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West Indian parents', guardians', and caregivers' perceptions, understandings, and role beliefs about K-12 public school...


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West Indian parents', guardians', and caregivers' perceptions, understandings, and role beliefs about K-12 public schooling in the United States
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Forde, Susan Chanderbhan
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Fla
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Home-school communication
Parent involvement
Immigrant families
Cultural-ecological theory
English-speaking Caribbean
Dissertations, Academic -- Psychological and Social Foundations -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the understandings and perceptions that West Indian parents and caregivers residing in the U.S. have about U.S. public schools. A second purpose of this study was to examine the consistency between these findings and the cultural-ecological theory advanced by Ogbu (1974) which posits that immigrant minorities to the U.S. hold different perceptions and expectations in relation to U.S. schools. Using interviews with 13 families in the Tampa Bay area, the study examined West Indian parents' and caregivers' understanding of the American public schooling process, expectations for education, role beliefs, and roles they played in their children's schooling. Several themes emerged from the interviews regarding these areas. These themes included: families viewed education in very instrumental ways (a finding that aligned with Ogbu's cultural-ecological theory), families had overwhelmingly positive perceptions of resources and opportunities offered by U.S. public schools, and most families were satisfied with the home-school relationship. A minority of families described negative relationships with schools. In addition, families reported that they believed school-based involvement was important. However, they reported very low levels of school-based involvement, but high levels of home-based involvement. Obstacles to parent involvement included logistical barriers, and lack of familiarity with the U.S. school system. Implications of the findings for school personnel are discussed and suggestions for further research are offered.
Thesis (Ed.S.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Susan Chanderbhan Forde.
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West Indian Parents’, Guardi ans’, and Caregivers’ Perceptio ns, Understandings, and Role Beliefs About K-12 Public Schooling in the United States by Susan Chanderbhan Forde A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Education Specialist Department of Psychological and Social Foundations College of Education University of South Florida Major Professor: Mich ael J. Curtis, Ph.D. Constance V. Hines, Ph.D. Kofi Marfo, Ph.D. Linda M. Raffaele Mendez, Ph.D. Date of Approval: February 22, 2008 Keywords: home-school communication, pare nt involvement, immigrant families, cultural-ecological theory, English-speaking Caribbean Copyright 2008, Susan Chanderbhan Forde


Acknowledgements I am sincerely grateful the families w ho participated in this study for taking time out of their busy lives to share th eir thoughts and experiences. For their assistance with participant recruitment I am indebted to a number of people including: the members of the Caribbean Cultural Asso ciation of Tampa, Annirude Naraine and Letty Naraine, and the pu ndits and congregations of Vishnu Mandir and Shri Saraswati Devi Mandir. My deepest thanks to Ms. Evie Larmond for her assistance with participant recruitment; this study would not have been possible without her help. I also thank my committee for their patience and the extensive amount of time they invested in order to help me finish this piece of work. Dr. Marfo always found time to give me thorough feedback on my ideas, and Dr. Raffaele Mendez’s assistance with the parent involvement lite rature and developing interview questions was invaluable. Dr Curtis was very patie nt as he helped me develop my ideas and understanding of the thesis process. Dr Hines was unfailingly generous with her time and expertise. Finally, thanks to my family, friends, and classmates for their support. I’m especially indebted to Vane ssa Tpanes and Allison Friedrich for their assistance. My sincere thanks to my parents (Enid Chanderbhan Bacchus and Reginald Forde) and brotherin-law and sister (Gregory a nd Barbara Bynoe) for their love and support.


ii Thanks to Uncle Leonard, Auntie Lauren, and Uncle Burchel for quiet time and space amidst the bustle of Georgetown last summer. On the Death by Drowning of the Poet Eric Roach By Martin Carter It is better to drown in the sea than die in the unfortunate air which stifles. I heard the rattle in the river; it wa s the paddle stroke scraping the gunwale of a corial. Memory at least is kind; the lips of death curse life. And the window in the front of my house by the gate my children enter by, that window lets in the perfume of the white waxen glory of the frangipani and pain


