3 priorities fueling Latino leaders’ vision for a more inclusive school system

'We’ve got to move away from just being well-intentioned,' Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents leader says
By: | December 2, 2021
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Maria Armstrong

Maria Armstrong

Latino school administrators have a vision for the near future of education: More leaders of color and better outcomes for some of the most vulnerable students.

The Association of Latino Administrators and Superintendents, or ALAS, has set three priorities for this school year: better education for migrant students, strengthening the Latino leadership pipeline and making more inclusive educational materials.

The organization is fighting the notion that making more space for Latinos both in school leadership and the curriculum somehow results in less room for others, says ALAS Executive Director Maria Armstrong. “We’ve got to move away from just being well-intentioned and take a hard look at practices and policies that get in the way of seeing education as a land of plenty instead of one of scarcity,” Armstrong says.

ALAS also plans to focus on student loan forgiveness and raising teacher pay to recruit and retain Latino educators.

Here, Armstrong, a former classroom teacher and teacher leader, provides more details and insight on the organization’s visions for a more inclusive and equitable education system.

1. Describe the challenges students from migrant families face.

“There’s a misconception that migrant education is interchangeable with immigrant education. We’re talking about the kids of the workers who are putting food on our tables, who work in the fields, but it’s been very politicized and when anything gets politicized it either stalls or catapults the work. We’ve made gains in some respects and in others we’re still hitting a wall.

Some of the gains stem from the use of technology in transfers from one district to another. When a student has an IEP for special education, that plan follows them so everyone who is a part of that child’s learning knows the roles, expectations and outcomes. We’ve had conversations in the same vein when comes to migrant ed students, and sharing their information in a much more expedient manner. We need to do a better job, particularly when it comes to crossing state lines.

“These are hardworking individuals who’ve come from other countries for a better life for their children. If when they get here, their children are not being provided with resources, it becomes cyclical—no one can get ahead and actually achieve the American dream.”

2. What challenges do Latino educators face in moving into leadership positions? Why is it important that Latinos are better represented in K-12 administrations?

“The evidence is persistent about how kids thrive in an environment where they not only feel comfortable but where expectations are set for what students can aspire to. We want people to understand the perspectives of the Latino journey and the obstacles that have been in place for a long time.

We have to look at the practices we have in place that preclude folks of color from entering the educational system. Student loan debt, that’s a deterrent from going into education. And we keep perpetuating the idea that you’re not going to make any money—that focus has got to be shifted. Last time I checked, a lot of educators are part of the middle class.”

3. Describe the level of representation in the school curriculum? Is it insufficient even in districts where Latino students are the majority?

“It has been a real challenge to find a curriculum that has Latinos as protagonists, and where were are not just depicted in a one-month Hispanic heritage month lesson. We have to develop material that really does depict all kinds of folks who have been a part of history.

It becomes dull and numbing when all you do is read and see in our texts, in our materials, the same players, the same plots, the same endings. By having a variety of perspectives, we know our kids are able to connect and be intrigued. That wonderment of learning comes back.”