Person holding a cup of coffee
  • Cartwright Cafecitos: Reaching Parents One Coffee Cup at a Time 

    If you grew up in a Latino family, you know the pivotal part a cup of coffee plays in many aspects of daily life. Whether you are closing a business deal, sharing good or bad news with your best friend, making a family decision, or just having a casual get-together with friends and family, a good cup of coffee is always involved. Cuban, Colombian, or a good old traditional Mexican café de olla (slow-brewed cinnamon coffee) are staples in the Latin culture. So, when it came time to plan parent meetings at the Cartwright School District in Phoenix, Arizona (a district where 92% of its population is of Latino descent), administrators knew that coffee had to be involved 

    The Cartwright School District hosts monthly “Cafecitos” (parent meetings) at every one of its 20 schools and they serve a good cup of coffee at each one. Cafecitos are unique in that families are afforded the opportunity to learn what their own students are learning and schools are able to appreciate that learning through the lens of the family.  Parents are exposed to the same future-focused learning their children are exposed to. Makerspace Labs that foster engineering for students, an International Baccalaureate, STEM, and other programs have been showcased at Cartwright Cafecitos. Also, critical information about gifted educational programs, the latest research related to Visible Learning, trauma-informed practices, and dual-language learning are just a sample of some of the information families and community members get a taste of during Cafecitos. 


    Technology and access to it is also highlighted during Cafecitos. Free online programs are available for families to access such as GED practice courses, ESL classes, computer literacy tools, eBooks, eAudio, and eMusic. Global learning applications and access to online collections of animated books for children are also available to parents in English and Spanish. Cartwright partners with community leaders to leverage resources available to families and ultimately deliver innovative solutions to increase academic achievement. Cartwright Cafecitos have also been featured on several interactive Facebook Lives through the district’s partnership with Univision TV. Parents get lessons on how to navigate the district app and on how to interact through the district’s social media pages. Additionally, technology permits the Cartwright School District to provide parents with access to student learning through the viewing of videos such as students participating in 3D printing and school robotics challenges. Schools and families also examine data during a Cafecito to inform decision-making. Parents also learn to ask relevant questions of their child’s teacher or discuss safety concerns. Conversations are reciprocal during Cafecitos, just as family engagement is intended to be.

    The continued success of Cafecitos at Cartwright is easy to measure. Every year, parents are polled on the effectiveness of the program through annual surveys. Surveys taken during the 2018-2019 school year show that 83% of parents said they were satisfied with their assigned parent liaison, who is in charge of parental engagement, and Cafecitos at their school site. 85% of them said the academic information received at Cafecitos directly impacts their child’s student achievement.

    Principal Perspective 

    “I believe Cafecitos have a direct impact on academic achievement and our data backs that up,” said Tomahawk Principal Marylin Bond.  At her school, 70% of students whose parents attend are successful academically. Her parents are informed about school data, the importance of attendance, and turning in homework. They are also given math and reading strategies that help better educate their children at home. Before parent/teacher conferences, Ms. Bond instructs parents during Cafecitos on what questions they should ask their child’s teacher during their conferences. “For example, if a child is minimally proficient in reading, what can parents do to raise that score? What materials should they ask their child’s teacher for? Once they receive that key information at Cafecitos, parents, and students thrive and test scores naturally climb,” said Bond. During Cafecitos, Bond also encourages parents to attend important school events. 90% of families who do just that are successful academically. Because of this continued messaging at Cafecitos, Tomahawk achieved an “A” rating by the Arizona Department of Education for the 2018-2019 school year. Bond credits this achievement to the superb job her teachers do every day but, also to the parental involvement that Cafecitos have promoted at her school.  

    Today, each Cartwright school has an attendance rate at each monthly Cafecito of nearly 100 families, which means that more than 2,000 Cartwright families regularly attend Cafecitos and benefit from them directly. The Cartwright School District’s motto is “One Team, Una Familia!” and the district continues to live by that motto - one coffee cup at a time.