[All quoted text--the indented text--come from this research paper, Latinos and Early Education: An Account of Diversity and Family Involvement by Cuellar, Rodriquez, and Garcia of Arizona State University (Word Document). Highlighted text are other references of information.]
Latino immigration brings the United States both amazing economic benefits, like complementing our labor force and creating jobs for Americans, and tricky public policy problems, especially within the American public education system that struggles to appropriately respond to a new, rapid influx of non-English proficient students and their academic struggles and large (yet decreasing) high school drop out rates.
States like California are finding it difficult to cope and adapt with this influx of immigrant children, whose households are generally low-income (58%) and uneducated with "only 9.5% of young Hispanic children had a mother with a college degree." But our public education system has to adapt and change according to these children's needs simply because
Latino children are the fastest growing segment of the U.S. population; their families vary greatly, they often attend poor quality schools, and are likely to not achieve educationally as much as children from other ethnic groups. This is in part related to the poor quality of the schools that Latino children often attend.
And most importantly and unfortunately--these students--a high proportion of them are not English proficient:
In a report using ECLS-K—the Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class of 1998-99, a nationally representative database that includes standardized test scores for children starting in kindergarten through the 5th grade, Galindo & Reardon (2006) found that half of Hispanic kindergarteners are classified as language minority students and that 30% at the beginning of Kindergarten are not considered English proficient. This is an important fact, because English language proficiency has been documented to be a key determinant of educational success (Gandara, Rumberger, Maxwell-Jolly, & Callahan, 2003; Reardon & Galindo, 2006).
This isn't necessarily surprising considering
Most young children of Hispanic descent come from immigrant families. In the year 2000, 64% of these children were either immigrants themselves (first generation Americans) or were US-born children-of-immigrants (second generation American). Of these 64%, most (88%) fit the latter category (Hernandez, 2006).
How do we continue to change the tide and increase the academic success for our fastest growing population group? We must continue, as the authors in Cuellar, Rodriquez, and Garcia state, developing programs that teach and prepare immigrant parents not only to become but how to become involved in their children's cognitive, linguistic and therefore academic development from the beginning--between ages 0-3. And where parents find it extra difficult to provide structure for their children and develop their abilities in the formative years, we need directed and targeted afterschool programs that focus on reading comprehension and English literacy for this relatively poor and weak-English speaking student population (I'll have a post on afterschool programs later, with statistical tables and stuff! Wuhoo!).
We need programs that integrate the partnership between non-profits, community, and family networks--programs like the following are great:
1. Project FLAME (Family Literacy: Aprendiendo, Mejorando, Educando)
Based at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Project FLAME particularly focuses on improving parent involvement and academic achievemnt of "children of limited English proficient parents" teaching parents
what types of books are appropriate for the age of their children, and are encouraged to reach out in the community to access literacy materials and create at home literacy centers. Parents are also provided with English as a second language courses and encouraged to engage in reading and writing activities with their children. Through workshops in the program parents learn the value of interacting with their children in activities such as talking, singing, and playing. The program emphasizes on talking with children about books. In order to improve parent-school communication, parents learn about what schools expect from their children academically and are encouraged to volunteer in their children’s classroom.
2. Parent Institute for Quality Education (PIQE)
The fundamental premise of PIQE is that low-income, recently immigrated parents to the United States need information about the dynamics of the U.S. educational system, about how to collaborate with the school and teachers, and about how to assist their children at home (PIQE, 2007). PIQE offers this information through a program that consists of eight ninety-minute sessions in which a range of topics are discussed, including home–school collaboration, the home, motivation, and self-esteem, communication and discipline, academic standards, how the school functions, and the road to university (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001; Chrispeels, Gonzales, & Arellano, 2004; Golan & Peterson, 2002).
What's most exciting about this program is
data from a performance evaluation that focused on the children of parents that graduated from the PIQE program in San Diego suggest that PIQE has had a bearing on school persistence, reduced the dropout rate, and increased college enrollment (Chrispeels & González, 2004; Chrispeels, Gonzales, & Arellano, 2004; Vidano & Sahafi, 2004).
3. Home Instruction for Parents of Preschool Youngsters (HIPPY)
[HIPPY is] a free, 2-year, home-based early intervention program for 4-and 5-year-old children. In the U.S., it is intended to provide educational enrichment to at-risk children[of limited English proficiency--aka English Language Learners (ELL)] from poor and immigrant families , increase school readiness, and foster parent involvement in their children's education
The 30-week HIPPY curriculum is an explicit, direct, instructional program. The lessons are designed to develop a child's skills in three major areas: language development, problem solving, and sensory and perceptual discrimination
Taught with a curriculum administered in Spanish, children enrolled in HIPPY for pre-school and kindergarten outperformed their peers in a study with a control group of students enrolled in an early childhood school that wasn't HIPPY.
Conclusion and Questions:
While we focus on teaching parents how to become involved in their children's education--specifically within the immigrant and Spanish-speaking latino community--as well providing these students the opportunity to attend higher quality schools, we must focus on pushing these children into early childhood education programs.
How do we provide these extra bilingual services at a reasonable cost? And should we propose afterschool academic enrichment programs specifically targeted to children of lower socioeconomic statuses (SES)? I think so. But where do we find the funding if we don't already have it? And what programs exist now that provide these services, and what are their affects?
I'll look into it. This is a developing issue that I'm just beginning to explore. But I have a somewhat personal stake in this, considering I myself am latino. I was just fortunate enough to have two educated, motivated immigrant parents from Nicaragua who came to the United States with nothing but a dream to succeed--and ultimately for me to succeed.
I've seen the dearth of ambition caused by a dearth of opportunity within the latino-community ghettos--and I've even temporarily attended the poor quality and overcrowded schools many latino children from low SES attend.
I see myself in a lot of these latino children, I do. And I see my parents in them as well. If it weren't for my mother who pushed me to read when I was younger, who read to me every night, who ensured my English proficiency was high; if it weren't for the quality pre-k and kindergarten I attended in a private school in Minnesota; if it weren't for the successful acculturation to the "American" way of life and belief and pursuit of education; if it weren't for teachers who took time afterschool until 4pm to help me go over math problems and homework when I almost failed---I would never have been able to attend the University of Chicago, one of the nation's premier universities.
These children deserve better from us as a nation of collective gratitude and paying-it-forward. They deserve to know they can do not what I've been able to do...but better.