i Table of Contents List of Tables v Abstract vi Chapter One: Introduction 1 The English-Speaking Caribbean Context 5 Purpose of Study 7 Research Questions 8 Significance of Study 9 Definition of Terms 9 West Indian/Caribbean 9 Black Caribbean 9 Chinese Caribbean 10 Europeans/White 10 Indo-Caribbean/East Indian 10 Mixed 10 Schooling process 10 Delimitations of Study 11 Limitations of Study 11 Chapter Two: Review of Related Literature 13 Schooling Process and Roles: Parents 13 Perceptions of the Schooling Process 13 Expectations of the Schooling Process 16 Parental Roles in the Schooling process 21 Role Beliefs 21 Parent Roles 23 Schooling Process and Roles: Other Immigrant Groups 25 Perceptions of the Schooling Process 25 Role Beliefs 27 Parent Roles 30 Schooling Process and Roles: West Indians 33 Perceptions of the Schooling Process 34 Expectations of the Schooling Process 35 Parent Roles 37 Critical Qualitative Research 40 Chapter Three: Method 44


ii Participants 44 Sample Recruitment Strategies 45 West Indian Associ ations and Community Members 45 Screening of Potential Participants 46 Religious Institutions 47 Instrumentation 48 Data Collection Procedures 50 Data Management 51 Data Analysis Procedures 51 Development of Codes 53 Credibility 55 Non-Leading Interview Questions 55 Consistency Checks 56 Member Checking 56 Peer Debriefing 57 Chapter Four: Results 58 Participant Demographic Characteristics 58 Description of Families 58 Description of Interviewees 60 Participant Descriptions 62 Clive 62 Anita 62 May 62 Cecil 63 Sunita and Rahul 63 Lauren 64 Evelyn 64 Michael 64 Brian and Nalini 65 Shirley 65 Gregory 65 Winnifred 66 Summary of Participants 66 Question 1: What are the Be liefs/Values of West Indian Parents /Guardians About the Desired Outcomes of Education and Their Views of Public Schooling in the U.S.? 67 Desired Outcomes of Education 67 Preparation for College 68 Preparation for Work 68 Preparation for Life 69 Beyond Work and Life 70 Summary of Desired Outcomes of Education 71 Views of Public Schooling 72


iii Academics 73 Teachers 76 Opportunities 79 Student Behavior 80 Resources 82 Racism and the Value of Education 84 Summary of Views of Public Schooling 88 Question 2: What Expectati ons do West Indian Parents and Caregivers have about the American Schooling Process? 89 Academics 90 Behavior 92 Teachers 93 Morals and Values 94 Diversity of the Curriculum 95 Summary of Expectations of the American Schooling Process 96 Question 3: What are the Belie fs of West Indian Parents and Caregivers in the United States About the Roles They Should play in Thei r Children’s Schooling Process? 97 Progress Monitoring 98 School-Based Involvement 99 Teaching Behaviors for School Success 100 Summary of Beliefs About Roles in Their Children’s Schooling Process 102 Question 4: What is the Natu re of the Involvement that West Indian Parents Report with Regard to Their Children’s Schooling Pr ocess in the United States? 102 Homework Assistance 104 Monitoring Homework Completion 105 Parent-Assigned Academic Work 106 Progress Monitoring-Report Cards/Conferences 109 Provision of Outside Resources 110 Summary of Involvement in the Schooling Process 111 Question 5: What Obstacles do West Indian Parents Report with Regard to Their Efforts to Become Involved in Their Children’s Schoo ling Process in the United States? 112 Logistical Barriers 113 Lack of Familiarity 115 Attitudes Towards Cultural Differences 119 Exclusion from Decision-Making 122 Approach 124 Summary of Obstacles to Involvement in the Schooling Process 127 Summary 128 Chapter Five: Discussion 133


iv Desired Outcomes of Education 134 Views of Public Schooling in the U.S. 134 Racism and the Value of Education 138 Expectations About the American Schooling Process 139 Beliefs about Parental Roles in Children’s Schooling 142 Involvement in the Schooling Process 143 Obstacles to Parent Involvem ent in the Schooling Process 145 Summary of Findings 147 Implications of Results for School Personnel 148 Limitations of the Current Study 151 Suggestions for Future Research 153 References 156 Appendices 167 Appendix A: Study Description for Association/ Community Members 168 Appendix B: Study Flyer fo r Religious Institutions 169 Appendix C: Demograp hic Questionnaire 170 Appendix D: Background Information Form 171 Appendix E: Semi-structured Interview Protocol 174 Appendix F: Study Codebook 179


