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  • Our Children, Our Schools: A Blueprint for Creating Partnerships Between Immigrant Families and New York City Public Schools

    Over 60% of children in New York City public schools are immigrants or the children of immigrants, but this 2009 report shows that immigrant families face significant obstacles to participating in their children’s education. The report, written in collaboration with immigrant advocates and community groups throughout the city, shows that many immigrant parents remain shut out of school activities and leadership opportunities. The report offers a number of concrete solutions for building stronger and more meaningful partnerships between schools, immigrant parents, and community leaders.

    Mar 18, 2009

    A young boy in an orange sweater stands between two adults, holding each of their hands.

    Immigrant parents interviewed for the report described being blocked at the door by school security because they do not have official identification, intimidated by school staff who are insensitive or unresponsive to their needs, and discriminated against because of their background or limited English abilities.

    “It was very hard for me to go to my son’s school. They did not let me in the building because I do not have formal ID. I was finally able to get in when I got an ID card as a member of a community-based organization called La Union, but the parents who don’t belong to La Union have no access to the school without a formal ID,” said Carla Trujillo, a parent in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.

    “There is a common misconception that immigrant parents are not interested in getting involved in school activities, but 80% of immigrant parents we surveyed said they would like to be more involved in their children’s schools. The DOE has to address what keeps these parents out of schools and lead a citywide effort to make schools more inclusive of immigrant communities,” said Arlen Benjamin-Gomez, a Staff Attorney in the Immigrant Students’ Rights Project at Advocates for Children.

    Research shows that family involvement is directly correlated with student success, and immigrant parent involvement can play a critical role in reversing a disturbing decline in New York City’s English Language Learner graduation rates. As Wendy Cheung, Youth and Parent Coordinator for the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families said, “Parents can be a powerful ally in the education of their children. If we’re not letting immigrant families contribute, then New York City is missing out on the skills and resources of a majority of parents, resources sorely needed in these tough economic times.”

    The report highlights successful strategies being used in schools in the City and in other states and offers 48 recommendations on how the DOE and schools can strengthen partnerships with immigrant families, including: creating a standing citywide advisory committee on family-school-community partnerships; holding an annual immigrant planning summit with community-based organizations; and issuing a statement that the New York City school system is a safe zone for immigrant parents. At the school level, the report recommends creating a parent welcoming committee/multicultural advisory committee, issuing identification cards to parents, using non-written means of communication and collaborating with CBOs to reach immigrant parents. Finally, the report recommends strengthening parent leadership and decision-making opportunities in the schools.

    The report was issued by Advocates for Children in collaboration with the Chinese Progressive Association, the Coalition for Asian American Children and Families, Filipino American Human Services, Inc., Haitian Americans United for Progress, La Union (Fifth Avenue Committee), Lutheran Family Health Centers, and the Metropolitan Russian American Parents Association.

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