Creating Meaningful Engagement: a look into the role of immigrant parents and their interaction with the education system
Immigrant students are said to start their formal education at a disadvantage. In an article “Latino Immigrant Students’ School Experiences in the United States: The Importance of Family– School–Community Collaborations” Sibley and Braback explain that, “immigrant students are less likely to graduate high school compared to children of native-born parents and during adolescence may experience isolation from U.S. peer group” (Sibley and Brabeck, 2017, p.137). These disadvantages are amplified by the lack of parental engagement in early schooling. Sibley and Brabeck exemplify the importance of this engagement in their research study looking at the family-schools-community model. Building off of this, Pirchio et al. looks at how parents and teachers collectively shape stereotypes and behaviors in immigrant children. In addition, a practitioner article from Colvin et al. offers insights into the myth that immigrant parents don’t care about their children and another practitioner article discusses how teacher’s existing prejudices about immigrant parents –that they are less involved– is restricting parents from attempting to engage. All of these articles, collectively, can be used to find meaningful solutions to engage immigrant parents in the educational system.
Sibley and Brabeck outline how the family to school to community model is crucial for student success. They focus on the three periods of educational growth, elementary school, intermediate/middle school and high school. Within each of these, they prove that, “communities and schools play a key role in determining the extent to which families are aware of opportunities to be involved at the school and can take advantage of educational opportunities for their children” (Sibley and Brabeck, 2017 p.148). They show that, at each stage of development, when the family is involved, the student is benefited. Sibley and Brabeck however also highlight that the parents must be aware of how they are supposed to be involved in order to initiate the engagement themselves, this is the most critical aspect to instilling this relationship. One of the things preventing the transmission of knowledge is teacher stereotypes about immigrant students and parents. Teachers personally interact and engage directly more with non-immigrant parents (Pirchio et al. 2018, p.84). In addition, parents deemed “authoritarian” are proven to be more involved and more interacted with in their child’s education and in this study, none of the immigrant parents were deemed authoritarian parents (Picicio et al. 2018 p.83). Colvin et al. (2017) says, “administrators and teachers expressed concern that because of immigrant parents’ perceived lack of school participation, they had come to believe these parents cared less about their children’s academic success” (p.140). This disconnect between parental and systemic expectations for parents explains the statement from Colvin. The direct implications of stereotyping immigrant parents is further analyzed in the practitioner article by Schwartz. Schwartz analyzes and explains how these implications actually harm the student. Schwartz says, “Students whose teachers thought their parents were less engaged had lower grade point averages and were less likely to be recommended for honors or Advanced Placement courses” (Schwartz 2018). Teachers are inadvertently harming students by applying personal opinions that in turn, prevent parents from engagement.
The combined work of these studies and articles demonstrate the need for enhanced communication between parents and teachers. “There is evidence that a kid’s GPA is not just based on a kid’s performance,” said Hua-Yu Sebastian Cherng, an assistant professor of international education at New York University. “It’s not just based on what they’re doing in that classroom. It’s actually based on the kid’s teacher.” (Schwartz 2018). In minimizing teacher stereotyping, parents will be able to engage themselves. Both collectively have the necessary knowledge to make children succeed and it is time that this is recognized and taken advantage of.