Hispanic Heritage Month is a time to celebrate and commemorate the contributions that the Hispanic community has made. And for those in the education field, it is also a time to think about how to better serve Hispanic students and communities. Data plays an integral role in this work, especially when it comes to understanding where systems have previously failed Hispanic communities. With access to data, policymakers and educators have the information they need to improve outcomes and access to opportunities for students.
The number of Hispanic students continues to increase across the country, and in states like Texas and California, Hispanic students make up a majority of those enrolled in public K–12 education. While there have been significant increases in academic achievement outcomes for Hispanic students, states, districts, and institutions can do more to ensure they are prepared for college and the workforce, successful once they enter, and have the same opportunities as their peers to lead fulfilling lives. This work starts with data. Educators, policymakers, students, families, and communities all need access to the information necessary to make decisions that lead to improved outcomes and opportunities for students.
What can policymakers and leaders do to use data to support Hispanic students, families, and communities? And how can they make sure that communities can find and use data?
Provide meaningful access to information
Like all families, Hispanic families want access to the information that helps them make decisions about their students’ futures—including portals, dashboards, and report cards that are easy to access and use. But access to data is only the first step. Once that data is available, it needs to be presented in a manner that is meaningful for families. Families will not trust or use data they cannot understand, so education leaders must do better to ensure that they are intentional about reducing barriers for families to make use of their students’ data. To meet the needs of parents, state and district leaders must ensure that resources like portals and dashboards include high-quality translations in the most commonly spoken languages.
Build trust and protect privacy
Beyond providing data that families can use, leaders at every level must do more to ensure that families trust data. Public opinion suggests that lack of access to resources, as well as concerns over discrimination, are fueling anxiety among Hispanics amid the pandemic. Hispanics, particularly immigrants, may feel uneasy about what their data is being used for, or distrustful about what data says about their children. When families don’t trust data, they won’t use it. Families should feel like partners in their students’ education, and building trust is key to making this happen.
One way to demonstrate a commitment to building trust is ensuring that families understand steps being taken to safeguard their students’ data. Communicating privacy policies is critically important for ensuring that families can trust data communicators. Through cultivating relationships with families and communities, providing context on how data is collected and used, and asset framing the language used to communicate about data, leaders can demonstrate to communities their commitment to transparency and building trust. Each of these actions can go a long way toward demonstrating that data is a tool meant to help students and never to shame or harm them.
Give Hispanic communities a seat at the table
Leaders across the P–20W spectrum (from early education to K–12 through postsecondary and the workforce) and at all levels should be engaging with diverse communities. States, districts, and institutions need to consider ways to seek input and feedback to gather their perspectives on equitable data collection, access, and use.
Leaders at all levels can take steps to support Hispanic students and communities. Data is essential for understanding communities, determining needs, addressing inequities, and making decisions that support students as they navigate their education and workforce journeys. Through communication and engagement, leaders at all levels can ensure that data serves as a tool for supporting families and for empowering them to use data to make decisions.