Today, there are five million English language learners enrolled in U.S. public schools, and 77 percent of those students are Hispanic and Latino. By the end of the decade, Latinos are estimated to make up almost 30% of the school population.
To foster an inclusive school atmosphere — one that represents the changing demographics of our time — school teams should be actively engaging Latino students and their families.
But school communications has been a common challenge in recent times— from 2019 to 2022, the percentage of district administrators who said communication with parents is a significant challenge (one that is most likely to wake them up in the middle of the night) has doubled.
A key part of the solution is embracing Latino communities' growing significance in school districts.
By focusing on inclusive Latino outreach, from accurate one-click translations for your website to school communications personalized to a contact’s preferred language, your school district’s communications and online presence can be a powerful tool to welcome and engage a diverse community.
Not only can your district reflect the wider world, but it can also provide experiences to ensure every community member feels seen and valued. But before starting your outreach efforts, remember that every district is unique, and it’s vital to understand the specific cultural background of your district.
How to Promote Cultural Diversity in Schools: Understanding the Demographics
Are you aware of the percentage of Latino families in your area? Recent U.S. Census data show that about one in five people in America speak a second language at home, a 3x increase between 1980 and 2019.
Another study revealed that parents identifying as Hispanic or Latino have gained increased awareness of school choice following the school shutdowns during the pandemic. The numbers indicate that over 30% of these parents are contemplating options like full-time homeschooling, enrolling in a public school beyond their home district, or opting for a public charter school. Additionally, 25% are thinking about private or religious-affiliated schools.
There’s a political component at play, too — from 2010 to 2021, every state saw an increase in Hispanic student enrollment in public schools, even as some experienced a dip in total enrollment. Hispanics and Latinos have become more interested in educational matters, and as these communities now constitute a larger segment of voter populations, lawmakers must ensure districts recognize the needs of the demographics.
So how can your district prepare to welcome and engage a more diverse population?
Translation Services: More Than Just Words
At the heart of communication lies understanding. Accurate and culturally sensitive translations are key. However, merely translating from English might not capture the essence of what's intended. It's about resonating with cultural nuances and ensuring that district communications are accurate, relevant, and respectful.
Culture plays a huge role in language, with idioms, sayings, and even specific word choices carrying different weights or importance based on regional differences.
This highlights the need for accurate translations. Ensuring that these translations are not just linguistically correct but culturally appropriate can make a world of difference in how messages are received and understood.
As the fourth largest district in California, with 59% of its 80,000+ students identifying as Hispanic, Long Beach Unified School District serves one of the most diverse cities in the country. LBUSD was recently identified as a "positive outlier" where Hispanic, white, and African American students achieve higher than predicted academic levels, outperforming students of similar backgrounds in many other districts.
When visiting its website, with just a click, users can translate the site’s content into Spanish using Finalsite’s preferred translation partner, Weglot. Weglot simplifies the translation process through automatic detection and makes for a reliable and easy way to manage 100+ languages. Now, any user can navigate the site comfortably.
Showcasing Cultural Diversity Online
Your school district website is often the first point of contact for many families. It can set the tone for how welcoming and inclusive a district feels, so be sure to highlight the diverse aspects of your community: promote Latino clubs, share snippets from language classes, or spotlight cultural nights and faculty and staff.
Include photos, videos, or heartfelt testimonials from students, teachers, and parents. Content like the testimonials that support Liberty Elementary School District No. 25’s dual language program enriches its website and becomes an essential tool in Latino outreach, showing potential families the value you place on cultural inclusivity.
Diverse Representation Matters
The power of representation is undeniable. As the saying goes, "You can't be what you can't see." Hiring diverse staff and teachers, creating parent groups, and spotlighting those members, is an active step toward inclusivity.
When students see someone who looks like them, shares their background, or speaks their language, it fosters a sense of belonging. More than 81% of San Bernardino City Unified School District’s students identify as Hispanic, and with nearly 23% being English language learners, its wide range of dual language and multilingual programs and parent and advisory groups all support the success of its students and community.
Beyond academics, schools are spaces where students grow emotionally and socially. Culturally responsive classrooms, where teachers understand and respect cultural differences, are crucial. Additionally, having dedicated Latino student groups or clubs can nurture community spirit, leadership, and a sense of belonging.
Programs like Virginia Beach City Public Schools’ Dual Language Immersion Program help students develop proficiency in Spanish and English through academic instruction. The program develops biliteracy skills and multicultural perspectives to empower students to engage in the global community. It's wonderful to see the programs so well publicized on its site.
Klein ISD also promotes its multicultural services well, and the district hosts English and Spanish versions of its handbooks and codes of conduct.
Utilizing Communications Effectively
While face-to-face interaction holds its own value, communication tools like mass notifications have become important, especially in large districts. Offering urgent communications in various languages and ensuring they're accurate is key.
Consider emergency scenarios. A sudden snowstorm or power outage might mean a school or district-wide closure. With a mass notification system, parents and guardians can receive timely alerts in their preferred language.
Moreover, many families rely heavily on smartphones to stay updated on school closures, parent-teacher meeting reminders, school events, and more. A translated message sent through a school mobile app notification, text message, or voice alert can streamline communications.
Latino outreach is an ongoing commitment to keep refining your messaging, proactive communications, and genuinely understanding the community's evolving needs. Successful outreach isn't marked by numbers but by the stories of students who feel seen, heard, and valued. Embracing diversity is a shared goal that leads to enriched learning experiences and a united community.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Connor has spent the last decade within the field of marketing and communications, working with independent schools and colleges throughout New England. As Finalsite’s Senior Content Marketing Manager, Connor plans and executes marketing strategies and digital content across the web. A former photojournalist, he has a passion for digital media, storytelling, coffee, and creating content that connects.