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Hispanic Symposium: Parent involvement key to improve graduation rate

By Arooj Ashraf, La Prensa Correspondent


With a sixty-six percent high school drop-out rate sounding alarms for the city’s future, Cleveland Metropolitan School District is implementing strategic changes to assist at risk students and bringing together parents, teachers, community partners for a holistic solution to the problem.


“We are losing more than two thirds of our students,” said Dr. Pedro Noguera during the Hispanic Symposium held on Jan. 24, 2012.


 Dr. Noguera is one of America’s most important voices for healthy public education; he focuses on the ways in which schools are influenced by social and economic conditions in the urban environment.  He is an expert on public education reform, diversity, and the achievement gap. During the symposium, he met with 175 male Latino students, 15 parents, school administrators, teachers, and 65 community partners to identify the needs and issues facing CMSD.


The symposium was organized by Closing the Achievement Gap, CTAG, an initiative that targets minority male students, fosters the importance of an education by providing them with tools and training to navigate problems in high school.

Dr. Pedro Noguera

Dr. Pedro Noguera receiving CTAG jacket

Terrence S. Robinson, Strategic Implementation Officer at CTAG said the purpose of the symposium was to gather information and devise a strategic plan to improve graduation rates in CMSD.


Male African-American and Latino students drop out of high school more than any other student group, and Robinson said understanding their needs and concerns is important.“We wanted to hear the voices of the male Hispanic students, to understand what they see and experience,” said Robinson.


CTAG will compile a report and action-plan involving parents, students, community agencies, and school administrators and teachers; “This has to be a collaborative effort,” he said.

Speaking to parents, school administrators, and community partners at Lincoln West High School, Noguera highlighted the responsibilities of each group and stressed communication between teachers and parents.


“Parents are resources and need to be engaged,” he said. Parents are busy; their absence at meetings should not be a reason to conclude they do not care about their child’s education. Instead, Noguera encourages schools to consider providing parents with advice and tools to reinforce lessons at home, access to transportation to and from PTA meetings, and food or hosting a potluck to build community togetherness. For parents to become engaged and involved it is critical that meetings provide valuable information and actionable instructions. Hosting these meetings on weekends encourages better attendance.


He said schools drastically improve when parents get involved because they demand higher standards and hold them accountable. “Trust has to be earned,” and schools can achieve that by creating clear and concise expectations for parents and asserting the same goal, providing students with quality education.


He said often problems occur when parents project their own negative experiences on to teachers, are intimidated by them, or don’t question them because as professionals they should know better. “Teachers receive no training on how to talk to parents; it’s not part of their curriculum,” he said.


This hinders parent/teacher relationships, and has an increasingly adverse affect on immigrant parents who have different expectations from professionals and often differ to their decisions.


“Sometimes that is OK,” said Noguera, but added, bias often hinders growth too; as in the case of his brother who was placed in a special education class based on the assumption he did not speak English. His father intervened and challenged the school’s decision—“that brother later went on to study at Harvard.”


Noguera said it is the schools’ responsibility to train teachers and encourage them to speak plainly, use resources such as translators—“Never let the child be the translator.” He does encourage student participation in parent/teacher meetings to avoid confusion and excuses.

Churches and community organizations are also an asset that schools must reach out to and involve. Mentoring, tutoring, bilingual training and programs for parents complement the student’s efforts at school. He suggested recruiting retired teachers and other senior citizens to help mentor students at risk.


Amanda Rodríguez, principal at Clark K-8 School found Noguera’s presentation useful and said schools need to pay closer attention to parents’ concerns. As a school with over 40 percent Latino population she said they provide translation services.


She said the most immediate change she can convey to her teachers is making sure their meetings with parents provide value. She said the school recently received $100,000 from Target and the Ellen DeGeneres Show and plans to update its technology. Students are taken on field trips to colleges to begin thinking of their higher education, and Rodríguez said the money will help students visit universities out of the city to expose them to possibilities beyond the city.


For more information on CTAG or to get involved contact 216.574.8059 or visit www.cmsdnet.net

Copyright © 1989 to 2012 by [LaPrensa Publications Inc.]. All rights reserved.
Revised: 01/31/12 13:19:55 -0800.





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