Guest Blog: A New Workforce Development Strategy Supporting Parents and Educators With Distance Learning 

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The coronavirus pandemic magnified issues that have long plagued low-income families and communities of color. These issues did not arise overnight. The inequities in our systems have been barriers and challenges that have consumed these communities for decades.. As schools transitioned to at-home learning, chaotic rollouts, conflicting information, and lack of intentional and strategic communication left many parents and students confused, overwhelmed and frustrated with this new environment. 

For many, access to technology was just one item on a long list of challenges they faced. Latino parents and families have been disproportionately affected by COVID-19 and are continuing to experience high levels of job loss and economic instability. Many families were already living paycheck to paycheck and the public health crisis has caused them to spin into economic devastation. 

Arizona Counties w_BackgroundIn response to the pandemic, ALL In Education, in partnership with The New Teacher Project and Chicanos Por La Causa, developed the Parent Educator Academy (PEA), a new and innovative workforce development strategy to support parents and educators with distance learning. ALL In Education is working with specific school systems serving a high concentration of Latino students, students of color and low-income families to identify school sites in Maricopa, Pima and Yuma counties to pilot this new model. Representing 86% of the Latino student population in Arizona, these three counties and school systems were identified as sites that would benefit greatly from the goals of a program like PEA. 

PEA participants will be going through a rigorous training program developed and delivered by The New Teacher Project (TNTP). TNTP will develop and train parents to take on the role of Instructional Assistants at the participating school sites during the 2020-21 academic year. Through this initiative, PEA will help participants become prepared to better support their children in navigating the virtual classroom environment and identify and develop in-demand skills to prepare them for future workforce opportunities in the education sector. Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC), will be providing participants with career development skills. These skills include resume building, interviewing tips, and other important technical skills necessary for success at the workplace.  In fact, parents going through the first cohort of this academy are already telling us that they will be pursuing careers in the education profession – that is the way we will transform the education system for Latino students.

At ALL In Education we are not only looking to address the issues that exist, we are looking to create significant changes needed in our systems so that students can feel valued and respected. We are working to create an environment that works for ALL students so that they find success in the long-term. In order to do this we know that the representation gap in the education system, starting with our classrooms all the way to the board rooms, is a big reason for the opportunity gap that has left so many students behind.

Gap in Representation

To close this gap, we need leaders that will make the best decisions and enact policies that will help our students push forward rather than create bigger barriers. That’s why we’ve developed MAPA: The State of Arizona Latino Education, Power and Influence, a roadmap and guide that we will use as an organization to hold us accountable and track our progress every year to ensure that we stay on track to close the representation gap in our classrooms. PEA will play an important role in helping us with this work by cultivating the talent that already exists in our communities and connecting it into our schools.

In its pilot year, we will be evaluating impact, implementation and scalability so that this program can be replicated and implemented at a wider scale. Through PEA, parents and caregivers will get access to valuable resources and skills to effectively support their children and encourage them to sustain their children’s growth and wellbeing. PEA will not only provide participants with the tools and skills to provide support for their children during this challenging time,and beyond, but also prepare them to help fill important professional roles at schools in our communities. Parents hold skills and abilities that have been untapped for too long and this unique program will also be imperative to helping them utilize those skills in a way that will benefit the students who need it most.

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