Demographic shifts require changes in school communication

For school leaders, this means investing more time and resources in outreach efforts, particularly through social workers, school counselors, volunteers, faith leaders, advocates, and others who have built relationships of trust in certain communities.

And, although cell phone numbers might change frequently, keeping school records current is worth the effort. Mass notification systems, which broadcast voice-mail messages in English, Spanish, and other languages, can make parents aware of important school news and information.

Many minority families are also more likely to tune into television news broadcasts, making district-owned cable channels and a proactive media relations strategy that gets the good news out on a regular basis even more important.

Minority families who aren’t caught in poverty’s web pose other communication challenges for teachers and others immersed in middle-class mores and traditional methods.

Hispanics and Latinos living in the U.S. come from 22 different countries, with the majority from Mexico, Puerto Rico, and Cuba.

Assuming that individuals from each of these countries share the same cultural background, dialects, religion, income, education, and communication preferences is foolhardy.

According to recent research, Hispanic/Latino adults with incomes of $100,000 or more grew by 126 percent from 1991 to 2000, while 75 percent of adult Hispanics/Latinos read magazines on a monthly basis.

Perceptions and experiences regarding cultural tension, racism, and distrust also vary within and among various ethnic and racial groups, making one-size-fits-all communication for different audiences problematic.

For example, Hispanics/Latinos with low cultural tension might seek out exposure to non-Hispanic experiences and feel comfortable with non-Hispanic people, while those with high cultural tension might not, according to a 2006 study by Synovate.

Non-traditional school communication methods, such as posting information in Hispanic grocery stores or having bilingual staff members talk to parents and distribute information in Spanish in between soccer matches sponsored by Latino leagues and churches, might work better than sending fliers home in backpacks.

Local context matters, too, which is why it’s important to invest in school communication research on a regular basis.

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