Though nearly one of every four U.S. students identifies as Latino, the country’s fastest-growing minority demographic faces many disparities in education outcomes.
The Nebraska Center for Research on Children, Youth, Families and Schools has earned a $3.5 million grant to explore how to better support Latino students by connecting their experiences at home and school.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Institute for Education Sciences, the four-year project features a research-based partnership model developed by CYFS director Susan Sheridan. It is the first Nebraska study to explore family-school partnerships for diverse student populations and will involve 90 K-5 classrooms in school districts across the state.
“Many Latino students come from home environments where their values, backgrounds, language and parents’ education are disconnected from what they experience when they walk through a classroom door,” said Sheridan, who is leading the study. “Those incongruities can create challenges for learning, so we’re trying to build a bridge and create consistency—and we do that by fostering relationships.”
Previous research has examined the model, Teachers and Parents as Partners, in Nebraska urban and rural school districts. The TAPP model supports collaborative relationships between teachers and parents to improve students’ social, behavioral and academic outcomes. It uses a structured problem-solving process to identify student strengths and needs, implement plans at home and school, and evaluate progress.
During the project’s first three years, classrooms will be randomly assigned either to the TAPP intervention or a control group. Teachers participating in TAPP will receive additional instruction on building relationships with Latino families and creating culturally responsive partnerships. That component was integrated after the research team piloted TAPP in a local public school and gathered feedback from parent-teacher focus groups.
“This project will be a true definition of partnership,” Sheridan said. “We will be learning a lot about how the (TAPP) process will unfold in a context where we are going to have to be very responsive. I think that will allow us to improve our intervention for everyone, because we’ll be focusing on how to match our process with the individual nuances of Latino students.”
The project’s fourth and final year will focus on sustainability. The research team will work with schools to identify teachers, administrators, school psychologists and counselors who can be trained as consultants and work directly with families and teachers. Throughout the study, the team will incorporate protocols and tools that can be used to train school personnel.
The project’s overall objective is to build capacity within schools, Sheridan said, while taking into account the unique strengths and organizational structure of each.
With research findings from Nebraska, the team also aims to build school capacity nationwide. Nebraska data will set a foundation for larger studies and will help determine how to implement TAPP using only school personnel—resulting in a sustainable model for school districts.
“I’m really looking forward to this notion of beginning to give (TAPP) away,” Sheridan said. “We’ve been doing this work for a long time and it’s been growing and building. We hope that this is just the start.”
The project’s research team includes Brandy Clarke, assistant professor of the Munroe-Meyer Institute at the University of Nebraska Medical Center; Lorey Wheeler, CYFS research assistant professor; Kristen Derr, CYFS project manager; James Bovaird, associate professor of educational psychology and director of the Nebraska Academy for Methodology, Analytics and Psychometrics; and project consultant Nancy Gonzales, associate dean and professor at Arizona State University.