Academic journal article School Community Journal

A Squandered Resource: The Divestment of Mexican Parental Involvement in a New Gateway State

Academic journal article School Community Journal

A Squandered Resource: The Divestment of Mexican Parental Involvement in a New Gateway State

Article excerpt


Latinos comprise the largest and fastest growing ethnic minority in the United States, and their academic success has significant implications for the future of this country (Gándara & Contreras, 2009). Although dropout rates for Latinos have decreased considerably, they continued to be the highest of any ethnic group at 14% in 2013 (Pew Research Center, 2014c). In addition, the academic attainment gap between Hispanics and non-Hispanic, White students persists (Pew Research Center, 2009). Educators and researchers alike have grappled with the myriad reasons for the underperformance of Latinos in U.S. schools. In an attempt to serve this growing population, schools have had to contend with both cultural and language differences in the midst of increased high-stake testing and accountability practices. There is a tendency for educators who are frustrated by the situation to turn to Latino parents as the source of the problem, claiming that they are not adequately invested in their children's education (De Gaetano, 2007; Goldenberg, Gallimore, Reese, & Garnier, 2001; Olivos, Jiménez-Castellanos, & Ochoa, 2011; Ramirez, 2003; Valencia & Black, 2002; Valencia & Solórzano, 1997). According to the National Survey of Latinos: Education conducted by the Pew Hispanic Center in 2004, Latino parents themselves were more likely than White or African American parents to say that the achievement gap between non-Hispanic, White students and Latino students was a result of too many Latino parents being unwilling to push their children to work hard (Pew Research Center, 2004).

Significant academic achievement can be attained when parents and family members are involved in a student's education (August & Hakuta, 1997; Bermudez & Marquez, 1996; Lee & Bowen, 2006; Henderson & Mapp, 2002), and some research suggests that parental involvement plays an even greater role in the academic achievement of Latino students than it does for White, non-Hispanic students (Darder, 1991; Delgado-Gaitán, 2004; Zuniga, 2006). In order to better serve Latino students, it is imperative that educators are informed about the ways in which culture and language influence the parental involvement practices of the families they serve. If schools want to engage and involve Latino parents, they cannot continue to rely on traditional parental involvement practices initially designed to meet the needs of U.S.-born parents who speak English.

By comparing the participants' experiences with schools in Mexico to schools in North Carolina, educators in new gateway states may gain insights into how an increase in linguistic and cultural diversity necessitates a change in the ways that schools work to foster parental involvement. This article will examine the following questions through a qualitative case study: How did Mexican parents and students experience parental involvement in their native country? How did these experiences differ from what they have experienced in North Carolina? What are these families' overall impressions of the expectations that schools in North Carolina have of them regarding their involvement in the schools? What have been the most salient challenges in meeting these expectations? By better understanding the experiences of Mexican parents in their home country and the challenges they have faced in North Carolina concerning parental involvement, schools-particularly those in new gateway states-will be better positioned to create practices that foster stronger home-school connections. Strong home-school connections and the symmetrical communication that is needed to create these connections are at the core of implementing what Moll and his colleagues called a "participatory pedagogy" that draws on the funds of knowledge that all students bring to the classroom (Moll, Amanti, Neff, & Gonzalez, 1992).

Parental Involvement, Latino Families, and U.S. Schools

The perception that Mexican students do not succeed in U. …

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