Parental involvement in schools is an essential predictor of student success. However, the cultural habitus of families affects their level of involvement. In the following synthesis, Esther J. Calzada, Keng – Yen Huang, Miguel Hernandez, Erika Soriano, C. Francoise Acra, Spring Dawson-McClure, Dimitria Kamboukos, and Laurie Brotman as well as Beth Tarasawa and Jacqueline Waggoner explore the nature of parental involvement with regards to immigrant families.


The Problem

According to Calzada et al. (2015), parental involvement among immigrant families is often affected by socioeconomic and demographic characteristics, parent cultural characteristics and teacher characteristics. They assert that parental involvement in immigrant families is often more home based as opposed to being school and home based. They call for a reexamination of what constitutes parental involvement reasoning parent involvement as, “a multidimensional construct in recognition of the myriad ways in which parents may support their children’s education,” (2015).

Tarasawa and Waggoner examine parental involvement in a similar manner. Focusing on immigrants, refugees, and English Language Learners (ELL), Tarasawa and Waggoner assert that how these marginalized populations experience relationships with schools differs from English-speaking families (2015). They argue that when looking at the level of parent involvement from these groups, there are barriers that need to be considered including prior negative interactions with schools, fear of deportation, language barriers, and the disconnection between home and school cultures. They too suggest that the focus on traditional parent involvement is rooted in deficit models of engagement which deemphasize family centered practices of engagement in marginalized populations (2015).


The Effects

Both works recognize the effect parental involvement has on students. They cite sources crediting increased parental involvement from a young age as a contributor to student success and equate low parental involvement with low levels of achievement. Both works also emphasize the cultural gap often experienced between families and teachers which can be exacerbated by teacher’s prejudices. Calzada et al. go on to state that immigrant families’ level of involvement is also influenced by acculturation, adaptation to mainstream culture (US American), and enculturation, maintenance of original culture (e.g. Dominican or Mexican).


Possible Solution

Calzada et al. make many recommendations on how to increase parental involvement in schools. Their primary suggestions include providing more support for immigrant families in their home-based involvement, promoting biculturalism (both acculturation and enculturation) in schools, implementing polices that place parent liaisons in schools and garnering a high parent to teacher match where teachers represent the backgrounds of the students they teach.

Tarasawa and Waggoner underscore many of the same recommendations including adopting traditional and non-traditional (cultural knowledge) models of family engagement where non-traditional models builds on the cultural strength of families (biculturalism). However, Tarasawa and Waggoner expand their suggestions outside of the parent-teacher relationship to include the community as well. They assert that districts enlist trusted community members and organizations to help create a bridge between schools and marginalized families and to provide community based educational programs that inform parents about school expectations and assist “parents in becoming advocates for their children” (2015).


Cited Sources

Calzada, E. J., Huang, K., Hernandez, M., Soriano, E., Acra, C. F., Dawson-McClure, S., & … Brotman, L. (2015). Family and Teacher Characteristics as Predictors of Parent Involvement in Education During Early Childhood Among Afro-Caribbean and Latino Immigrant Families. Urban Education50(7), 870-896. doi:10.1177/0042085914534862

Tarasawa, B., & Waggoner, J. (2015). Increasing parental involvement of English Language Learner families: What the research says. Journal Of Children & Poverty21(2), 129-134. doi:10.1080/10796126.2015.1058243