From the Wisconsin Center for Education Research
A new study identifies processes for improving the engagement of low-income Latino families with their children’s elementary schools. The researchers found the program was highly effective at creating social interactions that aid in the nurturing of trusting relationships between low-income minority families and schools.
The study focused on the effectiveness of the FAST program, an after-school program designed to strengthen relationships between families and schools. Developed within the Wisconsin Center for Education Research in UW-Madison’s School of Education, FAST is used in 46 states and 13 countries. More than 75 percent of the parents in the study self-identified as Latino.
The researchers found the program was highly effective at creating social interactions that aid in the nurturing of trusting relationships between low-income minority families and schools, according to Megan N. Shoji and David E. Rangel, two of the authors of a paper on the topic recently published by Early Childhood Research Quarterly.
“Due to language or cultural barriers, Latino parents often feel uncomfortable in the school environment, especially when they are unsure whether the school views them as partners,” Shoji said. “When parents felt recognized, respected, and included by the school, as happens in the FAST program, they begin to feel a sense of belonging and engagement.”
For schools looking to replicate FAST’s success at building community, the researchers recommend that schools host engagement activities of interest to families, such as a free meal, a fun experience for children, or a workshop. They also recommended creating an environment that helps facilitate open communication, such as setting up chairs in pods or circles rather than rows, and ensuring ample interaction between school staff and parents.
“The more communal, where everyone is collectively engaged in conversations with each other, the better,” Shoji said.