WOODBURN, Ore.—Many minority parents are not getting involved in their children's schools because they don't know how or feel unwelcome, according to a new report.
The Chalkboard Project surveyed low-income and minority parents across the state last fall as part of an effort to find ways to improve Oregon's schools.
The survey found that Hispanic parents volunteer an average of three days each year in their children's schools and that Black parents average eight days. By contrast, White parents volunteer an average of 30 days each school year.
The survey also found that 31 percent of Hispanic parents help their children with homework five nights per week, compared to 14 percent of White parents.
Eduardo Angulo, the chair of the Salem/Keizer Coalition for Equality, said many Hispanic families are not used to volunteering at schools because that was not the way schools worked in their home countries.
"The American education system is different," Angulo said. "Latino parents don't understand, you have to be present in the schools, in the classroom."
Chalkboard organizers released their survey results Friday at Valor Middle School in Woodburn. They said that more parental involvement in schools is directly tied to student success, which is why they are concerned about the survey results.
Parents often don't volunteer because their work schedule interferes or they are intimidated by encountering staff members who don't speak their language, said Stefani Willis, the project director for Chalkboard.
"It's not like they don't want to be involved," Willis said. "They value education. They're helping kids with homework. They're just a little timid about walking in the door of the school."
But Chalkboard organizers said the Woodburn School District has done well in reaching out to parents.
Valor Middle School social-studies and Spanish teacher Sara Csaky said her school holds monthly meetings for parents — with Spanish and Russian translators — to discuss issues with parents.
The project also is launching two new programs. One is called "Running Start," which gives schools toolkits with two parts — information aimed at training all school staff members on how to welcome and work with parents, and information for parents who may not understand how schools work.
Chalkboard also is joining the Oregon Department of Education to give stipends to schools to help find ways to develop parental involvement policies. The goal is for all schools in the state to have such policies by next school year.
— The Associated Press