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EAST LOS ANGELES : Parents Drafted to Attack Dropout Rate

March 14, 1993|MARY ANNE PEREZ

More than 400 parents from three elementary schools graduated last week from classes aimed at helping them improve their children's chances of making it through high school and beyond.

The eight-week course was designed by the private, nonprofit Los Angeles Parent Institute for Quality Education to help offset the high dropout rate among Latinos, said associate director David Luna.

"For 20 years, 50% of the Latinos have dropped out before finishing high school," Luna said. "We focus in on the one item that makes a difference and that's the parents. We've found that if mom gets interested, if dad gets interested, that makes a difference, so we have targeted in on the parents without pointing the finger at anybody."

The weekly 90-minute sessions dealt with parent-teacher and parent-child communication, as well as how to maneuver within the school system and how to approach their child's teacher. They are given examples of what kinds of questions to ask teachers to find out how their children are doing in class.

They also discuss drug-abuse prevention, gangs and college preparation. "Even though these are all elementary schools, they not only have children in elementary school, but children in junior high and high school," Luna said.

Martha Ascencio said she is much more patient with her two daughters since taking the classes at Rowan Elementary. She graduated with 271 other parents Wednesday.

"They gave us little helpful hints that you would never think of," Ascencio, 28, said. "I think this class was like a psychology class. It helps you deal with emotions and stress, how to use positive communication instead of negative and how to control yourself."

She and her 10-year-old daughter have worked out a system of communication that encourages the child to seek out relatives or other adults if Ascencio is too busy, or to use a "clue" word to let her mother know that what she has to say is urgent. "She can say emergency and that would let me know that it is very, very important and that it can't wait and she has used it," Ascencio said.

The school expects to graduate 1,800 parents in the first quarter of the year and will start the courses in April in nine other schools in Region B of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The area encompasses much of East Los Angeles.

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