Family literacy parents share ideas, concerns with the Department of Education

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, parents and teachers from the Toyota Family Literacy Program, and NCFL staff at a town hall meeting convened by Parenting’s Mom Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in Cincinnati.

U.S. Department of Education Secretary Arne Duncan and family literacy parents from Louisville, Ky., had a special opportunity Wednesday night to learn and speak out about education issues.

During a town hall meeting convened by Parenting’s Mom Congress and the U.S. Department of Education in Cincinnati, each parent heard Duncan discuss concerns and present new ideas for education. This group of parents also participated in a smaller private forum for parents hosted by the Department of Education following the town hall meeting.

The opportunity arose when Parenting asked NCFL to participate, and NCFL invited parents from the Toyota Family Literacy Program (TFLP), a 30-city program that focuses on meeting the educational needs of Hispanic and immigrant families.

One of the family literacy parents contributed an important question during the standing-room-only town hall. The woman asked about finding ways to help her child attend college — and described her challenges in doing so as a Hispanic parent.

Duncan called this issue a very important one in education and used it as an opportunity to point out the intense need to raise Hispanic college graduate rates and share available resources. The parent’s question was among others raised by teachers, superintendents, business leaders, doctors, students and teachers of other cultures.

U.S. Department of Education's Robert Gomez participates in the education town hall meeting in Cincinnati.

During the town hall, the parents learned more about several other educational priorities as well as specific ways they can make a difference. These priorities included:

  • The critical need for Hispanic parents to be very involved in their children’s education and to have high expectations and support for higher education for their children
  • How parent advocacy, involvement and challenging of the status quo is needed
  • The need to raise rigor and attendance rates in our schools, build a strong education support network for children and engage children in extracurricular activities
  • The need to educate our way to a better economy

Secretary Duncan greeted the TFLP parents after the meeting and shared his appreciation for their attendance.

Immediately following the town hall meeting, the TFLP parents had the chance to share more of their concerns with the Department of Education in a more intimate setting. The department sent a clear message that parent voices in forums like this have had and will continue to have an influence on upcoming federal education legislation.

The TFLP parent group enthusiastically contributed to the parent forum conversation, spoke up about their concerns and offered suggestions. One mother suggested that the scheduled school day activities be a little more flexible for her son, specifically when he is working to get a concept but is interrupted by the next scheduled school day activity.

Another mother wondered why new methods of learning must take the place of ones she learned as a child — such as school approaches in math that seem to run counter to her own education and make it more difficult for her to help her child.

The parents also spoke up for the continuation and expansion of more programs like TFLP and the specific ways it helps families like theirs (e.g., reading help, English speaking instruction, tutoring). During the session, common education concerns were raised that clearly cut across cultures, language and socioeconomic status.