DataBank Indicator

School Communication in Parents’ Native Language

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Among children in early elementary school whose parents spoke a language other than English, more than two-thirds (70 percent) attended schools that supported parents’ native language. Children living in high-poverty neighborhoods were more likely than their peers in more affluent neighborhoods to attend schools that both provided interpreters and translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language.

Importance

Parental involvement in school can improve children’s academic performance and positive social outcomes,[1] as well as enable teachers to identify learning problems at an early stage.[2] In order to effectively reach all parents, it is important that schools develop culturally sensitive and diverse outreach strategies. As the immigrant population in this country continues to grow, such practices will become increasingly important.

Currently, one in four (25 percent) school-aged children is foreign-born or the child of foreign-born parents, a proportion that is higher than it has been in several generations.[3] One recent study found that nearly half (47 percent) of foreign-born parents of children age eight and younger had limited English proficiency.[4] Parents who do not speak English well may feel uncomfortable or unwelcome getting involved with their children’s schools.[5] And, when teachers lack understanding of families’ cultural contexts, it can hinder children’s development.[6]

Trends

In 2003 (the first year for which such data are available), 64 percent of children in kindergarten through grade 3 whose parents spoke a language other than English attended schools that provided interpreters for parent-teacher conferences and other school meetings, as well as translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language. By 2012, that proportion had risen to 70 percent. (Appendix 1) During the same period, the percentage attending schools that provided neither interpreters nor translated materials fell only slightly, from 22 to 20 percent. Estimates are based on reports from parents. (Appendix 2)

Differences by Race and Hispanic Origin[7]

Hispanic children were much less likely than Asian children to attend schools that provided neither interpreters at school meetings nor translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language. Among children in kindergarten through grade 3 in 2012, seven percent of Hispanic children whose parents spoke a language other than English attended schools with neither service, compared with 70 percent of Asian or Pacific Islander children whose parents spoke a language other than English. (Appendix 2) Numbers of non-Hispanic black or white children whose parents spoke a language other than English were too small to be estimated accurately by the survey.

Differences by Parental Educational Attainment

Children whose parents had a bachelor’s degree or more were less likely than other children to attend schools that provided interpreters at school meetings and translated memos into parents’ native language. For example, in 2012, among children whose parents spoke a language other than English, only 38 percent of children whose parents had at least a bachelor’s degree attended schools that provided both services, compared with 78 percent of children whose parents had less than a high school education. (Appendix 1)

Differences by Poverty Status [8]

104_fig1Among children in kindergarten through third grade whose parents spoke a language other than English, those living in households at or below the poverty line were much more likely than their wealthier peers to attend schools that provided interpreters for parent-teacher conferences and other school meetings, and also translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language (77 versus 63 percent, respectively, in 2012). This disparity was reflected using other measures of poverty as well. Among children who lived in a household that received WIC benefits in the last twelve months, 83 percent attended schools that provided both services, compared with 64 percent among those that did not. Among those who received Medicaid in the last twelve months, 83 percent attended schools that provided both services, compared with 58 percent among those that did not. Among those that received SNAP benefits (food stamps) in the last twelve months, 85 percent attended schools that provided both services, compared with 62 percent among those that did not. (Figure 1)

Differences by Neighborhood Poverty

104_fig2In 2012, among children in kindergarten through third grade whose parents spoke a language other than English, children living in poor neighborhoods were more likely than children living in wealthier neighborhoods to attend schools that provided interpreters at parent-teacher conferences and school meetings, and also translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language. For example, 86 percent of such children living in neighborhoods where at least 20 percent of all children lived below the poverty line attended schools that provided both interpreters and translated materials, compared with 34 percent of children living in neighborhoods with less than five percent of all children lived below the poverty line. (Figure 2)

Differences by Urbanicity

104_fig3Among children in kindergarten through third grade whose parents speak a language other than English, those living in small towns were the most likely to attend schools that provided interpreters at parent-teacher conferences and school meetings and also translated memos and newsletters into parents’ native language (96 percent), followed by those in cities (76 percent). Children living in suburbs and rural areas were the least likely to receive both services (62 and 47 percent, respectively).(Figure 3)

 

State and Local Estimates

None available.

International Estimates

None available.