v List of Tables Table 1 Characteristics of Participant Families 59 Table 2 Characteristics of Interviewees 61 Table 3 Themes from Desired Outcomes 68 Table 4 Themes from Views of Public Scho oling in the U.S. 73 Table 5 Themes from Expectations 90 Table 6 Themes from Types of Pa rent Involvement in Schooling 103 Table 7 Themes from Obstacles to Parent Involvement in Schooling 113


vi West Indian Parents’, Guardi ans’, and Caregivers’ Perceptio ns, Understandings, and Role Beliefs About K-12 Public Schooling in the United States Susan Chanderbhan Forde ABSTRACT The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the understandings and perceptions that West Indian parents and caregivers residing in the U.S. have about U.S. public schools. A second purpose of this study was to examine the consistency between these findings and the cultural-ecological th eory advanced by Ogbu (1974) which posits that immigrant minorities to the U.S. hold different perceptions and expectations in relation to U.S. schools. Using interviews with 13 families in the Tampa Bay area, the study examined West Indian parents’ and caregivers’ understanding of the American public schooling process, expectations for education, role belief s, and roles they play ed in their children’s schooling. Several themes emerged from the interviews regarding these areas. These themes included: families viewed education in very instrumental ways (a finding that aligned with Ogbu’s cultural-ecological th eory), families had overwhelmingly positive perceptions of resources a nd opportunities offered by U.S. public schools, and most families were satisfied with the home-sc hool relationship. A minority of families described negative relationships with schools. In addition, families reported that they believed school-based involvement was impor tant. However, they reported very low levels of school-based involvement, but high levels of home-based involvement.


vii Obstacles to parent involvement included logist ical barriers, and lack of familiarity with the U.S. school system. Implications of the findings for school personnel are discussed and suggestions for further research are offered.


1 Chapter One Introduction The population of the U.S. is becoming mo re and more diverse. At present, immigrants comprise over 12% of the U.S. population, about 35 million people (U.S. Census, 2000). About one in five children in the United States cu rrently lives in an immigrant household (Surez-Orozco, Todorova, & Louie, 2002) and the parents of over 15 million children in the U.S. are immigrants (U rban Institute, 2004). If current trends continue, by 2010 at least 25% of all Am erican children will be the children of immigrants (Urban Institute, 2004). Histor ically, the largest nu mber of immigrant families has been concentrated in six states (C alifornia, Florida, Illinois, New Jersey New York, and Texas). However, recent U.S. Census data indicate that some Midwestern and Southern states (e.g., Idaho, Iowa, Georgia, and North Carolina, ) are outpacing these states in the number of immigrant families (U rban Institute, 2004). For instance, between 1990 and 2000 North Carolina and Iowa saw 270% and 182% increases, respectively, in their population of immigrant families (Urban Institute, 2004). In large school districts, the percentage of immigrant families is often high. For instance, 48% of the children in the New York City public schools are from immigrant households (Surez-Orozco, Todorova, & L ouie, 2002). Concurrent with these immigrant population increases the immense increases in communication technologies means that the distance between the country of origin and the destination country for immigrants has dramatically decreased (Surez-Orozco, 2000). Thus we face a


2 generation of immigrants who will not assimilate as easily as previous waves of immigrants did, perhaps not at all (SurezOrozco, 2000; Waters, 1999). Sassen (1999) notes that in an era of gl obalization and increasingly tran snational populations, we need to rethink our conception that a cultural group of people is shaped mainly by conditions and events in their particular geographic context. According to Sassen (1999), in contemporary times, due to communication netw orks and the large scale movement of labor (both skilled and unskilled) …the immigrant workforce operate[s] in contexts which are both local and global; they are members of a crossborder culture that is in many ways ‘local’…immigrant communities…have international linkages with their home countries and local cultures of or igin. In a different manner, they nonetheless also have ex perience of deterritorialized local cultures, not predicated on proximity [italics added] (p. 135) These changes mean that educators can no longer rely on the forces of assimilation and Americanization to quickly acculturate immigrants into American society as was the case with earlier generations. Thus, for e ducators to work successfully with contemporary immigrant populations they will have to possess a better understanding of the cultur es of these groups. Specifically, it is vital that we de velop our knowledge base about the understandings these groups bring with them about schooling in the United States. In light of research demonstra ting the linkage of home-school collaboration and parental involvement with successful academic outcomes for students (e.g., Christenson, 1991; Halle, Kurtz-Costes, & Mahoney, 1997), many re searchers and practitioners (e.g., Dauber


