Building relationships with Latino families: Teacher perspectives on parental involvement
TABLE OF CONTENTS Page LIST OF TABLES xiii LIST OF FIGURES xiv CHAPTER 1 INTRODUCTION 1 Background 1 Purpose of Study 3 Statement of Problem 3 Definition of Terms 4 Limitations 6 Delimitations 6 Significance of Study 7 Chapter Summary 9 2 LITERATURE REVIEW 10 Introduction 10 Parent Involvement Conceptual Framework 11 Overlapping Spheres of Influence 11 External Model 14 Internal Model 14 Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement 16 Social/Historical Cultural Experiences 19 Cultural Competence 20 vii
CHAPTER Page Deficit Model 21 Cultural Mismatch 24 Funds of Knowledge 26 Relationships 28 Chapter Summary 31 3 RESEARCH METHODOLOGY 33 Introduction 33 Restatement of the Problem 33 Research Design Procedures 34 Research Methodology 37 Population and Sample 38 Instrumentation 40 Instrument 1: Teacher Survey 40 Importance of Attributes of Trust 40 Reliance on Attributes of Trust to Develop Relationships with Latino Parents 41 Awareness of Cultural Components 41 Influence of Cultural Components on Latino Student Achievement 42 Participant Demographics 43 Instrument 2: Open-ended Interview Questions and Individual In-depth Interviews 43 viii
CHAPTER Page Focus Group Interviews 44 Individual In-depth Interviews 44 Pilot Study 44 Data Collection Procedures 45 Phase 1 45 Phase 2 46 Phase 3 46 Data Analysis 47 4 FINDINGS AND RESULTS 55 Introduction 55 Participant Characteristics 56 Findings and Results 59 How Do Teachers Define Parent Involvement? 59 Focus Group Interviews Findings 59 In-depth Interviews Findings 60 What are Teacher Beliefs and Perceptions of Latino Parent Involvement? 61 Focus Group Interviews Findings 61 In-depth Interviews Findings 63 What Strategies Do Teachers Use to Promote Latino Parent Involvement in Schools? 66 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 66 ix
CHAPTER Page In-depth Interviews Findings 69 What are Teacher Understandings of Latino Family Culture and Funds of Knowledge? 70 Teacher Survey Findings 71 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 72 In-depth Interviews Findings 73 Do Teachers Believe that Latino Family Culture and Funds of Knowledge Influence Latino Student Achievement? 76 Teacher Survey Findings 76 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 77 In-depth Interviews Findings 79 Do Certain Types of Specialized Endorsements Provide Teachers with Greater Understanding of Latino Family Cultural Components? 80 What are Teacher Understandings and Beliefs of Trust-based Relationships? 82 Teacher Survey Findings 83 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 84 In-depth Interviews Findings 85 What are Barriers toward Developing Trust-based Relationships with Latino Families? 86 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 86 x
CHAPTER Page In-depth Interviews Findings 88 How Do Teachers Develop Collaborative Relationships with Latino Families? 90 Teacher Survey Findings 90 Focus Groups Interviews Findings 91 In-depth Interviews Findings 93 5 SUMMARY OF THE STUDY 95 Introduction 95 Summary of Findings and Conclusions 96 How Do Teachers Define Parent Involvement? 96 What are Teacher Perceptions and Understandings of Latino Parent Involvement? 98 What are Teacher Understandings of Latino Family Culture and Funds of Knowledge? 102 Do Teachers Believe there is a Relation between Latino Culture, Family Funds of Knowledge, and Academic Achievement? 104 Do Certain Types of Specialized Endorsements Provide Teachers with Greater Understanding of Latino Family Cultural Components? 106 What are Teacher Understandings and Beliefs of Trust-based Relationships? 108 xi
Page What are Barriers toward Developing Trust-based Relationships with Latino Families? 110 How Do Teachers Develop Trust-based Relationships with Latino Families? I l l Recommendations 113 Recommendations for School Leadership 113 Recommendations for Future Research 114 Implications 117 REFERENCES 122 APPENDIX A TEACHER SURVEY 127 B TEACHER INTERVIEW QUESTIONNAIRE 133 XII
LIST OF TABLES Table Page 1. Sources of Home-school Conflict 25 2. Phases of Study 47 3. Match of Research Question to Corresponding Sources of Information and Data Analysis/Reporting Procedures 48 4. Frequency (and Percentage) of Sample Demographic Characteristics 57 5. Teacher Awareness of Historical and Cultural Components 72 6. Teacher Beliefs on Influence of Cultural Components on Latino Student Achievement 77 7. Differences in Teacher Responses to Awareness of Cultural Components by Endorsement 81 8. Differences in Teacher Responses to Influence of Cultural Components by Endorsement 82 9. Teacher Responses to Levels of Attributes of Trust 83 10. Teacher Responses to Reliance on Attributes of Trust Used to Develop Relationships with Latino Parents 91 xiii
LIST OF FIGURES Figure Page 1. An External Model of Epstein' s Overlapping Spheres of Influence Theory 13 2. An Internal Model of Epstein's Overlapping Spheres of Influence Theory 16 3. Illustration of Research Design Procedures 36 4. Multistage Sampling of Population 39 xiv
