Federal Grant to Help Expand Relationship Between Parent and Community Groups in the Rio Grande Valley

The Intercultural Development Research Association (IDRA) hosted an Investment in Education (i3) grant kick-off event recently to announce the development of community-based PTAs in five communities in the Rio Grande Valley.

For the past three years, IDRA, Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD (PSJA) and ARISE have successfully partnered to implement the PTA Comunitario, a community organization-based PTA that gathers family leaders in Texas’ poorest communities to engage them on education policies and educational opportunities for their children. As part of the grant, funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Investing in Innovation (i3) fund, five additional school districts will join the original partnership to expand these efforts. The five additional school districts are: La Joya ISD, San Benito ISD, La Feria ISD, Donna ISD and Rio Grande City ISD.

“Neighborhood public schools belong to their communities,” says IDRA President and CEO, Dr. Maria “Cuca” Robledo Montecel. “The strength and vitality of any community is, in part, dependent upon the strength of its schools. And the reverse is true.”

The PTA Comunitario model is based on IDRA’s Family Leadership in Education process and decades of experience engaging parents and families in education. Parent engagement in education is critical for the academic success of English language learner students, so IDRA knew it had to transform the traditional PTA organizational model into a more effective vehicle for parents who had been previously excluded or underserved. Unlike traditional PTAs, which play auxiliary or fundraising roles in schools, IDRA’s PTA Comunitario is a community-based parent-teacher organization whose sole purpose is to collaborate with schools and Spanish-speaking, Hispanic, working-class families to improve children’s academic outcomes.

The program started with 35 families from colonias where ELL students historically failed to complete high school, with many dropping out before completing middle school. The first cohort of 35 PTA Comunitario members report that all of their children, mostly children learning English as a second language, who were in high school and scheduled to complete their studies, graduated and those of college age went on to higher education.

“The PTA Comunitario proves that colonia families can be leaders and change makers in education,” said Aurelio Montemayor, M.Ed., co-director of IDRA’s i3 project.

With the support of the i3 grant, the PTA Comunitario approach to family engagement will be spread to the five additional school districts over the next four years. For the launch event in May, Congressman Rubén Hinojosa sent a letter of welcome and congratulations, stating: “Parents are integral partners in their child’s learning… Programs like PTA Comunitario can provide a valuable bridge between parents and the school system.” In collaboration with the five school districts, IDRA expects this exceptional approach to parent involvement will develop parent leadership in education through community engagement, supporting college access and success for all students, especially those learning English.

Comments and questions may be directed to IDRA via email at feedback@idra.org.

[©2013, IDRA. This article originally appeared in the June-July 2013 IDRA Newsletter by the Intercultural Development Research Association. Every effort has been made to maintain the content in its original form. However, accompanying charts and graphs may not be provided here. To receive a copy of the original article by mail or fax, please fill out our information request and feedback form. Permission to reproduce this article is granted provided the article is reprinted in its entirety and proper credit is given to IDRA and the author.]

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