Reaching out to immigrant parents

Hispanic immigrant parents will get involved in their children’s school, if the school reaches out to them. The Washington Post looks at a mostly Hispanic, low-income school with strong parent involvement and rising test scores.

In the cafeteria, a band student practices snare-drum rhythms while 18 Barrett parents and grandparents — all of them Spanish-speaking — are busy cutting out laminated paper in the shape of giant mittens, with children’s writing and coloring on them. Others roll bundles of red and pink pencils that Principal Bratt plans to give to students for Valentine’s Day.

Today is Salvadoran immigrant Rosa Guardado’s first time at the school’s Friday volunteer program. She is a single mother and speaks almost no English. She works two jobs every night, starting at 10 p.m. — first for a dry cleaner and later cleaning office buildings — while her sister cares for her 6-year-old daughter.

She wants the world for her daughter: college, everything she never had. She didn’t make it past the seventh grade. Cecilia Bonifaz invited her this morning, telling her the school needed her help. Guardado is surprised how easy it is to come to the school, how easy it is to help — how nice it is to meet other parents, to talk and share tips on how to help her daughter. Now, she doesn’t feel so isolated.

“I really like it,” she says in Spanish. “I’ll be back next week.”

Kindergarten Night had low attendance. Kindergarten Days, which fits better with working mothers’ schedules, has 85 percent participation.

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