Hispanic students are among Idaho’s fastest growing demographic groups, making up 17.7% percent of enrolled public K-12 students today. Even more, enrollment of Hispanic school-age children is projected to grow another 11.7 percent by 2019. This demographic shift makes it imperative that Idaho’s schools learn to fully engage these students and their families in high quality educational opportunities, especially if we are to ensure that these students are able to contribute to the future of Idaho’s social and economic development.
Idaho’s Hispanic families offer valuable insights that can benefit the work of schools throughout the state, whether they be private, parochial, or public. This is especially true for Idaho’s charter schools, which currently under-enroll Hispanic students.
Bluum, with the support of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, is committed to helping create new, high-performing seats in schools that are ready, willing, and able to serve the state’s growing and increasingly-diverse student demographic.
Why We Do This Work?
With the goal of creating 20,000 new seats in innovative schools of choice by 2024, we believe that sharing the voices of families in Idaho’s many communities can help our schools, educators, and policy leaders increase access to great learning opportunities in the communities with the greatest need for better school options.
Over the last three years, we have worked closely with the Albertson Foundation and partners like Building Hope, a national nonprofit dedicated to helping charter schools develop high-quality facilities, to support the expansion of some of the best charter public schools in the state. Through this work, schools like Compass Public Charter School in Meridian, Idaho Arts Charter in Nampa, Idaho Distance Education Academy/GEM Prep Academies in Pocatello and Nampa, North Idaho STEM in Rathdrum, Connor Academy in Pocatello, Upper Carmen Charter School in Salmon and Sage International School in Boise have all been able to expand the number of students they serve.
Our work has also helped launch new start-up schools, such as Alturas International Academy in Idaho Falls, and soon the Nampa School District will open its first public Innovation School, tentatively called the Treasure Valley Leadership Academy. We’ve also assisted private schools like Grace Lutheran in Pocatello, which is launching a new private high school this year.
In line with our vision, the new seats these schools create are intended for children of all backgrounds, as will any future new school seats we support. To be successful, we need better strategies for engaging Hispanic families with the growing number of innovative learning opportunities taking place throughout the Gem State.
With all this in mind, Bluum sought to learn more about the experience of some of Idaho’s Hispanic families around their education options and opportunities.
How This Study Was Done?
To help us reach out to these families, Bluum asked organizations serving the Hispanic community, including the Idaho Leadership Institute and the Idaho Commission of Hispanic Affairs, for help in contacting Hispanic parents throughout the state. In collaboration with these partners, we invited Hispanic parents of school-aged children to participate in focus groups in Nampa/Caldwell, Meridian/Boise, Jerome, and Idaho Falls.
We also worked with Heritage Community Charter School in Caldwell to conduct a focus group with Hispanic parents with children in that school. In addition to these focus groups, Bluum’s Director of Research, Angel Gonzalez, interviewed three monolingual Spanish speakers to compare the findings of the focus groups that were facilitated in English. In all, 55 Hispanic parents were interviewed for the purposes of this study.
To help us fully hear the voices of these families, we enlisted the expertise of a nationally renowned group of researchers. The FDR Group, led by expert analysts Steve Farkas and Ann Duffett, facilitated the focus groups and reported out their findings. The FDR Group has over 45 years of collective experience in community-oriented research, and their work has been influential at the national level on many occasions, with two of their works being cited as important references in a landmark decision of the United States Supreme Court.
This work is also personal for the Farkas Group. Lead researcher Steve Farkas immigrated to the U.S. as a young child who didn’t speak English.
We asked Farkas and Duffett to pursue three main lines of inquiry:
- What do Idaho Hispanic families want their school to look like?
- How aware are Idaho Hispanic parents of school options like charter schools?
- What are promising ways to communicate school options to Idaho Hispanic parents?
What We Learned
While the 55 parents from the various focus groups do not speak for all Hispanic families in Idaho, they do provide important insights and findings that can offer the state’s new school sector better insights on how to effectively engage Hispanic parents. The participating Hispanic parents, for example, prioritized educational goals that are common amongst many families in the United States. They want their children to attend an academically-enriching school with a range of after-school activities. They want schools that reflect their family’s values, especially respect for adults, teachers, and peers. Surveyed parents also value schools that prepare their children for college, an educational path that many felt would offer their children economic prosperity and life success. Moreover, many of the parents also wanted their students in an environment that valued cultural and linguistic diversity.
Farkas and Duffett point out that knowledge of school choice options emerged as a great barrier for many of the participating families. The focus groups and interviews made clear that most of the families could not distinguish public charter schools from traditional district schools. Moreover, participants assumed that charter schools were, in fact, private or were in other ways inaccessible to them.
When it came to obtaining information about schools, the focus group parents reported heavy reliance on their families and friends for information. Some parents also shared that they receive information about schools from their churches, workplace, and even social media. But, even when they were able to earn about their different school options from these sources, participants spoke to the importance of conferring with their families on major decisions around their child’s education. Families and friends often came before many of the other sources of information the parents received. For many, these are their most trusted sources of school information.
What We Believe
All families deserve the opportunity to send their children to great schools that provide their children with an excellent education. This work seeks to give schools of choice in Idaho a better understanding of how they can more effectively communicate with the state’s fastest growing, and yet largely underserved, demographic. Bluum is dedicated to continuing to explore new paths forward and to encourage innovative opportunities that can help high performing schools reach a more diverse cross-section of the state’s increasingly diverse student population.
We hope you find the voices of these parents compelling and that it helps Idaho begin an important conversation about how best to create school options that lead to educational equity, access, and quality across our great state.
Hispanic Parents Speak Out was created by Bluum in partnership with Idaho Leadership Institute and Idaho Commission On Hispanic Affairs. Facilitated by the FDR Group, we hosted a series of five focus groups across Southern and Eastern Idaho to better understand how Hispanic families in Idaho get information about schools, who they trust for information and how they make learning and school choices for their children.
Angel Gonzalez, Director of Research
Terry Ryan, Chief Executive Officer
 Statewide, the enrollment of the Hispanic population in charter schools is 9.4 percent, while the Hispanic enrollment within district public schools is 18.1 percent (cite SDE). As a point of comparison, students who are Hispanic make-up 30.0 percent of the enrollment in charter schools nationally, while the enrollment in public district schools is 24.6 percent (cite: http://nces.ed.gov/programs/digest/d15/tables/dt15_216.30.asp).
 Friedrichs v. California Teachers Association (2015).