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Learning Matters

News tips about education from Indiana University

September 11, 2006

Schools need to check their deeply-held attitudes, biases and assumptions about Latina/o parents. Gerardo Lopez, associate professor in the Indiana University School of Education's Department of Educational Leadership and Policy Studies in Bloomington, is conducting research that looks into Latina/Latino parent involvement. His findings show that parents may not be going to school to participate in the parent teacher association (PTA), but they are highly involved in other ways. Latina/Latino parents also might not be able to speak English, but this doesn't mean that they have a language "barrier" or a language deficiency—in fact the deficiency might be in the school itself for not having the capability to communicate with parents. "How schools perceive parents is a critical first step in forging strong home, school and community relations," Lopez said. His findings highlight several interesting results:

  • Latina/Latino parents tended to refer to teachers as "second parents," which is very different than the concept normally heard—parents as "first teachers." This suggests that parents are negotiating parent/teacher roles differently: they view teachers as responsible for parent-like activities in the classroom. "This doesn't necessarily mean they want babysitters or 'proxy parents' but that they simply expect teachers to reinforce the values, mores, traditions, beliefs and expectations of the home," Lopez said.
  • Latina/Latino parents were involved at their children's school even though they weren't in the school building. Involvement was defined differently—as "cosejos" or advice they gave to children: having good behaviors, making good decisions, being motivated, respecting elders, not repeating errors they made as children, etc.
  • Interviews with teachers, administrators, and other school personnel showed they were generally very receptive of the Latina/Latino community, but used phrases such as "language barriers" or "language deficiency" when speaking about this population. "What is interesting is that they generally talked about barriers as though the Latina/Latino community had them—not as general barriers that prevent communication,'" Lopez said. "In effect, there was a problematic notion that barriers were uni-directional, even through barriers, by definition, are bi-directional in nature—because neither party can communicate across this barrier."

Lopez can be reached at 812-856-8392 and

Sex education is crucial for students with developmental disabilities. The current sex education curriculum violates the spirit of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act, which offers a free and appropriate education to students with disabilities. Sex education is one of several topics covered in, Law & Disorder, a new special education journal authored by Indiana University Bloomington undergraduates in the IU School of Education. "Law & Disorder is important as a tool not only to disseminate information about special education law and students with disabilities but equally important, it serves as a tool to empower undergraduate students to begin to take themselves seriously as professionals," said Theresa Ochoa, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. Each manuscript in the journal examines a specific issue concerning learners with exceptionalities and the laws that govern them. The intent of Law & Disorder is to inform educators, parents, lawmakers, pre-service teachers and undergraduate students of the effects of educational policy and law on students with exceptionalities. The journal began as a brainstorm inspired by student writers in Ochoa's "Teaching Exceptional Learners" course. The students were juniors and seniors and some are less than a year away from teaching in their own classrooms. Other topics covered in the journal include: Using Technology to Teach Students with Mild Disabilities: Current Trends and Future Technologies; Educating Students with Emotional or Behavioral Disorders; Classroom Management and Teaching Strategies for Students with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder; and Identifying Disabilities in Children with Limited English Proficiency. The journal can be viewed online at:

Ochoa can be reached at To speak with the students who authored the journal, contact Nicole Roales, IU Media Relations, at 812-856-3717 and

A series of podcasts can help Indiana K-12 teachers and higher education faculty integrate technology into their classrooms. "Teach with Tech" is the latest innovation from the IU School of Education Instructional Consulting Office in Bloomington. This pioneering series of podcasts aims to provide timely, useful information about integrating technology into teaching. "We have found that it often is difficult for many faculty to attend our face-to-face workshops because of their tight schedules," said Chris Essex, coordinator of instructional design and development in the Instructional Consulting Office. "They are more than willing to learn, but they have so many things pulling at them—teaching, research, and meetings—and the "Teach with Tech" podcasts are a great way to deliver information about technology integration to faculty members." A podcast is similar to a short radio show, but in a digital audio format that can be played on a computer or an MP3 player or similar device at the user's convenience. The "Teach with Tech" podcasts are each about 30 minutes long, designed to be listened to on a lunch break, or at the gym—and discuss the latest technology news, tools and tips, with a special emphasis on how they can be applied to teaching. Besides the School of Education faculty and associate instructors, the series also has a secondary audience of K-12 teachers, in Indiana and beyond. The podcasts are currently the most popular individual items on the Instructional Consulting Web site and reach an international audience. About 500 listeners have been downloading each episode. Essex hosts the podcast series, and he regularly brings in faculty and other experts as interview subjects. There are 11 podcasts available online, with one added nearly each month. To access the podcasts visit, and to read the "Teach with Tech" blog, a Web site that provides information about each podcast, and related web links, visit

Essex can be reached at 812-856-8062 and

The climate at rural schools may be beneficial to special education students. Gretchen Digman Butera, associate professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction on the Bloomington campus, is examining a rural and urban school in Indiana and comparing the schools' climate and its impact on students, especially those who are in special education. "Every school has its own climate with its own set of risk and protective factors for students who struggle in school," Butera says. "However, too often rural poverty and its impact on students is overlooked as the topic of poverty and children is more often associated with urban settings. This can be problematic as a substantial number of American children in poverty or with disabilities attend a rural school." In rural schools, teachers and parents know each other and a sense of community evolves within the school that is beneficial. In general, at a rural school, the kids are less likely to fall through the cracks because they aren't moving around as much and the people involved have been there a while and know each other. This is not always the case, however. It depends somewhat on school size. "Historically over the last 50 years, there has been a big push to reduce the number of schools, decreasing the number of small rural schools across the country," Butera says. "This consolidation has happened nationwide. Many schools in Indiana have been consolidated. It seemed like a good way for schools to be more cost-effective, but we may have lost something in the process. In fact, recently, we've witnessed a push to get back to smaller schools, schools within schools and even to unconsolidated schools." Consolidation translated into big transportation bills for schools, and also destroyed the sense of community often present in rural schools. For students in poverty and students with disabilities, there are significant disadvantages to a consolidated school district. Butera has talked to adults who attended rural schools before consolidation took place. When these adults got into trouble at school, the entire town knew what they did. "It wasn't just your parents disciplining you, it was everybody," Butera says. "Now with consolidation, there is a disconnect between the school and home because the families can't get to the schools and the teachers may not know anything about the community." Butera also says it can be harder for children and families in rural schools to access needed resources like public transportation or community mental health services. "There's a unique set of circumstances that surround kids in rural schools," Butera says. "There are some risk factors and protective factors evident in both rural and urban schools. In our study we are interested in uncovering them." When intervention programs are developed for children, Butera says planners need to understand the relationship between community characteristics and the school.

Butera can be reached at 812-856-8153 and