Patterns of Latino Parental Involvement in Middle School: Case Studies of Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican Families

Date of Completion

January 2011


Education, Bilingual and Multicultural|Education, Middle School|Hispanic American Studies




One of the most dramatic changes in the demographic landscape of the United States during the last decades has been the increase in the Latino population. As a result of these changes many school districts are faced with increasing demands to work with more racially, ethnically and culturally diverse families. One indicator of public schools to successfully adapt to these changes is a measure of the educational outcomes of Latino students. Latino schooling experiences have been characterized by low academic achievement and high dropout rates. In 2000, the status dropout rate for Latinos was 28% compared to 7% for Anglos and 13% for African Americans (National Center for Education Statistics [NCES], 2002). Latino students also scored lower in math and reading tests, especially in inner cities (NCES, 2002). ^ Though there are many causes for this trend of underachievement, parental involvement in their children's education has been the focused of many investigations since several studies have documented the positive relationship between parental involvement in schools and students' achievement (Aspiazu, Bauer, & Spillet, 1998; Haro, 2004; Jones & Velez, 1997; Scribner, Young and Pedroza, 1999). ^ In this research I investigated parental involvement patterns among Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican families in an inner city middle school. This study was motivated by three research questions. First, what are some patterns of Mexican, Dominican and Puerto Rican families' involvement in their children's education? Second, what are some factors influencing these patterns of behavior and how do they affect a parent's decision to get (or not) involved in their children's education? Third, how do the results of this study contribute to compare and contrast approaches to parental involvement that may not be effective for all Latino groups? The main focus of the study is to document the participants' recollections and experiences, to contribute to the practical and contextual aspects of Latino parental involvement in their children's education, and to contribute to demystify the conventional viewing of a monolithic United States Latino community (Zentella, 2002).^ I employed a variety of ethnographic techniques to collect and describe the data. I used cross analysis techniques and the synchronic approach for the coding and interpretation of the data. The Theory of Planned Behavior (Ajzen & Madden, 1988) was used to frame the discussion of this study. ^ Findings suggest that there was a dynamic of mistrust and misunderstanding between school and parents. It is also shown that this dynamic developed mostly from a feeling of alienation and marginalization, followed by a deep sense of rejection, inadequacy and frustration. The main conclusion remains that the Latino parents' voices are not being heard. ^