3 & Epstein, 1993; Christensen, 2004; SEDL, 2002) have identified the need for higher levels of home-school collaboration and parent al involvement as in tegral to American education. In addition, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act ( 2001), the legislation aimed at increasing accountability in educat ion, requires schools to develop ways to involve parents in efforts to improve schools. Some researchers, (f or example Crozier, 2001) have argued that parental involvement po licies are bound to be flawed if they fail to recognize the diversity among ethnic minority parents. This is supported by a solid body of research on home-school communica tion. For instance, one study (Lopez, Scribner, & Mahitivanichcha, 2001) examin ed school districts with large migrant populations that had developed successful parent involvement programs. The researchers found that a key reason for the schools’ suc cess was that they understood the varying needs of the families they served and met those needs on an ongoing basis. Pena (2000) in a study of a Texas elementary school with a majority Mexican population found that parents felt the school officials’ understandi ng of their culture and home situations was an important factor in their involvement in their children’s educati on. Starkey and Klein (2000) found that parent programs and interv entions worked best when the needs of families and parents were taken into account. Findings such as these led the National Center for Family and Community Connections with Schools to note in their synthesis of research on school, family, and community connections that, “Increasingly, the communities served by public schools are dive rse in terms of class, ethnicity, and culture” (Southwestern Educational Devel opmental Laboratory (SEDL), 2002, p. 66). The synthesis noted that “educators should make every attempt to learn about the


4 concerns of the families and how they defi ne and perceive their role in the school” (SEDL, 2002, p. 66). In addition, a theoretical approach an d a separate body of research from anthropology indicates that immigrant popula tions may view schooli ng in different ways and play different roles in their childr en’s education (e.g., Hayes, 1992, Ogbu, 1978; Ogbu, 2003). Ogbu noted that because of their different beginnings in their country of residence, ethnic groups can be described as involuntary (nonimmi grant) and voluntary (immigrant) minorities. Involuntary minoritie s (e.g., African Americans).are minority groups that did not choose to come to Ameri ca; they were forcibly incorporated into America. Voluntary minorities (e.g., immigr ants, refugees) are groups that choose to come to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life. Because of this hist ory, these groups have a different relationship to mainstream American society and institutions, including schools. As a result, involuntary and voluntary minorities approach schooling differently. Involuntary minorities distrust schools and teache rs and feel distanced from them. In addition, these minority groups have high verbal aspirations for education but may not match this verbal commitment with behavior s conducive to school success. In contrast, voluntary minorities tend to have a pragma tic view of schooling, viewing schools as possessing knowledge they (volun tary minorities) need to gain credentials essential for success in the new society. Furthermore, these minority groups match their verbal commitment to education with behaviors conducive to school success. More recent theory and research have complicated this picture with examination of factors like segmented assimilation (e.g., Foley, 1991; Gibson, 1997; Lee, 1994). However, Ogbu’s theory remains an influential


5 one in examining the relationship between different minority groups and the schooling process (Gibson & Trueba, 1991). Thus the st udy of specific immigrant groups and their experiences with the education systems of their destination co untries has the potential to add to this existing body of theory and research. In sum, it is clear that as the immigr ant population in the U.S. continues to diversify, a concomitant expansion in the know ledge base regarding immigrant families will be required to meet this need. Among the immigrant groups for which th ere is a paucity of psychological research in general (e.g., child rearing and discip linary styles, parental beliefs, impact of migration on children and families) and research on educational issues, in particular, are those immigrants from the English speaki ng West Indies (e.g., Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, and the other smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean). There has been very little re search on parents/guardians and primary caregivers from these populations in the areas of attitudes toward schooling and education and perceived roles in the sc hooling process (Roopnar ine, 1999). As Roopnarine points out, teachers and school staff who serve Caribbean families, even in areas with large Caribbean populations, “appear to lack basic knowledge about childrearing beliefs and practices in these families…their natal-culture beliefs about schooling, and the linguistic competencies of children and their parents” (2000, p. 338). The English-Speaking Caribbean Context The English speaking West Indies consists of the islands located in the Caribbean Sea (e.g., Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vin cent) as well as Guyana which is located on the continent of South America. Vickerma n (1998) notes that the English speaking or


