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Engaging Spanish Speaking Parents

Hoosier schools are becoming more educationally and culturally diverse. (Juan Esteban Zapata)
Hoosier schools are becoming more educationally and culturally diverse. (Juan Esteban Zapata)
December 4, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – As schools in Indiana become more educationally and culturally diverse, educators say there's a growing need to reach out to parents who may not be familiar with the American education system, or the English language.

The Indiana Youth Institute sponsored workshops this past week on the topic and recruited elementary school principal Melanie Pearch to share her experiences.

Pearch has been an educator for a quarter of a century, and a for a majority of those years she has been a principal at schools that have a population of almost 98 percent first-language Spanish speakers.

Pearch says there aren't a lot of guidelines for school districts that serve large Hispanic student populations, but she says educators need to reach out to parents in order to get them involved.

Pearch says holding meetings on campus that are specially designed for those from other countries is a great first step.

"This is what kids do in a classroom,” she relates. “This is what you should expect to see. Now, I'm going to break you into small groups. Let's go into a classroom and see it for yourselves.

“Ask the kids what they're doing. Ask them how many books they've read. Ask them what standards they're working on."

Hispanic people in Indiana make up more than 6 percent of the population, and about 1 in 10 children in Hoosier schools is Hispanic.

Pearch says parents want to see their children succeed and many times they just need a little encouragement.

She says during learning sessions at the school, parents are urged to learn the assignment along with the children.

"So the parents will sit down and do a reading and a math activity with their child with the long term goal of, 'Now, go do this every night at home with them,'" she explains.

Some of Indiana's communities with larger Hispanic populations have educational programs for parents, but Pearch says most don't, so it's up to individual school districts to find creative ways to engage Spanish-speaking parents.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - IN