Academic journal article School Community Journal

Impact of Latino Parent Engagement on Student Academic Achievement: A Pilot Study

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Impact of Latino Parent Engagement on Student Academic Achievement: A Pilot Study

Article excerpt

Introduction

Latinos remain the largest minority population in the U.S. and one of the most rapidly increasing ethnic groups today (Garcia & Bayer, 2005; Kohler & Lazarin, 2007). With increases in immigration, U.S. public schools and other institutions are faced with the immense challenge of identifying and attempting to meet the unique needs of its mounting Latino immigrant student population in order to ensure the success of its students and to create a more educated and competitive workforce across the U.S. This ethnic/racial group is often characterized by high dropout rates, low college enrollment, and lack of educational attainment, which negatively perpetuates the pervasive Latino achievement gap (National Center for Education Statistics, 2014). Addressing the Latino achievement gap remains a top priority. This pilot study will examine, in part, the implications of the rising Latino immigrant population in the educational system within one of the most populous and richest counties in California: Orange County.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau (2014), Latinos account for 34% of Orange County's current population, and based on new government population projections, the minority group is expected to grow to nearly 45% by the year 2060. Additionally, when considering the total youth population (under age 18), Latinos currently comprise 46.7%. Almost a tenth of Orange County's residents are undocumented immigrants that work in low-wage jobs. Not surprisingly, Latino families have twice the rate of poverty than the rest of the county. Furthermore, nearly three times (43.5%) the number of Latinos have attained less than a high school diploma, compared to 15.7% of all Orange County residents (Waheed, Romero, & Sarmiento, 2014). In the 2012-13 school year, Latino students in this county represented approximately 48.3% of the public school enrollment, yet maintained one of the highest dropout rates in comparison to other minority and nonminority groups (Kena et al., 2014). This is especially significant given education-based earning differentials contributing to risk factors-including unemployment, poverty, substance abuse, and crime-negatively impacting the achievement of future generations (Annunziata, Hogue, Faw, & Liddle, 2006; Trusty, Mellin, & Herbert, 2008).

Additionally, the workforce gap continues to lend to the cycle of underachievement in Latino families such that parents with lower paying jobs tend to have little or no education and live in poorer neighborhoods, which in turn limits their access to supportive services and additional learning opportunities for their children (Lee & Bowen, 2006). In targeting the Latino achievement gap early on, Latino students are given the opportunity to pursue higher education-indicative of greater job mobility, financial stability, higher lifetime earnings, and individual success, which benefits not only the individual, but also Orange County's workforce.

In identifying the exact etiology of the achievement gap among immigrant populations, parent engagement has been identified as a significant contributing factor. Carpenter, Ramirez, and Severn (2006) found that, regardless of race, the most significant predictors of achievement are rooted in the home, with parent engagement playing the most significant role in increased achievement for Latinos-more than any other racial group. Parent engagement has also been shown to mediate the effects of risk factors typically characteristic of the academic achievement gap, such as low socioeconomic status, parents' educational attainment, and race/ethnicity (Altschul, 2012; De Civita, Pagani, Vitaro, & Tremblay, 2004; Eamon, 2002; Schreiber, 2002). It follows, then, that parent engagement represents an important and effective target strategy to support immigrant populations in closing the academic achievement gap, thereby positively impacting the workforce gap as well. Empowering parents, one of the keys to student success, is a critical mechanism to ensure a better educated, better prepared, and more competitive workforce in Orange County and elsewhere. …

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