6 Anglophone Caribbean “has exhibited basic cultural similarities because of the existence of a common language, educational system pastimes…political institutions, and, under colonialism, policies originat ing in London and directed towa rd the region as a whole” (p. 10). People from the English speaking Cari bbean are an ethnically diverse group united by a common history. The birth of the modern day English speaking West Indies can be traced to European political and ec onomic engagement with the region. In 1492, Christopher Columbus, in his attempt to find India, found the islands of the Caribbean Sea (hence the name “West Indies”). Upon Co lumbus’ arrival, the region was inhabited by various tribes native to the region (Williams, 1983). The Arawaks and Caribs were the largest of these tribes. Following contact with the Europeans, these groups were decimated by diseases the Europeans carrie d, particularly smallpox. By the mid-1600s, the British sphere of influence included th e West Indies. Britain saw the region as a profit making venture and set up plantations (mostly tobacco) on many of the Caribbean islands (Applied History Research Group, 2006) By the mid-1700s, the islands of the Caribbean functioned as larg e agricultural concerns, grow ing crops like sugar and tobacco, for the mother country, Britain. The labor for these agricu ltural concerns came from Africa during the y ears of the trans-Atlantic slave trade. These plantations were managed by skilled workers imported from Brita in. A small number of the owners of these enterprises lived in the West Indies. However, the majority remained absentee landlords due to the rigors of th e climate (Rogonzinski, 2000). After the abolition of the trans-Atlantic slave trade in the 1830s, Britain needed labor to keep its’ agricultural enterprises in the West Indies func tioning. To this end,


7 indentured labor from China and India was utili zed. To a lesser exte nt, indentured labor from England and Portugal was also us ed (Applied History Research Group, 2006). During the early 1900s, the shift to the colonial era meant that the British established the use of English as the comm on language in the colonies and political, judicial, and educational in stitutions that mirrored t hose of the mother country (Rogonzinski, 2000). In the contemporary West Indies, these British institutions continue in original or modified form. These institut ions and similar populations play a major role in shaping the regional identity of the E nglish speaking Caribbean. Today, the Caribbean or West Indies as a region shares a university system (the University of the West Indies), is united in an economic block through th e Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) association, and fields a team fo r its most beloved sport, cricket. In addition, the unique fusion of diverse Ol d World populations in a new geographic environment has created a Creole language, customs, foods, and music (e.g., calypso and reggae) specific to the region. In sum, it is arguable that the West Indian cultural group shares attitudes to schooling shaped by a common local culture and an educational system instituted by the same colonial power In addition, some anthropological theory and research (e.g., Ogbu, 1983) s hows that immigrant or volu ntary minorities may bring different perceptions and beliefs to schooling in the U.S. Consequently it is important to study the perceptions of this immigrant group regarding the schooling process in the U.S. Purpose of Study The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the understandings and perceptions of West Indian pa rents/guardians and primary caregivers residing in the U.S. about schooling in the U.S. Specificall y, the study examined West Indian


8 parents’/guardians’ understanding of the Amer ican public schooling process, perceptions of the process, and their beliefs about thei r roles in their children’s schooling. The findings of this study will help to address th e lack of information on West Indian parents and caregivers in the research literature, as it relates to schooling in the United States. Research Questions To generate information about the percep tions of West Indian parents/guardians and caregivers about the schooling process in America and their role s in their children’s schooling, the following research ques tions were addressed in the study. 1. What are the beliefs/values of West Indian parents/guardians and primary caregivers about the desired outcomes of educatio n and the value of public education in the U.S? 2. What expectations do West Indian pa rents and caregivers have about the American schooling process? 3. What are the beliefs of West Indian pa rents and caregivers in the United States about the roles they should play in their children’s sc hooling process? 4. What is the nature of the involvement that West Indian parents report with regard to their children’s schooling pr ocess in the United States? 5. What obstacles do West Indian parents re port with regard to their efforts to become involved in their children’s schooling process in the United States? This study used a critical qualitative research methodology to examine the perceptions that West Indian families hold about schooling. The researcher interviewed 13 families, using a semistructured intervie w, about their perceptions of schooling and their role beliefs about the schooling process. Fifteen pa rticipating parents/guardians,


