Exploring Models of Bicultural Parent Engagement to Address Academic Achievement for Immigrant Youth



Immigrant, Academic Achievement, Parent Engagement, Rural Education

District Partners

  • Columbus
  • West Liberty

Project Duration

From 2016 to 2017

Background and Purpose

Rural school districts in Iowa have been transformed by the arrival of immigrant families. School faculty members, administrators, and immigrant parents have been challenged to effectively communicate despite differences in language and culture. Parent-teacher communications most often take place around institution activities, such as parent-teacher conferences; these points of contact provide opportunities for teachers and parents to share and discuss information concerning the academic progress of their students. Extensive research documented mainstream parents' involvement in schools. Parent involvement models have a tendency to reflect dominant mainstream practices for how parents can serve as advocates for their children. However, in much of the existing research, parent voices and perspectives were absent. More recently, researchers have begun to examine immigrant parent involvement specifically in Latino parents. 

For this study, four elementary teachers, four Spanish-speaking parents, and four parents from Laos were recruited to explore through interviews how each participant understood the purposes of and prepared for parent-teacher conferences. Topics guiding this research included the perceived purposes of parent-teacher conferences, conference preparation, and participants' perceptions of conferences as sites for effective communication. Analysis occurred using grounded theory. The outcome of data analysis informed a model for bicultural parent engagement for possible implementation at the local school site. A parent engagement model might be applicable for other school sites where large numbers of immigrant/recently-arrived families reside as well.


Resulting Publications 

Follow-On Grants


Colvin Picture
Colvin, Carolyn

Associate Professor, University of Iowa.