The Ties That Bind: Building and Strengthening the School-Home-Community Connection for English Language Learners Robin Adamopoulos EDUC 591: School in a Diverse Society Independent Graduate Study Project Spring, 2004
Challenges to Education in the 21st Century • The United States has experienced the largest wave of immigration since the last turn of the century. • More than 9 million immigrants entered the U.S. between 1991-2000. • U.S. Census Data
Growing Population of Non-Native English Speakers • According to the U.S. Department of Education: In 1992, approximately 2.3 million children were living in households where English was not a first language. • It is estimated that 3 out of every 10 Hispanics between the ages of 16 and 24 are without a high school credential.
Implications for the Schools “In particular, language minority students, including immigrants and the U.S.-born children of immigrants, may not receive appropriate educational services due to a mismatch between the languages and cultures of the schools and those of their communities.” Carolyn Temple Adger (2000) School/Community Partnerships to Support Language Minority Student Success
Benefits of School-Home-Community Partnerships • Improved academic achievement • Increased language achievement • Improved overall school behavior • Sustained achievement gains • Improved parent-child relationships • Gains in parental self-confidence and expertise • Improved Home-School relations.
Barriers to Parental Involvement • Feelings of low self-worth and alienation from a system that does not understand them. • Cultural values: Parents view the teacher as the authority on learning and do not question the policies of the school, the teacher, and the academic programs. Parents blame themselves for their children’s problems instead of seeking support. • Lack of English language skills make it difficult to communicate with school and teachers. • Lack of trust in the school system: English-only policies, meeting schedules that are inconvenient for working parents. • Negative past experiences with school and educational environments.
Welcome and Communicate “It is incumbent upon schools to create a welcoming environment for the parents and families of ESOL Students, and also to communicate with them in a meaningful way about academic programs, services, and their children’s progress.” Teachers of English to Speakers of Other Languages TESOL (June, 2000)
Create a Culture of Caring • According to Beck (1995) a definition of a caring paradigm involves three activities: • Empathy --“receiving the other’s perspective.” • Response— “responding appropriately to the awareness that comes from this reception,” and • Commitment— “Remaining committed to others and to the relationship.” (Casbon,Schirmer and Twiss, 1997)
Collaborative Models of Leadership • “Horizontal” management– based on collaboration and cooperation works best in multicultural environments. • The administrator is in a collaborative, consensus-building relationship with teachers, staff, community and parents. • Collaborative organizations tend to be “more caring, to affirm diversity,” and “to be more successful in generating literacy among their multicultural students.” (Casbon, Schirmer and Twiss, 1997)
Practical Adaptations for School Management • Welcome multicultural parents by providing for their basic needs: • Vary meeting times to accommodate the schedules of working parents. • Provide Child Care at meetings and Transportation to meetings, if necessary. • Provide food and refreshments – creates a welcoming atmosphere. • Provide for sharing times when family members and children work together. • Consider the entire family. Provide activities for extended family to come into the school: Family Reading Night, International Night, Grandparents and Special Friends days, for example.
Communicate • Develop bilingual resources for parents: forms, newsletters, school communications. • Provide an orientation to the school specifically for newcomer parents. • Develop an “intake” process. Ask parents for information about their family’s educational history; special talents and abilities they could contribute; and their weekly schedule—times that they could be available for meetings or volunteer projects. • Provide support groups for newcomer parents; ideally, these groups will be coordinated by other immigrant parents who are already established in the school and community.
Staff Development • Provide translation and interpretation services, drawing on the school’s population of immigrant parents – parents helping parents. • Train staff specifically on issues of cultural sensitivity. Ideal– bilingual staff members; Reality – staff that can accommodate the needs of non-native speakers in non-judgmental, non-threatening ways. • RESPECT cultural values and beliefs.
T.I.E.S. T—Teachers I—Involving E—Everyone In S—School
B.I.N.D. • B is for Background Knowledge—Teachers become “ethnographers” of their students and communities.
B.I.N.D. I is for Initiate, Invite and Inform: • Initiate -- Contact parents frequently to check on their needs. Teachers need to meet more often with multicultural parents in face-to-face settings. Immigrant parents may not always get the information they need from once-a-month PTA meetings. • Invite—Ask the parents to come into the classroom to volunteer, and to share their stories, recipes, careers, or a special talent. • Inform– Always keep parents informed of their child’s progress. In addition: communicate with parents on instructional goals and objectives and special programs of interest to them – ESL for adults, vocational programs, and for high-school aged children—workshops on preparation for college.
B.I.N.D. • N is for newer approaches to literacy: • Immigrant parents are not only reluctant to participate in school because of language barriers, but also, many immigrants have limited experience with formal education and are in need of literacy instruction themselves. • Family Literacy programs are an essential part of developing a love of reading and writing in young children from multicultural backgrounds. • Family Literacy involves both parents and children in the language learning process.
B.I.N.D. • D is for Develop: • Develop relationships with parents and the community to support education and literacy. • How do we do this? • One answer is Family Literacy Programs • The Even Start Family Literacy Program is one example of such programs that is funded by the federal government under Title I legislation. • There are many models of Family Literacy Programs, but all involve some of the same basic principles.
What is family literacy? Family Literacy is: • Intergenerational and bi-directional: Children teaching parents and parents teaching children— the community teaching each other.
Family Literacy • Family Literacy is integrative, communicative instruction in all language skills: reading, writing, listening and speaking. Family Literacy programs provide opportunities to exercise all of these literacy skills. • Reading aloud together • Writing and illustrating personal narratives or a history of the family. • Developing oral language skills through storytelling.
Family Literacy • Family Literacy is multicultural. • It embraces diversity and the culture of all learners. • It allows students to learn about themselves and each other.
Family Literacy • Family Literacy is socially-constructed learning— • Students use authentic materials; share from their background experiences, and add to their learning through interaction with others. • The activities are creative, meaningful and fun! Students and family members create a meaningful product that can be shared with future generations.
Family Literacy • Family Literacy is Critical Pedagogy: • Learners achieve literacy skills which can help them to participate in American culture and society.
How Can We Help?The role of Parents and Community Based Organizations
We can’t do it alone • The school needs the support of parents and the community in order to function. • Parents can organize groups to discuss issues of concern to immigrant parents. These groups should be led by members of the same language/ethnic heritage. Parents helping parents models work best. • Community-based organizations can provide a wealth of resources: much needed funding for programs; bilingual materials and human resources—translators and interpreters; and support services—homework helpers, mentoring, before and after school care, transportation, health and social services.
PTA Standards • The national organization of the Parent Teacher Association (PTA) has recently published standards for parent involvement in the schools. Available at the PTA website: www.pta.org/programs/pfistand.htm
“…our fears, our hopes, our aims are one, our comforts and our cares.”Blest Be the Tie That BindsJohn Fawcett 1740-1817