in your school district to advocating for school choice at the state Capitol. This kind of involvement is necessary in order to break the barriers to opportunity faced by the Hispanic community. For the sake of our children and our nation, Hispanic families cannot afford to check out at the bus stop.