Latino/a teachers and the school-based involvement of Latino/a parents of young students
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The goal of this mixed methods study was to identify policy-relevant mechanisms to improve the educational prospects of Latino/as in the U.S., a group with traditionally lower levels of educational attainment compared with other race/ethnic groups. I focused on these processes when children were in elementary school, which is increasingly viewed as a critical window for intervention in the intergenerational transmission of inequality and, within this stage, exploring parent-teacher relations, which has generated much theoretical and policy attention. Following contextual systems theory, this dissertation examined how the educational involvement of Latino/a parents was related to their children having Latino/a teachers in the primary grades of elementary school. This examination drew on quantitative data (Early Childhood Longitudinal Study-Kindergarten Class, 1998-99) to estimate path models in which measures of school-based involvement among Latina mothers in every grade were regressed on teacher ethnicity in the current and all prior grades, controlling for an array of maternal, teacher, child, and school characteristics. The qualitative data (observational and interview data from ten public schools in a large Texas school district) were analyzed with a grounded theory approach. Integrating findings across the two sets of analyses yielded four take-home messages. First, although Latino/a teachers interviewed tended to have more welcoming views of Latino/a parents’ involvement, this pattern was not consistently seen in the quantitative findings. Second, family SES appeared to be more important than Latino/a status in affecting school-based involvement, although SES might act as a proxy for other family characteristics. Third, although researchers and surveys tend to separate school-based involvement from other types of parental involvement (with educational policies often reflecting this divide), the qualitative data indicate that teachers blur these lines. Fourth, policies aimed at creating home-school partnerships Latino/a parents will require more than just creating opportunities for school-based interactions.