In the United States, the most significant aspect of its history is that it is a country built on the struggles of immigrants and achievement from language diversity is part of its culture. Within the last 50 years, U.S. law and federal policy has provided a focus on the needs for new national origin children to learn to speak and understand English to effectively participate in public education. "One of the most challenging tasks as an educator is improving parent involvement in the lives of our students" (Kauffman, and Perry 2001). To meet mandated educational goals, the classroom teacher is considered one of the key components. However, the learning process for children cannot start and stop in the classroom. "Family and community literacy practices are part of and reflect the cultural life of the family and community greatly influences progress opportunities of the ELL student" (Bloom, Katz, Slosken, Willet and Wilson-Keenan, 2000). District and teaching staff are striving to overcome their frustration and work to establish new communications and strategies to reach out to both the family and the multicultural community. Research clearly demonstrates that a family providing the necessary educational support at home contributes more to a child's ultimate success than income, parental advance education or culture alone.
Parental Community Communication Plan
The basic requirement in developing a Parental and Community Communication Plan is that the effort or model must communicate effectively and appropriately with the parents of all its students. With new English Language Learners (ELL) students, the socioeconomic levels and previous home or native educational achievement is an important variable. The district and classroom teach has to reach out to the community and create a collaboration. "Family involvement in education is influenced by culture, income, language, and the adults' perceptions of school and family responsibilities" (McCarthey 2000).
The Kauffman article indicated there are multiple categories in the lack of parental involvement that schools must be concerned with. One of the significant barriers for ELL families is an " expressed distrust toward the local school because they felt the faculty has been biased" (McDermott, and Rothenberg, 2000). When this atmosphere is present, the parents consider the school only focuses on what parental financial support can be provided instead of the schools responsibility to the child and community. Parents understandably will only work with teachers who have a respect and value for the whole child. The general barriers for involvement can be; a low level of English proficiency in the ELL student's home, a difference between the general school culture and home culture, transportation issues, or simply a combination of the parents work schedule and child care needs. "The academic and linguistic growth of students is significantly increased when parents see themselves, and are seen by school staff, as co-educators of their children along with the school. Schools should actively seek to establish a collaborative relationship with minority parents that encourage them to participate with the school in promoting their children's academic progress" (Cummins, 1997). Suggestions to achieve this collaborative relationship and to improve parental involvement include community-based education events to inform parents about school values and expectations. A conscious effort should be made to invites families to all events that happen at school, not just an ELL Night. This effort should include the creation of multicultural panels as part of a schools outreach and include community leaders and an appropriate language interpreters. For all students, parent/teacher conference evenings should be scheduled at least once a year, with follow-ups if needed. "In addition, the family visits provide a way for the students to appreciate the knowledge, skills, and lives of the families of fellow students and of people in their community " (Bloom, Katz, Slosken, Willet and Wilson-Keenan, 2000).
In addition to scheduling annual conferences, an effort must be made to insure there is that necessary daily or weekly communicate with parents of ELL children. This can be accomplished with the use of effective newsletters, notices, memos and home letters. The district or school can make these articles of correspondence more user friendly by establishing color codes. Common information about general activities such as lunch menus may be coded yellow or blue. Those that may be considered emergencies or immediate read notices might be colored red or another bright color. Another part of this strategy may be to include visuals as well to reduce issues of language proficiency in the home. In general, communication packets or notices should include folders of student work for parental review and comments.
Additional consideration or strategies should be considered for parents that may be challenging and may resist outside help with their children. One of the most important first steps is to create a school atmosphere to make the parent feel welcome. These efforts should reassure the parent that their opinions will be heard. The school district and teacher should make an effort to be a visible part of the community where the families live, shop, and interact. The School may set up information tables at social gathering or hold meetings in the local library or the neighborhood center. School events should acknowledge major ethic holidays or dates on the school calendar/website. The best stress or frustration reducer working with challenging parents is to communicate on a positive note.
Be aware of class and cultural differences that may potentially contribute to misunderstandings. Formally, the educator should listen more than talk and be willing to find a way to bridge the difference and create a satisfying solution. One opportunity for the teacher, parent and student relationship is to create a "Shared Accountability Pledge"(Myers, 2008). The pledge' is a simply a contract with promises or pledges that include such issues as: providing ample home study time for students, monitor homework, attend parent conferences, etc."The compilation and the transformation of literacy practices in the classroom from a school-centered model to a community-centered model is key " Bloom, Katz, Slosken, Willet and Wilson-Keenan, 2000). The community-centered model is a concerted strategy to sustain communications. "It has to be emphasized that teachers must establish respectful and trusting social relationships with children and families, and this is essential for any efforts to improve education "(Bloom, Katz, Slosken, Willet and Wilson-Keenan,2000).
- Bloome, D, Katz, L, Solsken, J, Willett, J, & Wilson-Keenan, J. (2000). Interpellations of family/community and classroom literacy practices. The Journal of Educational Research, (93), 155. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from ProQuest Education Journals. (Document ID: 48878969).
- Cummins, J. (1997), Knowledge, power, and identity in teaching English as a second Language, The Content Based Classroom, Longman Press, 1997, M. Snow, D. Brinton, editors:
- Kauffman, E; Perry, A. (2001). Reasons for and Solutions to Lack of Parent Involvement of Parents of Second Language Learners. Kansas: Prentiss Publication. ERIC. Accession NO: ED458956
- McCarthey, S. (2000). Home-school connections: A review of the literature. The Journal of Educational Research, 93, 145-153.
- McDermott, P., & Rothenberg, J. (2000, October). Why urban parents resist involvement in their children's elementary education [61 paragraphs]. The Qualitative Report [On- line serial], 5(3/4). Retrieved May 1, 2010, from: http://www.nova.edu/ssss/QR/QR5-3/mcdermott.html
- Myers, J. (2008, October). Strategies for building rapport with parents of ESL learners. In Helium. Retrieved May 1, 2010, from http://www.helium.com/items/1167753-esl-parents-school-partnership.