9 representing seven families from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago and six families from Jamaica were interviewed. Each participant ha d lived in the U.S. for at least two years and held either permanent resident status in the U.S. or was a U.S. citizen. Significance of Study Although exploratory in natu re, this study can make a m eaningful contribution to the field of education. In order to work su ccessfully with cultural ly diverse families, particularly in the area of home-school co llaboration, professionals working in the schools need to understand the cultural ba ckground, understandings about schooling, and role beliefs that these groups bring to the schooling process. In addition, these findings may assist educators who wish to implem ent parental involvement and home school collaboration programs in communities that include West Indian families. Definition of Terms West Indian/Caribbean. This term generally includes people from the Englishspeaking Caribbean (e.g., Barbados, Guyana Grenada, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago). It also refers to people from th e smaller islands of the eastern Caribbean including St. Kitts and Nevis, Antigua, and St. Vi ncent). It is important to note that this population is ethnically diverse and incl udes Black Caribbean, Chinese Caribbean, European Caribbean, Indo-Caribbean, a nd ethnically mixed individuals. Black Caribbean. This term refers to inhabita nts of the West Indies/Caribbean who are the descendants of Af rican slaves. The ancestors of these present day West Indians were brought to the Ca ribbean during the tr ans-Atlantic slave trade to work primarily on plantations, specifica lly sugar and tobacco plantations.


10 Chinese-Caribbean This term refers to inhabita nts of the West Indies/Caribbean who are the descendants of Chinese indentur ed laborers. By the mid-1830s, abolishment of the trans-Atlantic slave trade by Britai n put pressure on the British West Indian colonies to find new sources of labor for th eir agricultural enterp rises (Applied History Research Group, 2001). China was the second la rgest source of this indentured labor. Many of the Chinese inhabitants of the cont emporary Caribbean are the descendants of these workers. Europeans/White This term refers to Europ eans who are the descendants of plantation owners, European indentured labo rers (specifically from Portugal), skilled workers who came to the Caribbean during the colonial era, and pr esent day European immigrants to the Caribbean. Indo-Caribbean/East Indian. This term refers to inhabitants of the West Indies/Caribbean who are the descendants of Indian inde ntured labourers. Between approximately 1838 and 1917, the ancestors of th ese present day West Indians migrated to the Caribbean. Due to the need for la bor on large plantations poor East Indians, primarily from North India, were encouraged to migrate to the Caribbean, often with false promises of wealth and pros perity from dishonest recruiters. Mixed. This term refers to inhabitants of the West Indies/Caribbean who are a product of unions between varying combinati ons of the different ethnic groups (e.g., Blacks, Chinese, Whites, and Indian s) that inhabit the Caribbean. Schooling process. This is defined as all experi ences and activities related to schooling in the American public education system, including those before school entry and leading up to the end of high school. These activities range from attendance at


11 school to engaging in out of school experiences that s upport educational progress and academic development (e.g., SAT preparatory classes). Activities and experiences that prepare students for post-seconda ry education are also included. Delimitations of Study This study was limited to West Indian fam ilies residing in the State of Florida. The 2000 Census data note that about 491,783 West Indians reside in Florida (U.S. Census, 2000). Since the study population was lim ited to the State of Florida, this study may not have captured aspects of the experiences of West Indian families who reside in other states in the U.S. Limitations of Study The sample used in the study was small in number and limited to one state (Florida). Thus the sample may not represen t the range of experien ces of West Indian families residing elsewhere in the U.S. In a ddition, a sample of this size may not capture the ethnic diversity of the West Indian population in the U. S, or even in Florida. Since the sample was primarily recruited through a community association, they may not be representative of the West Indian community in terms of income, education level, acculturation, and country of origin. In a ddition, those who volunteered for the study may differ in their beliefs and experiences from those who did not volunteer for the study. Another limitation is that due to social de sirability participants may not have been open about their understandings of the American schooling process and may have tried to cast themselves in a favorable light by speaki ng very positively about the role they play in their children’s schooling.


12 Finally, as in all research, particularly research utilizi ng interview data, there is a possibility that researcher bias may have infl uenced the nature of the data collected and how the data were analyzed. All atte mpts were made to reduce such bias. Based on the method used, critical qualitat ive research, anothe r limitation of the study was the lack of observational data (e.g., observations regarding how the participating families interact with their child ren relative to academic issues) to support any conclusions drawn about the role West Indian families play in their children’s schooling.


