conference on César Chávez Day.
They chose the theme of “Breaking
the Cycle of Poverty and Violence
through Education” for an event that
drew more than 250 families on a Sat-
urday, with free meals and bilingual
teachers in charge of registration and
children’s activities. Parent leaders
presided over an opening session that
featured an inspirational poem read in
Spanish, English, and the indigenous
Kanjobal language of school families
from Guatemala, as well as a keynote
quate textbooks guaranteed by law—
and won (Oakes, Rogers, & Lipton,
2005). Former Miami-Dade County
Superintendent Rudy Crew (2007)
said we should welcome and cultivate
“demand parents” who hold urban
What matters most is bringing parents
to the table in a true spirit of partnership
to learn and work together.
address on crime by a city councilman.
Workshops led by parents, teachers,
or community experts covered topics
ranging from tenant rights and immigration law, to charter middle schools,
to talking with your preteen about sex,
to traditional academic topics like math
games. Compared with parent activities
designed to meet district needs and
school agendas, this unusual program
raised parent awareness and addressed
community needs as a bridge to meeting
As parents of color become more
aware of education issues through
leadership training or community orga-
nizing, they often undergo personal
and political transformation. Some
immigrant mothers in Chicago’s Logan
Square neighborhood schools, for
example, were emboldened to pursue
higher education for teaching careers
after being trained as parent mentors
(Warren, Hong, Rubin, & Uy, 2009).
Latino and black parent activists in
Southgate, California, organized a
boycott to protest a year-round school
calendar and a strike to demand ade-
(Warren, Hong, Rubin, & Uy, 2009).
Resolving conflict becomes much easier
when schools have built a foundation of
respectful relationships and dialogue.
The Essential Ingredients
There is no fail-safe recipe for parent
engagement just as there is none for
school improvement. I’ve suggested a
few essentials that schools can adapt
and combine with other elements in
their own unique mix. What matters
most, with Latino immigrant families as
with others, is bringing parents to the
table in a true spirit of partnership to
learn and work together for the mutual
benefit of schools, families, and
Author’s note: All names of principals are
among Latino immigrant parents. Journal
of Latinos and Education, 5( 4), 275–292.
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Susan Auerbach is associate professor in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies at
California State University, Northridge;