CHAPTER 1 Introduction Background Parents and educators share a common interest when it comes to the achievement and positive school experience of their children. Many researchers have found that Latino children have better school learning experiences and higher levels of achievement if well developed relationships between the school and home are present (Delgado- Gaitan, 2001; Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Inger, 1992). One of the variables educators use to measure the strength of the home-school relationship is the degree of parent involvement. Historically, many schools with large numbers of Latino students have measured low levels of involvement (Nicoleau & Ramos, 1990). Educators can find it difficult to address issues such as differences in language, unfamiliarity with school systems and a negative view of school personnel of Latino families to name a few. For these reasons and others, parents of culturally and linguistically diverse students have the potential to become the least involved in their child's education (Moles, 2000). To gain a better understanding of Latino parental involvement it is necessary to better understand the cultural characteristics and life experiences of Latino families. Across the United States, there is a broad and diverse range of families identified as Hispanic or native Spanish speaking in our schools. The commonality among these families may be their Spanish language; however, they can differ in the experiences, traditions, level of acculturation, levels of literacy in Spanish and English, socioeconomics and educational experience. These differences within Latino families can
2 create challenges for schools and can impact family involvement by creating cultural barriers in the relationships between school personnel and families. Researchers have noted that in many school communities the level of family involvement is lower for Hispanics as compared to Whites (Nicoleau & Ramos, 1990). Our schools are dominated by European American, middle class, values and beliefs which are held by the majority of the school personnel. European American middle class families share common social and political experiences with school personnel thus promoting a more comfortable relationship. These families share a common language and use similar or common vocabulary with the school personnel. They may possess a sense of entitlement to treat teachers as equals thus having the ability to develop a relationship with the school personnel with more comfort and trust (Lareau, 2000; Nicoleau & Ramos, 1990; Valdes, 1996). Latino families can bring cultural experiences and an understanding of educational institutions that are different than those found in our schools. School personnel might view Latino families as having limited or low levels of involvement with schools because of these cultural differences. A common belief among Latino families is that school administration and teachers have absolute authority. In many Spanish speaking countries it is considered rude for families to intrude or interfere within the school functions (Espinosa, 1995). Differences in culture and experiences between Latino families and schools can create situations in which parents and schools are mismatched. Latino caregivers prepare
3 for schooling by focusing on the development of the child's character; teaching them to be responsible, respectful, and well behaved. Teachers; however, believe school preparation should include knowledge of basic literacy skills such as; recognizing the letters of the alphabet, colors, geometric shapes and counting skills. These differences can create a misconception that Hispanic families do not care about preparing their children for school or their educational experience (Valdes, 1996). Understanding these cultural differences can lead to the development of strategies for increased family involvement for Hispanic families. Purpose of Study The purpose of this study was to identify how teachers define parental involvement and the level of understanding they have of their Latino students' families' life experiences and social networks. Though there is much research on parent involvement and teacher perspectives on parental involvement activities and initiatives, there is limited research on teacher understandings of their Latino students' family home life, experiences, personal histories and how these understandings influence teacher- parent relationships in schools with large Latino populations. Statement of Problem In this study I examined teacher understandings of parental involvement and how teachers perceive their role and responsibility in developing relationships with Latino parents. The research investigated the following questions: 1. How do teachers define parent involvement?
4 a. What are teacher beliefs and perceptions of Latino parent involvement? b. What strategies do teachers use to promote Latino parent involvement? 2. What are teacher understandings of Latino family culture and funds of knowledge? a. Do teachers believe Latino family life experiences and beliefs influence student learning? b. Which types of specialized endorsements provide teachers with greater understanding of cultural components? 3. What are teacher understandings and beliefs of trust-based relationships? a. What are the barriers toward developing trust-based relationships with Latino families? b. How do teachers develop collaborative relationships with Latino families? Definition of Terms For the purpose of this study, the following definitions will be used: 1. Barriers: Conditions that inhibit the development of relationships between teachers and Latino parents. These conditions could be cultural, social, emotional, economic and linguistic.