National Goals

While it does not specifically mention services for those parents whose native language is not English, the No Child Left Behind Act, signed into law January 2002, mandates that parents be informed on how they can be involved in school improvement efforts, and be provided with report cards of schools in their district to help guide their involvement. Schools and education agencies are required to disseminate literature on effective parent involvement, and schools receiving Title I funding must have written policies, annual meetings, and training on parental involvement strategies, as well as re-evaluate and revise their strategies when needed.

For more
information on the requirements, see “No Child Left Behind: A Parent’s Guide“.

What Works to Make Progress on This Indicator

In a study of a Spanish-speaking community in California, parents reported attending more school meetings when translators were available.[9] Some schools with high proportions of English learners used Title I funds to provide interpreters and to translate materials.[10] Such strategies may increase parental involvement and improve parents’ understanding of their children’s education.[11]

Related Indicators

Definition

Parents who reported speaking only a language other than English the most at home were asked:

Does (CHILD)’s school have:

a) Interpreters that speak your language for meetings or parent-teacher conferences?

b) Written materials, such as newsletters or school notices, that are translated into your language?

Prior to 2012, the questions were addressed to a respondent who was usually a parent. In 2012, the questions were addressed to a specific parent.

Percentages are presented for only those children whose parents’ primary language is not English.

Data Source

Child Trends’ original analyses of data from National Household Education Surveys, Parent and Family Involvement in Education Survey (PFI).

Raw Data Source

National Household Education
Surveys

http://nces.ed.gov/nhes/

 

Appendix 1 – Among Children in Grades K through 3 with a Parent Who Speaks a Language Other Than English, Percentage in Schools that Provide Both Interpreters and Translated Materials: Selected Years, 2003-2012

2003 2007 2012
Total 64.2 68.1 70.2
Gender
Male 66.0 67.2 68.1
Female 62.5 69.0 72.3
Race/Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic white 16.8 34.0 68.6
Non-Hispanic black * * *
Hispanic 78.1 80.2 81.8
Asian or Pacific Islander 18.5 11.0 *
Parental Education
Less than a high school degree 83.2 76.6 77.9
High school degree/equivalent 75.5 85.6 81.3
Some college/ vocational degree 70.7 70.0 66.1
Bachelor’s degree or more 25.3 45.2 37.9
Primary Language Spoken in the Home
One parent’s main language is not English 62.2 48.9 73.3
Neither parent’s main language is English 65.1 68.5 69.7
Poverty level1
Household income at or below poverty line 81.0 83.7 76.6
Household income above poverty line 49.1 56.3 63.3
WIC benefits2
Received WIC benefits 81.8 86.7 83.0
Did not receive WIC benefits 56.7 62.3 63.5
TANF benefits (Welfare)2
Received TANF benefits 88.2 * 84.3
Did not receive TANF benefits 62.1 67.5 69.5
2003 2007 2012
Medicaid Receipt2
Received Medicaid 78.3 79.7 83.1
Did not receive Medicaid 57.4 58.6 58.2
Food Stamp/SNAP Receipt2
Received food stamps/SNAP 83.6 88.5 85.3
Did not receive food stamps/SNAP 59.5 62.0 62.0
Urbanicity
City 76.4
Suburb 62.4
Town 96.3
Rural 47.1
Urban, inside urbanized area 62.1 73.0
Urban, outside urbanized area 76.5 63.3
Rural, not urban 56.0 58.9
Region
Northeast 37.3 50.2 58.1
Midwest 52.1 60.6 76.5
South 64.0 62.9 74.9
West 75.0 78.9 68.3
Neighborhood Poverty (under 18)
Less than 5 percent 45.3 29.8 34.2
5 to 9 percent 59.4 75.7 68.7
10 to 19 percent 73.8 82.8 80.2
20 percent and more 85.7 93.7 86.8
Type of School
Public 67.1 70.6 71.2
Private 23.3 * 53.1
Grade level
K through 1 60.8 70.6 72.5
2 through 3 67.6 67.1 67.1
* Sample size for these estimates are below 15 and thus do not provide reliable estimates.1Household poverty status is approximate, as income was reported in blocks.

2 Benefit receipt includes any in the past 12 months.

Source: Child Trends’ original analyses of National Household Education Survey data.

