Dissertation

Mexican-American Parent Engagement in Schools: A Narrative Inquiry

Parental engagement has long been considered the central factor related to better educational outcomes for children (Carreon, Drake, & Barton, 2005; Reese, 2002; Richardson, 2009). Hill and Tyson (2009) stated that the importance of parental engagement is consistent across all populations, including historically underrepresented groups like Mexican-Americans. Many schools, however, find it very challenging to develop and implement an active and comprehensive parent engagement policy (Gandara & Contreras, 2009). Rowan-Kenyon, Bell, and Perna (2008) claimed that parent engagement varied with cultural and socioeconomic factors and suggested that barriers [or invisible walls] to this engagement were not so much attributable to shortcomings of parents themselves, but rather to the educational structures and policies that confront them. These invisible walls inhibit authentic parent engagement with schools causing many Mexican-American parents to believe that schools do not want them to be engaged. As a result, schools must actively reach out to these families to encourage their engagement (Rowan-Kenyon et al., 2008). The purpose of this study was to identify key benefits of parent engagement, key obstacles to parent engagement, and key best practices for educational leaders in order to increase the quantity and quality of Mexican-American parent engagement. Through the identification of these key elements, educational leaders will gain a deeper understanding of the successes and challenges of parent engagement practices in involving low-income Mexican-American parents in schools. Consequently, this study will further illuminate the knowledge base of educators who were committed to social justice and to building equity in their schools.

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