Date of Award

12-2015

Level of Access

Open-Access Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Education (EdD)

Department

Educational Leadership

Advisor

Sarah Mackenzie

Second Committee Member

Gordon Donaldson

Third Committee Member

Flynn Ross

Additional Committee Members

Julie Canniff

John Maddaus

Abstract

Across the nation, language minority students comprise one of the largest minority groups in U.S. public schools. The increase of linguistically diverse students, especially Somalis, brings unique challenges to Portland, Maine public schools. Different subgroups have their unique characteristics, yet the U.S. education system treats immigrants and English Language Learners (ELL) as somewhat the same (Barrera, 2006; Hosp & Reschly, 2004). Although there are many reasons for the underachievement of minority students in public schools, one way to mitigate low performance of students is engaging parents by creating mutual relationships between parents and schools and involving all families in the education of children of all ages (Christen & Sheridan, 2001; Crespo-Jimenez, 2010; Cutler, 2000).

This case study examines the views of one subgroup, Somalis, on education and schooling as well as their involvement in their children’s middle schools. The study employed a mixed method design using interviews and surveys. The data were analyzed and findings were presented and discussed using the Theory of Planned Behavior (TPB) as a framework. The findings of the study corroborate research on language minority subgroups who are not aware the expectation of educators and whose understanding of parental involvement is different from what it means to U.S. educators (Crespo-Jimenez, 2010). Somali parents in the study value education and consider themselves involved in their children’s education and schools; however, their notion of involvement is primarily to provide the resources and supports for their children’s learning. They view the role of teachers, when it comes to schooling, as that of parent—such that parents should not be called to provide discipline or motivation for students. The study indicates parents are willing to collaborate with schools and teachers and to become involved more in their children’s school. Since these parents expressed that they do not understand how teachers and schools want them to participate, and at times, they feel rejected and unwanted in the schools of their children, it behooves educators to explain more directly their expectations and to offer more explicit directions about how Somali parents can be involved.

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