5 2. Funds of Knowledge: Culture, as the first hand knowledge of everyday lived experiences of families; the knowledge and skills gained through historical and cultural interactions that are essential for individuals to function appropriately in his/her community (Gonzalez, Moll, & Amanti, 2005). 3. Latinos: A plural noun used to describe a sub group of Hispanic people from Latin America countries. Though they can have cultural, social, economic, political, religious, racial and linguistic diversity, they can share similar experiences and beliefs. In the United States of America, Latinos are considered a minority group. 4. Marginalized: A group of people who are perceived as outsiders and inferior by the dominant group based on cultural or ethnic differences. 5. Parent/Caregiver/Family: A term used to describe or identify the person primarily responsible for raising children. This includes biological and adoptive parents, guardians, uncles, aunts, grandparents, adult relative or other adult living in the household and providing guidance and child rearing responsibilities. 6. Partnerships/Parent-teacher relationship/Home-school Collaboration: The relationship between parents and teachers that is characterized by reciprocity of respect and trust (Beveridge, 2004). The terms
6 partnership, parent-teacher relationship and home-school collaboration will be used synonymously. 7. Trust: An individual's or group's willingness to be vulnerable to another individual or Group Based on the belief that the latter party is benevolent, reliable, competent, honest, and open (Hoy & Tschannen-Morgan, 2003) Limitations The findings of this study were limited to the self-perceptions and knowledge of the teacher participants. The elements being studied in this research were collected through surveys and reflect self-response and volunteered information as opposed to information collected through observations. The study was also limited in that it was not a longitudinal study and conducted in the fall of 2008. Though this was a mixed method study, it was more qualitative in nature. Delimitations This study was conducted in three elementary schools located in an urban school district in the state of Arizona during the 2008-2009 academic year. The selected schools were Title I schools with over 50% of the students identified as Hispanic. Therefore these finding may or may not generalize to other subpopulations, locations, and periods of time. During the time of the data collection, there was an underlying anti-undocumented immigrant sentiment. A local law enforcement agency was conducting sweeps that focused on undocumented Latino immigrants that were in the United States illegally.
7 Many schools saw lower numbers of Latino parents visiting the schools and some schools saw decrease in Latino student enrollment. Significance of Study This study attempted to identify teacher beliefs and practices that effect relationships with Latino families. The Latino population is one of the fastest growing populations in the United States. Not only are Latinos immigrating to the United States at a high rate but they also have a higher fertility rate as compared to other populations in the United States. With immigrants coming from a multitude of Spanish speaking countries in Central America and South America, they bring different experiences, attitudes about schooling and definitions of their roles as parents. National policies, such as No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001), have identified parent involvement as an important function of public education. It is widely accepted that school-home partnerships are important for improved student achievement (Bermudez, & Marquez, 1996; Epstein, 2001). Past studies on Latino parental involvement have focused on ways to promote activities and experiences that rely on the transmission of the schools culture and values and the assimilation of the minority group. As schools move to comply with state and federal requirements that require parental involvement plans, the schools fail to co-construct the plans with Latino parents. Schools that consist of personnel that are not Latino or that the majority of its staff is European American will many times only focus on involving families that share similar values and experiences in the development of the plans. Plans are communicated to the school
8 families via school events that are predominately defined as one-way communication; from the school to the families. There is considerable evidence that family involvement leads to higher levels of student achievement, student attendance and graduation rates. By better understanding the culture and life experiences of Latino families, schools can develop stronger home - school relationships (Scribner, Young, & Pedroza, 1999; Delgado-Gaitan, 2007). Establishing relationships centered on children and their family is difficult enough for teachers and parents with similar cultures. Establishing relationships with families from different backgrounds can be even more challenging. The majority of our urban schools are staffed with teachers who are Euro-American, middle class females. These teachers serve students that are ethnically diverse and who many times practice a different culture than the teacher. Most school family involvement program goals focus on promoting practices in which school personnel seek to communicate to parents how schools functions and the role they would like them to play. These roles are defined by the values and beliefs of the school personnel. This study will add new knowledge and insight to parental involvement of Latino families. By identifying teacher behaviors and knowledge that facilitate a stronger understanding of the social/historical and cultural experiences of Latino families', relationships can be developed between teachers and parents that promote positive and successful learning experiences for Latino children.
9 Chapter Summary This introductory chapter presented an overview of the study on the importance of improving parental involvement efforts with Latino families through a description of the background, purpose, statement of the problem, definition of terms, abbreviations used, limitations, delimitations, and significance of the study. Chapter 2 constructs the theoretical framework of the study through a review of the literature related to the research questions. Chapter 3 describes the research design and procedures used to conduct the study. A description of the methodology, data collection and data analysis are also provided. Chapter 4 presents the study results in the form of data complied and analyzed through the application of the research design. Chapter 5 presents a discussion of the study findings related to the research questions and reviewed literature. This chapter also addresses implications of the findings for practice and research.
