A Monumental Change in Houston’s Education System: Familias Latinas are Breaking Language Barriers

By Sandra Rodriguez, Advocacy Director for Greater Houston

Over the last couple of months, Houston Independent School District (HISD) Superintendent Milliard House II and various trustees have recognized the immense decline in family engagement rates at the campus level, particularly among Spanish-speaking families and guardians. 

Recently, a monumental change took place in the Houston Independent School District that opened the door for more families and guardians to engage in meaningful discussions about their hopes, concerns and ideas when it comes to their children’s education. For the very first time, Houston ISD held a simultaneously interpreted board meeting, giving Spanish-speaking families and guardians the chance to understand and participate in the discussions the board was leading. 

This change was championed by a group of mothers as part of Familias Latinas por la Educación and is an important step in helping families understand their roles in their child’s success and creating a more representative and inclusive environment in HISD school board meetings and classrooms. 

On August 10th, Latinos for Education accompanied a record-breaking number of families and guardians to the HISD school board meeting to not only be the first to use the interpretation devices, but to celebrate the resources now available to access and understand information, be more involved with local schools, and express their aspirations for their child’s education. Spanish-speaking families and guardians were welcomed to the board meeting by other Spanish speakers, and families that were previously unable to understand what was being said, were motivated by a sense of familiarity and inclusion to raise their hand, speak up, and ask questions. 

This change is long overdue. Spanish-speaking families and guardians now have the resources to participate in meetings in real-time, and will have a deeper understanding of the district’s initiatives underway. 

The simultaneous interpretation services and devices is just the first step in opening the door for other Spanish speaking families and guardians who had not previously attended school board meetings to do so. We often hear from families and guardians that they wish they could participate, but linguistic barriers have prevented them from being involved; they often felt like that wasn’t a space created for them or their voice. But the new service signals to them that there is space for them when it comes to their child’s education.  

Our goal is to eliminate language barriers, and expand access and opportunity for families to engage at campus and district levels. We want our families and guardians to know what kind of support outlets they have at their fingertips, and when districts offer them these types of resources, trust is built between families and education leaders.


Sandra Rodriguez is the Advocacy Director at Latinos for Education where she leads the organization’s efforts to elevate Latino voices in decision making to increase educational outcomes. She previously served in the Houston Mayor’s Anti-Gang Office and Houston Health Department overseeing program planning