REVISED SECTION: One of the goals of Wake County Schools is to increase the on-time graduation rate of all students. Graduation data from 2016-17 identified two subgroups, Latinx and African American males, represented a disproportionate percentage of our retained students. The retention rates for these groups were 26.5% for Latinx and 17% for African American students. Previous interventions focused on African American males but we extended our work to Latinx students based on the data. Latinx students increased over the last several years as well (349 students in 2016 to 420 in 2018). Counselors concluded interventions were needed for 11th and 12th grade students and their families. A review of programs showed that we also had not engaged parents due to the language barrier with Latinx parents.
During the 2017-18, we increased outreach efforts to parents by working with a new school social worker added to our department. The school social worker was hired specifically to work with our Latinx population and be a liaison between the school and Latinx families. We also worked with the Graduate’ program provided through Communities in Schools. The program works with our school counselors to identify Latinx students that are at risk of failure or dropping out. This program provides after school tutoring and mentoring as well as other supports.
The first activity we implemented to close the gap for our Latinx students was the Futures Summit. This event involved all of our student services counselors, the school social worker, Graduate’ personnel as well as outside speakers and volunteers. The target audience was current 11th and 12th grade Latinx students. There were 76 total students who participated. At the beginning of the day, students were administered a perception survey that included questions about their family’s views on education. Students were administered the same survey at the end of the event. Data garnered from this survey helped our team develop other interventions throughout the year (i.e. translate documents into Spanish, Bilingual parent nights and help completing college admissions materials). Several parents attended the program and were also given a parent survey. While the number of parents was limited we used the information gathered to guide outreach efforts targeted towards Latinx families.
Anecdotal evidence from past years indicated that many Latinx families had difficulty being connected to their students’ educational progress due to language barriers. Using this evidence and data garnered from the parent survey at Futures Summit we worked with the school social worker and intervention coordinator to develop sessions to help connect Latinx parents to the school and get them more involved in their child’s education. These events were called, “Family Academy.” The first session invited fifty families with ten attending (a total of twenty-five participants). One of the main goals of this session was to familiarize parents with resources to help them keep track of their child’s school progress. The representatives worked with families to set up online accounts so they could track their students grades and attendance. The second session invited sixty-five families with twelve attending (thirty total participants). During this session parents attended mini conferences to share an update on their students’ progress for the school year. A presenter discussed ways to have deeper conversations with students about their success in school. 100% of parents responding to a post survey indicated that these sessions were helpful and 75% indicated that they gained access to their students online grades and attendance. Since this information was gathered by an outside agency we do not have the raw data to present, just the totals they provided to us.
End of year data showed that 70 of 71 identified Latinx students graduated as compared to only 50 of 64 students the previous year. While we feel that the Futures Summit event was a great success we identified several improvements for next year. We will make the sessions more interactive by conducting mock interviews, expand to include 10th grade students and we will include a presenter evaluation. These changes will help us engage more student earlier and expand our reach with students earlier to achieve greater impact on graduation rates. Finally, we expect to begin collecting data on our Latinx students earlier in the year by targeting first generation students. As counselors meet with seniors at the beginning of the school year we will identify first generation students and will target them for activities such as FAFSA night and college application and residency determination work sessions during the fall semester.