Hispanics deserve better from schools
I thank the Advocates for Carbondale Education for their time and sincere efforts to make this valley a better place to educate our children. In writing this letter, I am most concerned with providing the most effective education for our Hispanic children and preserving their ethnic heritage, especially as it relates to language.
The school administration and school board have overlooked the notion that language and cultural preservation in the Hispanic community is a positive, and has focused merely on short-sighted and non-retentive approaches. Such has been the case with academic decisions made of late at the Carbondale Elementary School.
I do want to interject here and add a historical piece regarding Hispanics that is often misunderstood, especially in this valley. Hispanics were among the first immigrants to the United States ” settling over 400 years ago. Today, Hispanics are a significant minority in most states and their numbers are growing.
They represent the largest ethnic group that contributes to Social Security and other retirement programs. Often not citizens, Hispanics pay taxes, but their eligibility for many benefits from these taxes is nonexistent without citizenship. In sum, the aging baby boom population reaps more benefits from the Hispanic contribution in taxes than any other ethnic group.
The ability of our community to address poor educational performance is imperative. According to Dr. Melissa Roderick, Hispanic-Americans are currently the most educationally disadvantaged group in America. Hispanic youth will shape the future of this community and our ability to address their disadvantaged position will shape America’s future.
An investment of time, of money, of collaboration between advocacy groups, teachers, parents, the school administration and school board is well worth our effort.
As recent immigrants, Hispanics represent a very young population. What can we do for school-aged Hispanic children to both educate them and retain their language and culture into adulthood?
Several models have been studied and recommendations made for best practice within schools. The most recent approach in our schools appears short-sighted and, at the very least, without a logical foundation.
Along with Dr. Roderick, Dr. Pastora Cafferty suggests that preschool and Head Start programs directly predict Hispanics’ success in school more than any other program. Why not start here?
I have heard little discussion about investing in early childhood programs. Additionally, the extent to which children receive home support for their education is associated with their school performance.
Few models appear to exist in the valley to support Hispanic families in assisting their children at home. I encourage the school administration and school board to take a close look at underlying factors in education and to begin to cultivate stronger early childhood programs.
Specifically, schools can initiate Spanish-speaking parent groups. Bilingual parent-teacher meetings can encourage the contribution of Hispanic parents and dialogue between educators who can identify the needs of Hispanic students and parents who have unique knowledge of their personal heritage and community experience.
Hispanic parents can instruct educators in aspects of the rich variety of Hispanic cultural heritage, which can enrich the curriculum and engage their children. This may provide an opportunity for the home life and academic experience of these students to enhance and augment each other.
I certainly do not have all of the answers on how best to educate and preserve the cultural identity of our Hispanic students. Suggestions and comments in this letter reflect our shared commitment to the success of Hispanic children and families.
” Amy M. Wescott is a parent of two children who attend the Carbondale Community School.
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