Hispanic students are among Idaho’s fastest growing demographic groups, making up 17.7 percent of enrolled public K-12 students today. Even more, the number of children in this demographic is projected to grow another 11.7 percent by 2019. Hispanic students also fare worse on Idaho’s state achievement tests than students of other demographic groups.
This demographic shift linked with a gap in academic achievement makes it imperative that Idaho’s schools learn to fully engage these students and their families in their educational opportunities. Idaho’s Hispanic families offer valuable insights that can benefit the work of schools throughout the Gem State. This is especially true for the state’s charter school and private school sectors, which currently under-enroll Hispanic students.
Education nonprofit Bluum, with support of the J.A. and Kathryn Albertson Family Foundation, is committed to helping create new, high-performing seats in schools (district, public charter and private) that are ready, willing, and able to serve Idaho’s growing and increasingly diverse student demographic.
With the goal of 20,000 new seats by 2024, we believe that sharing the voices of families in Idaho’s many communities can help our schools, educators, and policy leaders build new school capacity in places with the greatest need and demand for better learning options.
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.
In reaching out to these families, we asked the Hispanic-serving community organizations, the Idaho Leadership Institute and the Idaho Commission of Hispanic Affairs, for help in contacting Hispanic parents in different parts of the state. We engaged researchers from the well-regarded FDR-group to lead focus groups of Hispanic parents of school-aged children in Nampa/Caldwell, Meridian/Boise, Jerome/Twin Falls, Idaho Falls, and within the Heritage Community Charter School in Caldwell. In all, 55 Hispanic parents were interviewed for the purposes of this study.
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 prioritized educational goals that are common amongst many families in the United States. They want their children to attend an academically-challenging school with appropriate after-school activities. They want schools that reflects their values, especially respect for adults, teachers, and peers. Surveyed parents value schools that prepare their children for college, an educational path that they 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.
These Idahoans shared that they knew little about school choice options in their community. Many parents 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 parents relied heavily on families and friends for information. Some parents shared that they would receive information about schools from their churches, workplace, and even social media. However, the parents also stated that they would confer with family on major decisions. For many, these are their most trusted sources of school information.
All families deserve the opportunity to attend great schools in their community that work best for their children. Schools of choice in Idaho need to have a better grasp of how they can better reach out to the state’s fastest growing, and yet largely underserved demographic. Bluum is dedicated to continuing to explore new paths forward and to encourage new opportunities that can help high performing schools reach a more diverse cross-section of the state’s increasingly diverse student population.