CHAPTER 2 Literature Review Introduction An overwhelming body of research on parent involvement concludes that when parent involvement is present, students exhibit increased levels of achievement. More over, increased parental involvement correlates to positive student behavior, regular school attendance, improved family relationships and increases in motivation and self- esteem (Bermudez & Marquez, 1996; Henderson & Mapp, 2002). The review of the literature summarizes studies on teacher perceptions and understandings of Latino parental involvement and culture as it relates to their experiences with Latinos and their families. This chapter is organized into three major sections: The first section provides a review of the parent involvement, theory and frameworks and a non-traditional ethnographic study on Latino families that promote meaningful parental involvement. The second section provides a review of the role of culture in Latino parent involvement. Finally, the third section provides a review on building teacher-parent relationships with an emphasis on trust. Parent involvement can be defined as the wide range of activities conducted by parents, grandparents, older siblings, tribal members, caregivers and other members of the student's extended family that contribute to, and support student learning. Parent involvement is also referred to as school-family collaboration, family engagement, school-family partnerships and family involvement. Though there are many factors that contribute to the academic success of students, several decades of research has linked
11 parent involvement to positive outcomes for students. In a review of 51 parental involvement studies, Henderson and Mapp (2002) identified key findings on partnerships between the school and home that promoted positive outcomes for students. Parental involvement in the learning and school experiences of children can lead to, higher levels of academic achievement, strong social skills and good behavior, better attitudes toward school, higher attendance and lower dropout rates (Bermudez, & Marquez, 1996; Epstein, 2001; Henderson & Mapp, 2002). Parent Involvement Conceptual Framework The overlapping spheres theory and the framework for parental involvement are widely used models to study and develop parent involvement practices that focus on schools and families working together to support student learning (Epstein, 2001). If home-school relationships are to be developed, relationships between teachers and families will need to be at the center of the involvement activities. Overlapping Spheres of Influence Epstein's theory conceptualizes the relationships between the school, family and community called the overlapping spheres of influence (Epstein & Simon, 2001). The theory describes how three spheres of influences; school, family and community, can vary in the degrees of interaction or overlap. The degree of overlap of the three spheres, directly affects student learning and development. School, family and community can be drawn together and pulled apart depending on the quality of interactions and communication that occurs between them and therefore have different effects on student
12 learning based on the amount of overlapping that occurs. Epstein & Simon (2001) describes three forces: time (Force A), the characteristics, philosophies and practices of the family (Force B), and the characteristics, philosophies, and practices of the school (Force C). The influences of school, family and community interaction can have both positive and negative influences on children's learning. The interaction of school, family and community can at times work together to communicate a common message to students about behaviors and actions that promote student learning or against each other sending different messages to the learner. Figure 1 illustrates the external model of the overlapping spheres of representing the family, school and community and controlling forces.
Force B / Experience, / Philosophy, / Practice of Family Family \ i i L \ / Force D Experience, Philosophy, Practice of Community < k ' Force A School Community Time/Age/Grade level Force C Experience, \ Philosophy, Practice of / School • v\ • • Figure 1. An external model of Epstein's Overlapping Spheres of Influence Theory.
14 External model. The external model of overlapping spheres of influence shows how the school contexts of family and community are drawn together and pushed apart throughout a continuum of time that can be measured at certain points based on the age and grade level of the learner. Each of the three contexts of school, family and community are influenced by forces such as experience, beliefs, and behaviors within each separate context (Epstein & Simon, 2001). The greatest level of overlap between the three spheres has been early childhood; preschool through early elementary years; however, greater overlap can also be found at other grade levels represented by Forces B and C in the external model; common philosophies, practices, school policies and pressures by parents, teachers or both (Epstein & Simon, 2001). Internal model. The internal model of overlapping spheres of influence shows the vital interpersonal relationships and patterns of influence that occurs between individuals at school, at home and in the community. These complex social relationships can occur and be researched at the school, in the home and in the community. Figure 2 provides an illustration of the internal model. In this model, two types of interactions can occur: within the organization; lowercase letters and between organizations; uppercase letters. The two levels of interactions represent standard organizational communications; family and school and specific, person to person communication; parent and teacher. The child is at the center of all patterns of interactions and influences. The assumption is that the child's welfare and interest are the teachers and parents reasons for interactions. The child's understandings and response to these interactions influence
15 learning and social growth. The multidirectional pattern of interaction that a child experiences influence, and are influenced by, the actions of both the family and school. Therefore, actions by the school can result in changes in family and parental behavior. Actions by the family can result in changes in school and teacher practices (Epstein & Simon, 2001). Students are at the center of the school, family and community partnership model. They are the main players in their own education and personal growth. Successful students are not produced by the three spheres; however they can be influenced by them to produce their own success. The model promotes reciprocity between teachers, parents and students and assumes that interactions are based on mutual respect and the development and sharing of common goals. Through purposeful interactions, home, school and community partnerships will create experiences and conditions that foster and support student learning. Activities that promote interactions that will draw the spheres of influence together have been grouped into a typology of six categories called Epstein's Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement (Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Epstein & Simon, 2001).
