CAA Parent Advocates, a project of Chinese for Affirmative Action (CAA), is dedicated to supporting limited-English proficient (LEP) parents in becoming active participants in their children’s education and in the Chinese community at large. The group includes LEP parents who became frustrated by the barriers they personally faced when trying to get involved in their children’s schools, and so decided to take action and make their voices heard.
Formerly known as the Visitacion Valley Parents Association, the new name reflects the growing and changing Chinese population in San Francisco, and the needs of parents and schools in many neighborhoods.
Immigrant parents face plenty of challenges when trying to build a new life in a new country, but few are as daunting as when they cannot be involved in their children’s education. For example, LEP parents worry about their children’s grades, but may not be able to understand the report cards if they are only in English. They want to get involved in the school activities, but may not be able to read the notices. Many immigrant parents face these significant barriers and feel frustrated and lost.
CAA Parent Advocates help other parents overcome this challenge by teaching them about their rights as immigrants and parents and how to advocate for themselves at their schools. They learn how to request translation services at meetings and ensure that the concerns of LEP Chinese-speaking parents are heard. Parent Advocates foster advocacy and leadership skills needed to become community leaders, such as public speaking and one-on-one relationship building. Over time, these parent leaders are able to share their skills by mentoring and supporting a new group of leaders through CAA Parent Advocates’ annual spring training and other community workshops throughout the year.
For the past several years, Parent Advocates have actively participated in campaigns geared towards increasing opportunities for meaningful LEP parent involvement and educational equity for all students. For example, in 2006 the Parent Advocates successfully secured additional funding to expand language services in San Francisco public schools by presenting data and parent testimonies to illustrate the tremendous need. In 2009, Parent Advocates conducted community presentations and provided public statements in support of a local ballot initiative that would increase the number of well-trained teachers at San Francisco public schools. Currently, the group is focused on the school district’s new strategic plan, which will help strengthen the academic goals at each school site and guarantee that all students will have equal access to quality and meaningful education. The parents are also active in their school district’s budget process through the English Learner Advisory Committee (ELAC).
Parent Advocates continue to speak out for change because they believe in the value of active community engagement and have seen how their collective efforts can improve language access for LEP parents. As the group moves forward, parents will identify other issue areas to work on and know that they can be part of enriching the lives of all LEP parents in the City.