Why Latino parents seem satisfied with Boston schools — but big challenges remain

Addressing language and culture barriers is crucial to educational equity

WHEN LATINO AND Asian parents in Boston watch their children navigate the school hallways, fluently conversing in English, it is a moment of triumph. It’s a tangible step toward achieving the American dream: their children are assimilating, often becoming the family’s primary translator. 

Such achievements, though seemingly minute, are monumental in the eyes of immigrant parents, especially those who come from Latin America, who often hail from countries where the public education system is far from satisfactory.

That sentiment is echoed in a recent MassINC Polling Group survey, which revealed a complex educational landscape in Boston. Surprisingly, 67 percent of Latino and Asian parents expressed satisfaction with Boston Public Schools high school options for their K-8 children, a sharp contrast to the 45-46 percent satisfaction rate among White and African American parents. 

But is it possible that this optimism is principally owing to their children’s mastery of English or to the relative comparison with education systems back home?

MPG MassINC Polling Group August 2023

Latino and Asian parents of Boston Public Schools K-8 grade students voice much higher satisfaction with high school options for their child than do White and Black parents.

Other findings from the survey cast shadows of concern. Only 52 percent of all parents believed there were adequate extracurricular opportunities, such as art and music – experiences integral to holistic education. 

Perhaps the most troubling finding in the poll when it comes to Latino parents concerns the availability of Advanced Placement courses for 9-12 grade students. A total of 47 percent of Latino parents of grade 9-12 students said their child’s school either did not offer AP courses, did not have enough of them, or they were unsure of whether there were such offerings. That is nearly twice the rate of White parents, 24 percent of whom said their child’s school did not have AP courses, had too few, or were unsure of whether such advanced classes were offered. This is a clear sign that significant challenges in communication and educational outreach to our community still exist.   

From El Planeta’s perspective, it is crucial to understand these poll findings in the context of our community’s cultural and linguistic realities. Boston has seen a growing wave of immigration, and many of these families face linguistic barriers that hinder their access to information. Moreover, educational experiences in countries of origin might not have direct parallels with the opportunities Boston provides, leading to misunderstandings or underutilization of available resources.

Meet the Author
As our community strives to adapt and thrive in Boston, it’s essential for educational institutions and city and state leaders to commit to listening and acting based on these concerns. The MassINC Polling Group survey is a call to action. It’s time to address these gaps and challenges head-on and ensure an equitable education for all.

Javier Marin is founder of El Planeta, Massachusetts’s leading Spanish news hub, reaching nearly 600,000 Latinos via print, web, and social channels. A Spanish language version of this essay was published in El Planeta.