Family School 16 Figure 2. An internal model of Epstein's Overlapping Spheres of Influence Theory. Lowercase letters indicate Intra-institutional components; uppercase letters indicate Inter- institutional components. c/C = Child; f/F = Family; p/P = Parent; s/S = School; t/T = Teacher. In the full model, the internal structure is extended, using the same letter key to include community and its agents. Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement Epstein's Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement (Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Epstein & Simon, 2001) is a tool to assist schools in developing comprehensive parental involvement programs of school and family partnerships. Ideally, schools develop parent involvement plans through a committee consisting of educators and parents. A framework of six types of involvement are reviewed by the committee and
17 school practices, activities and events are identified to be developed, implemented, monitored, adjusted and reviewed. The framework identifies six areas of responsibility of schools and parents in developing partnerships. These areas include: parenting; communication; volunteering; learning at home; decision making and collaborating with the community. Participation in each of the six types of involvement can have varied results for students, parents, school personnel and school climate. This framework allows educators to identify areas of practice, develop improvement plans and measure results. The framework model also serves researchers by organizing questions and results in ways that improve practice (Epstein & Sanders, 2000; Epstein & Simon, 2001). The Framework of Six Major Types of Involvement is composed of the following elements: Type 1: Parenting: The development of practices that facilitate families establishing home environment to support children as students. Type 2 Communicating: The design of effective forms of communication by schools that promote effective school to home and home to school communication about school programs and student child progress. Type 3: Volunteering: Parent becoming more involved by volunteering at school and serving as an audience for school performances. Type 4: Learning at Home: Parents helping students at home with homework and other curriculum related activities.
18 Type 5: Decision Making: Parents becoming involved in school decisions and developing as parent leaders and representatives by participating on boards and committees. Type 6: Collaboration with Community. Community resources and agencies becoming integrated with school programs and fostering a shared responsibility for children. (Epstein & Simon, 2001) The overlapping spheres of influence model and the framework of the six major types of parental involvement provide school personnel with models for understanding the forces that influence parental involvement as well as areas within the school organization and activities that promote parent participation. Ideally, the framework should be used as a tool to develop a school plan for parental involvement practices. Trumbull et al. (2001) argue that many times schools do not always apply the framework in ways that are inclusive of diverse families. Parent involvement plans can fail to reflect values, beliefs and experiences of families with a different culture than that of the dominant school culture. Traditional models of parental involvement need to be reevaluated and include families from diverse backgrounds in discussions to develop a common understanding of parental involvement (Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Trumbull et al., 2001). To prepare administrators and teachers to be proactive with parents in culturally sensitive ways, faculties of schools of education must understand 160 Urban Education
19 that courses in educational theories of learning, or methods of teaching, are not enough. Many of these courses do not prepare school personnel in becoming responsive to the diversity of their students. It is imperative that courses explicitly include and tackle issues of language, class, and race of teachers, students, and parents to prepare school personnel to teach and address school issues in the 21st century. Schools of education would do well to explore the power that a focus on culture holds for increasing parental participation in supporting school learning. Social/Historical Cultural Experiences Many researchers have emphasized the importance of building on culture and language when working with Latino parents (Bermudez & Marquez, 1996; Scribner et al., 1999; Torres-Guzman, 1990). Learning is based on social interaction between the school's educators and support personnel and Latino students and their families it is important to understand how these interactions affect the development of the Latino students. Through social interactions between teachers, students, parents and community, schools promote ways of thinking, language, behaviors and values. In many districts throughout the United States, the school culture is a microcosm of the dominant societal culture. Schools are also the vehicle that validate and transmit the dominant culture values and norms. The following provides a theoretical perspective of the influence of cultural processes on Latino parent involvement in schools, focuses upon two specific cultural processes: cultural competence, deficit model, and cultural mismatch and learning about culture.