Guest post by Heberto Hinojosa, Jr.
As we look toward equity in all aspects of our schools, the small representation of low-income Latino students in advanced courses is of note. Over the last four years, I have had an opportunity to conduct a qualitative study to investigate parental influences and their perception of effective school practices that contribute to low-income, first- and second-generation Latino student success across Texas. Middle school students who were enrolled in at least one pre-AP class and earned honor roll the previous semester are those considered successful for the purposes of the study.
The following research questions guided the study:
- What influences contribute to parents immigrating to the United States?
- What are the parental influences at home that contribute to positive school experiences for Hispanic student success?
- What beliefs do parents have that influence their children to succeed in school?
- What school-based elements contribute to positive school experiences for Latino student success?
- How do parents describe their relationship and involvement with their child’s school?
I traveled to very different parts of Texas to interview 10 sets of parents whose children qualified for the study. Each was very proud to share their story and thoughts on their schools. All but one spoke only Spanish. Interviews were approximately one hour long and conducted in their home. As I began to transcribe and collect data on the interviews, various themes emerged that are summarized by the research questions guiding the study:
1. The first research question investigated the influences that contributed to parents immigrating to the United States. They were (a) lack of opportunity in the home country and (b) to provide their children with a high-quality education.
2. The second research question investigated the parental and home influences that contributed to positive school experiences for Latino students. Four themes emerged regarding specific parental and home influences that provided a foundation for the positive school experiences of these eight students. These themes were (a) daily communication, (b) structure at home, (c) sibling support, and (d) intrinsic motivation.
3. The third research question investigated the beliefs parents had that influenced their children to succeed in school. The themes that emerged from these discussions included (a) emphasis on work ethic, (b) focus on moving ahead, and (c) an understanding of the importance of a college education.
4. Research question four explored the school-based elements that contributed to positive school experiences that resulted in Latino student success. Throughout the interviews, across four different regions in Texas where the schools these students attended were located, the overall response by parents was that their experience in school was a positive one. Three themes emerged which included (a) caring teachers, (b) positive influence of peers, and (c) recognition of personal determination.
5. The fifth research question investigated the relationship and involvement parents of successful students had with their school. Three themes emerged: (a) work culture and language barrier creates misconceptions, (b) feeling welcome, with reservations, and (c) respect and admiration for teachers.
Based on the findings from this study regarding home and parental influences as well as school-based elements that contribute to student success, the following implications for practice are recommended:
- Schools should provide specific guidelines to identify students and increase the number and success of minority students in advanced-level courses.
- Because sibling and peer support was noted as being an influence on student success, it is important for schools to implement a peer mentoring program.
- Because many times parents do not lack initiative to be involved in school, but instead lack the knowledge needed to access the system, educators should create informational meetings where various topics are explained in Spanish, including in-depth information about college.
- Because lack of English fluency is often a barrier to parent involvement, schools should provide training in English for parents.
- Educators should send out weekly talking points to parents that will encourage communication in the home.
- School leaders should implement culturally relevant professional development sessions where staff learns more about minority student populations.
- Safety-net mechanisms such as tracking should be put in place for students and parents.
- Because students who are on track for college might not have the financial resources, educators should promote and enhance the growth of dual-credit programs.
As you reviewed the findings, was there anything that resonated with you? What types of action plans are in place at your schools to increase low-income Latino representation within advanced courses?
Heberto Hinojosa, EdD is the principal of Fabra Elementary School in Boerne, TX and the 2016 Texas Assistant Principal of the Year. He is also a professor of school law at Schreiner University.