"The Children Want to Learn; the Parents Want to Participate": Expanding Understandings of the Parental Involvement of English Learners

Simpson Baird, Ashley, Education - Curry School of Education, University of Virginia
Kibler, Amanda, Curry School of Education, University of Virginia

This manuscript-style dissertation contains three papers on EL parent involvement. The first, Beyond the Greatest Hits: A Counter Story of English Learners’ Parent Involvement, is an integrative review of 20 years of research on EL parent involvement. Specifically, I examine the ways in which EL parent involvement aligns with and/or differs from widely held notions of what constitutes involvement for all parents—in other words, “the greatest hits” (Hong, 2011). I show how parents are involved in their ELs’ education through engaging in three key relationships: (1) relationships with their children’s schools, (2) relationships with their children, and (3) relationships with other families. Moreover, I argue that these relationships exist along a continuum that moves away from school-directed involvement to more parent-led engagement.

The second and third manuscripts are both studies from data that I collected during seven months at Arbor Elementary, an urban school with a large and quickly growing Latino, EL population—a trend that is reflective of many schools across the U.S. (Hussar & Bailey, 2014). In the second manuscript, Teachers Reading Parents: An Examination of Urban Elementary School Educators’ Reflections on Latino Families, I used data collected from parent workshops to create a discourse-based interview protocol that elicited educators’ reflections on statements made by parents during the workshops. Analyses of these reflections revealed that educators’ backgrounds and experiences were related to the types of reflections that they made. Additionally, these reflections show the Arbor is a school in transition where educators are still coming to understand and respond to its recent demographic shifts.

In manuscript three, Contradictory Discourses of Valued Participation: A Principal’s Discursive Construction of a Parent Literacy Program, I examine the discourse of Eleanor Parker, Arbor’s principal, as she designs and implements an in-class literacy program aimed at Latino parents. I show that Eleanor’s discourse presents two contradictory Discourses of valued participation for EL parents. The first is a Discourse of responsivity where the school acts in response to the needs of EL parents. The second is a Discourse of rigidity where the school maintains a unidirectional transmission of communication from the school to the home.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
parent involvement, family engagement, English learners
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