Building Evidence on How to Move Young Latinas Toward College

Posted March 26, 2018, By the Annie E. Casey Foundation

Young people working with Con Mi MADRE in Texas take steps to succeed in college starting in sixth grade.

Photo provided by Con Mi MADRE

Some­times a sin­gle sta­tis­tic can be a cat­a­lyst for big action. In the ear­ly 1990s, a demographer’s find­ing — that Lati­na girls in Texas had less than a 1% chance of get­ting a col­lege edu­ca­tion — led to the start of an inter­ven­tion that would even­tu­al­ly grow into the Austin-based orga­ni­za­tion Con Mi MADRE (Moth­ers And Daugh­ters Rais­ing Expec­ta­tions). A Casey grantee, Con Mi MADRE now oper­ates through­out the state, sup­port­ing hun­dreds of young Lati­nas each year in their pur­suit of high­er education.

Har­ness­ing the pow­er of the moth­er-daugh­ter rela­tion­ship, Con Mi MADRE uses a two-gen­er­a­tion approach to pre­pare girls for aca­d­e­m­ic suc­cess from the sixth grade through the com­ple­tion of post­sec­ondary stud­ies, serv­ing more than 900 young Lati­nas and their moth­ers every year. Many par­tic­i­pants come from sin­gle-par­ent, low-income fam­i­lies, and 80% would be first-gen­er­a­tion col­lege students.

Con Mi MADRE pro­gram­ming, con­duct­ed in Span­ish and Eng­lish, engages moth­ers and daugh­ters through a con­tin­u­um of sup­port ser­vices tai­lored to grade lev­el, includ­ing spe­cial­ized in-school cur­ric­u­la, coun­sel­ing ses­sions, edu­ca­tion­al work­shops, col­lege fairs and oth­er events.

The orga­ni­za­tion reports that 100% of its seniors grad­u­ate from high school, and about 77% enroll in post­sec­ondary edu­ca­tion. By engag­ing the stu­dents and their moth­ers in the col­lege-going process at such an ear­ly age, we cre­ate a col­lege-going mind­set and cul­ture in the home,” said Tere­sa Granil­lo, exec­u­tive direc­tor of Con Mi MADRE. They set their eyes and hearts on what they can do with their future if they stay in school.”

But in terms of estab­lish­ing the lev­el of evi­dence required for inclu­sion in reg­istries of rig­or­ous­ly test­ed pro­grams, such as Blue­prints for Healthy Youth Devel­op­ment, the 13-year dura­tion of Con Mi MADRE’s pro­gram works against it. Granil­lo points out that it’s dif­fi­cult to design a ran­dom­ized con­trol tri­al — the eval­u­a­tion method that assess­es impact through a com­par­i­son of ran­dom­ly assigned par­tic­i­pant and non­par­tic­i­pant groups — for a pro­gram that spans so many years of a young woman’s life. Our work with the Foun­da­tion is putting the pieces in place to get to that point of being an evi­dence-based pro­gram, guid­ing our explo­ration toward a research ques­tion we can ask and answer in a short­er peri­od of time,” Granil­lo says.

Con Mi MADRE has used Casey’s tech­ni­cal assis­tance to help devel­op a the­o­ry of change and a new log­ic mod­el — crit­i­cal steps toward effec­tive eval­u­a­tion, the ulti­mate goal of Expand­ing Evi­dence work. Based on the needs of Expand­ing Evi­dence grantees, the Foundation’s Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group also has recent­ly added sup­port for sup­ple­men­tal coach­ing in brand­ing, com­mu­ni­ca­tions and fundrais­ing. Says Granil­lo: The tai­lor­ing of the Expand­ing Evi­dence pro­gram to meet each of us where we are as indi­vid­ual orga­ni­za­tions has been real­ly key to us being able to make the best use of the sup­port to pro­pel our work forward.”

Ayo Atter­ber­ry, a senior asso­ciate with the Evi­dence-Based Prac­tice Group, says the goal is to doc­u­ment the val­ue of pro­grams such as Con Mi MADRE so they can be expand­ed to oth­er parts of the coun­try. Eval­u­a­tion leads to evi­dence,” she says. We want evi­dence because we want to give kids pro­grams and ser­vices that work — and it’s espe­cial­ly impor­tant for kids of col­or to have access to inter­ven­tions that are both effec­tive and cul­tur­al­ly specific.”

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