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The Graduates/Los Graduados (Part 2) - Drop-Out Parents?

Thursday, October 17, 2013, 7:00pm - 9:00pm
The Crawford Family Forum 474 S. Raymond Ave. Pasadena, CA 91105 Map and directions
The Graduates/Los Graduados - Series Trailer
The Graduates/Los Graduados - Series Trailer
Quiet Pictures (via Vimeo)

When it comes to closing the achievement gap, low-income families of Latino high school students are at a disadvantage, particularly when it comes to one key component: parent engagement.

Two education leaders who work with Latino families in Southern California examined this trend with KPCC senior education reporter Adolfo Guzman-Lopez and a live audience in the Crawford Family Forum Thursday, Oct. 17.

In this second of two Community Cinema events (read & watch part 1), the panel looked at "The Graduates/Los Graduados"—filmmaker Bernardo Ruiz' documentary about the lives of six high school students who defy the odds and make it to college. The film discussion focused on parents' engagement and involvement in their children's education.

Families in School CEO and president Oscar Cruz defines parent engagement as the part in which schools make it easy or accessible for parents to become involved. Parent involvement, according to Cruz, is the action taken by parents to support their children's education.

Cruz said the film does a good job at exemplifying the challenges Latino students face in the U.S. And he added it starts with how schools provide a "roadmap" for parents to navigate the education system.

"There's not enough purposeful planning by schools to provide information to families," he said. "They assume that they already know it, or that they should figure it out on their own."

Dr. Adonay A. Montes,  an Assistant Professor for School Counselor Preparation Program and co-director of the Spanish Bilingual Bicultural Certificate at the University of La Verne, agreed and pointed the finger at educators.

"Schools profess for parents to be involved and for parents to develop an active role," says Montes. "However, there's no follow up—it's almost as if the parent goes to the ATM at the high school and gets cash out, but the parent isn't given the roadmap on how to invites that money to accrue interest."

For a high number of Latino students at the Los Angeles Unified School District—a majority—Cruz said schools aren't providing enough services that engage parents.

And the feedback he gets from parents, he said, ranges from "I did not know" to "Nobody ever told me that [my child] didn't have the classes to go to college."

"This lack of information between the communication, it's incredible," he added.

Montes, who has studied these and other trends in the achievement gap among Latino students, said part of the reason why this happens is because parents don't often feel understood or welcome in schools, especially in parent-teacher meetings.

"I think what is missing is understanding the parents go through a process of adaptation just as much as their kids are going through," Montes said. "And I think in order for the parent to become empowered they need to become advocates with the help of our institutions."

Cruz said educators must tap into parents' emotional desires. 

"And you will soon realize that there are all these big dreams and desires that they have for their kids," Cruz said.

Get them to see the big picture, he added, and they'll do anything within their power to get their children to succeed academically.

Help us continue this conversation, and share your experiences with us. 

What are schools doing to engage parents and get them involved? What programs work? What are educators doing right?

Tell us in the comments.