13 Chapter Two Review of Related Literature This review examines the literature rela ting to families’ understanding of the K-12 public schooling process and their role in this process. The review is divided into three sections: (a) research in this area that focused on parents/ guardians, in general, without focusing on immigrant parents, (b) research in this area using immigrant populations other than West Indians, and (b) research in this area using West Indian groups. For immigrant parents and caregivers, their unde rstanding of the schooli ng process in their destination country (e.g., Canada, U.K, U.S.) and their role in this process will be discussed. Schooling Process and Roles: Parents Perceptions of the Schooling Process Much of the research on parents’ percep tions of the schooling process has examined parents’ perceptions of very specific aspect s of the schooling proce ss, for instance, school climate (e.g., Griffith, 1998) and school outreach behaviors. In the area of parents’ perceptions of the schooling process, Griffith (1998) ex amined characteristics, particularly school characterist ics, which affected the parent al involvement behaviors of 153 African American, Asian, and Hispanic pare nts of public elementary school children. The study found that parents who perceived th eir child’s school cl imate as empowering but not very informative were more likely to be involved in school activities. In addition, when parents considered the academic quality of their child’s school to be


14 satisfactory, they were more li kely to have higher levels of involvement. Parents in the study with lower educational expectations for their children, or whose children attended larger schools, reported lower levels of participation in school activities. Parents’ high expectations for their ch ildren’s educational future and school characteristics were also found to influence parent school relations hips in a study of 159 low SES African-American parents (Overstr eet, Devine, Bevans, & Efreom, 2005). The study found that when parents perceived school s as welcoming of parent involvement (what the researchers called sc hool receptivity) and had higher educational aspirations for their children, they were more involved in school activities. Grolnick, Benjet, Kurowski, and Apostoleri s (1997) found that as pects of the school environment, in this case teacher attitude s and behavior, influenced the home-school relationship. In a study of 209 (81% White 11% Hispanic, 4% African American, and 4% other minority) mothers of 3rd-5th grade children, the researchers found that mothers who had high levels of self-efficacy and perc eived themselves as teachers of their children were more actively involved when teachers had more positive attitudes towards parent participation and actively invi ted parental participation. In a study of how school and neighborhood a ssets contribute to the psychological health of children, Jutras and Lepage (2006) interviewed 260 Canadian parents of elementary and middle school-aged children abou t their perceptions of school climate. One hundred and sixteen of the parents in the study were from a low SES background while 144 parents were from middle and hi gh SES backgrounds (characterized by the study authors as non low SES). Overall, many parents viewed teachers as the primary people who foster psychological wellbeing in children. Parents also viewed school


15 personnel as helping their ch ildren through the provision of emotional support, warm relationships, positive reinforcement, and en couragement. The researchers found that low SES and non low SES parents differed in ho w much support they felt their children’s school provided. Specifically, proportionally fewer low SES parents than non low SES parents believed that teachers fostered th eir child’s psychological wellbeing (63.8% vs. 75.4%). Low SES parents were also less like ly to talk about the presence of warm relationships in their children’s school in comparison to middle and high SES parents (24.1% vs. 48.6 %). More low SES parents saw the parent-school relationship as important to their children’s mental health than did middle and hi gh SES parents (18.1% vs. 7%). However, both groups of parent s saw the school-parent relationship as less important to their child’s psychological wellbei ng than other school characteristics. Standardized testing, now an integral part of the schooling process, was examined from the perspective of parents in a study th at examined 251 parents’ perceptions of the value of standardized testing(Mulvenson, Stegman, and Ritter, 2005). The authors found that that 55% of the parents in the study be lieved in the importan ce of standardized testing, most were interested in the results (88%), most (76%) did not believe that the climate around testing was too stressful for their children, and few (13%) reported feeling pressured to help their child score well on stan dardized tests. Similar to other studies of parent perceptions of schools, the re searchers found the area of home-school communication to be lacking. One-half of the parents in the study reported that they had received only a partial explanat ion or no explanation of thei r child’s standardized test scores.