 

Appendix 2 – Among Children in Grades K through 3 with a Parent Who Speaks a Language Other Than English, Percentage in Schools that Provide Neither Interpreters nor Translated Materials: Selected Years, 2003-2012

2003 2007 2012
Total 21.9 20.2 19.2
Gender
Male 19.7 26.0 22.7
Female 24.2 14.3 15.8
Race/Ethnicity
Non-Hispanic white 74.2 51.4 *
Non-Hispanic black * * *
Hispanic 8.0 9.4 7.4
Asian or Pacific Islander 68.1 66.8 70.1
Parental Education
Less than a high school degree 8.7 44.5 *
High school degree/equivalent 6.1 6.4 *
Some college/ vocational degree 15.0 5.2 *
Bachelor’s degree or more 61.8 43.9 50.0
Primary Language Spoken in the Home
One parent’s main language is not English 26.9 31.5 *
Neither parent’s main language is English 21.2 19.6 19.8
Poverty level1
Household income at or below poverty line 6.0 6.6 12.0
Household income above poverty line 36.3 30.5 26.9
WIC benefits2
Received WIC benefits 5.7 0.6 *
Did not receive WIC benefits 28.9 26.3 24.7
TANF benefits (Welfare)2
Received TANF benefits * * *
Did not receive TANF benefits 23.4 20.5 19.9
2003 2007 2012
Medicaid Receipt2
Received Medicaid 6.2 10.1 8.6
Did not receive Medicaid 29.6 28.5 29.0
Food Stamp/SNAP Receipt2
Received food stamps/SNAP 2.6 3.2 *
Did not receive food stamps/SNAP 26.7 25.3 25.3
Urbanicity
City 15.4
Suburb 23.4
Town *
Rural *
Urban, inside urbanized area 23.2 20.3
Urban, outside urbanized area * 18.0
Rural, not urban * 27.1
Region
Northeast 38.4 32.8 27.8
Midwest 41.4 33.4 20.4
South 20.7 16.4 16.3
West 14.2 14.5 17.7
Neighborhood Poverty (under 18)
Less than 5 percent 38.5 52.3 53.0
5 to 9 percent 27.8 13.2 20.2
10 to 19 percent 9.3 3.9 *
20 percent and more 8.9 * *
Type of School
Public 20.1 18.2 18.2
Private 49.0 43.3 *
Grade level
K through 1 26.0 18.3 17.6
2 through 3 18.0 21.0 21.3
* Sample size for these estimates are below 15 and thus do not provide reliable estimates.1Household poverty status is approximate, as income was reported in blocks.

2 Benefit receipt includes any in the past 12 months.

Source: Child Trends’ original analyses of National Household Education Survey data.


Endnotes


[1]Forry, N. D., Moodie, S., Simkin, S., Rothenberg, L. (2011). Family-provider
relationships: A mulitidisciplinary review of high quality practices and
associations with family, child, and provider outcomes, Issue Brief, OPRE
2011-26a
. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation;
Administration for Children and Families; U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services.

[2]Zill, N. & C.W. Nord. (1994). Running in place: How American families
are faring in a changing economy and individualistic society
. Washington,
DC: Child Trends.

[3]Child Trends Databank. (2015) Immigrant children. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=immigrant-children

[4]Park, M. & McHugh, M. (2014). Immigrant parents and early childhood programs: Addressing barriers of literacy, culture,and systems knowledge. Migration Policy Institute. Retrieved from http://www.migrationpolicy.org/research/immigrant-parents-early-childhood-programs-barriers

[5]Ibid.

[6]Ramirez, A. Y. F. (2003). Dismay and disappointment: Parental involvement of Latino immigrant parents. The Urban Review, 35(2).

[7]
Hispanics may be of any race. Blacks, whites, and Asian/Pacific Islanders in this report do not include Hispanics.

[8]Household poverty status is approximate, as income was reported in blocks.

[9]Ramirez, A. Y. F. (2003). Op. cit..

[10]De Cohen, C. C., Deterding, N., Clewell, B. C. (2005). Who’s left behind? Immigrant children in high and low LEP schools. Washington, DC: The Urban Institute. http://www.urban.org/UploadedPDF/411231_whos_left_behind.pdf.

[11]
Turney, K., Kao, G. (2009). Barriers to school involvement: Are immigrant parents disadvantaged? The Journal of Educational Research 102(4), 257‐271.

Suggested Citation:

Child Trends Databank. (2015). School communication in parents’ native language. Available at: https://www.childtrends.org/?indicators=school-communication-in-parents-native-language

 

Last updated: October 2015

 

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