16 As part of a cross-national study of pare nt satisfaction with schooling, American parents from eastern Kentucky were asked thei r level of satisfaction with their children’s academic achievement. They indicated that they were largely satisfied even though they thought their children could do better in sc hool. Parents were al so asked about the importance of factors such as the home a nd the classroom in increasing their child’s academic achievement. In contrast to a comparison group in Russia, the American parents believed the classroom had a much larg er role than the home in increasing their children’s academic achievement. In a study of 129 African American parent s’ satisfaction with the public school system, Thompson (2003) found that for pare nts of elementary aged children, how parents rated their child’s teacher was the st rongest predictor (30% of the variance) of how positively they rated the public school syst em as a whole. Parents’ beliefs about whether school administrators cared about their children was the second strongest predictor of their overa ll satisfaction with the public school system. Expectations of the Schooling Process The only study to explicitly address pa rental expectations of the schooling process was a 1997 study sponsored by the Natio nal Association of School Psychologists. Christenson, Hurley, & Sheridan (1997) assessed 217 (63.8% White, 77% Nonwhite) parents’ perspectives on home-school comm unication, and ways to facilitate parental involvement in education. In reporting the results, the authors fo cused on parent perceptions of parent involvement programs they said they would lik e to see offered in school. The activities that parents rated that they would most like to see schools en gage in were activities aimed


17 at improving parents understanding of school po licies, giving them the skills needed to negotiate the schooling process, and giving parents information to help them support their children’s learning and development. Specifi cally, Christenson et al. (1997) found that the four activities that parents rated they woul d most like to see schools engage in were: (1) Provide information on how schools function (e.g., how grades are earned, scheduling, transitions, homework); (2) Provide information on “how tos” for parents (e.g., how to enha nce self-esteem); (3) Provide information on how to structure children’s learning at home (e .g., how to help with schoolwork, monitor children’s progress at school; (4) Prov ide information on how children develop socially, emotionally, and academically. (p. 14) In addition, parents in the study also reported that they would find it helpful if they were provided with specific strategies they coul d use to support their children’s learning and development. Lawson’s ethnographic study (2003) of lo w SES African American parents’ perceptions of parent involvement shed light on parental expectations of schools. The parents resided in a community with high levels of crime and drug use. The study included parents who were parent volunteers as well as parents who had very little contact with the school. The parents in the study reporte d that they perceived schools as having additional responsibiliti es in contemporary times, that is, they (schools) are responsible for teaching academics as well as educating children about dangers like drugs. Parents believed that schools were doing their best to cope with these increased responsibilities. However, parents also beli eved that school staff were often tired of dealing with the particular issues of their community a nd afraid of the children and


18 families they served. Parents saw this reflected in indicators such as bathroom passes, increased security, and monitoring cameras and believed that these types of actions made the children feel negatively. Parents also believed that the problems in the community changed how teachers viewed children in the sc hool. For example, they believed that the teachers viewed the children as needing to be controlled rather than taught. As in other studies of parent percepti ons (e.g., Griffith, 1998) parents saw homeschool communication as deficient because th e school did not listen to parents’ voices and concerns. In fact, parents in th e study reported that poor home-school communication was the chief barrier to their ch ildren’s future success in school. Parents viewed the cause of poor communication as or iginating within the school and believed it stemmed from school staff’s belie fs that they (the staff) we re the experts and parents did not care about their children’s education and were responsible for the academic deficits of their children. Parents believed that schools could start the process of working together by listening to parents’ concerns. Parents also discusse d the need for better methods of home-school communication abou t school events. The primary method the school used was to send flyers home with childr en and often these flyers did not reach the parents. Parents also expressed the feeling that they did not trus t the school and they believed that other parents in the commun ity did not trust the school because when parents had negative experiences with the schoo l, these stories spread in the community. Finally, parents expressed their desire for the school to provide programs that would involve parents and children in activities and programs (e.g., GED classes, job training) to support parent development.


19 Some research (e.g., Thompson, 2003) indicat ing that caring administrators are important to the satisfaction of African American parents in their evaluation of their children’s schools fits with John Ogbu’s (2003) findings from an ethnographic study examining causes of achievement differentia ls between White and African American students in Shaker Heights, a suburban co mmunity in Ohio. Ogbu (2003) found that when asked to evaluate schools, African American families emphasized that it was important that schools be caring. In addition, it was also important to the families that that their experiences and perspectives be included in the curriculum. Parents also believed that the onus for learning and achievement was on teachers and that their children were passive consumers of the knowledge that the teachers were responsibl e for imparting. It is important to note that Ogbu (1978, 1992) uses this and data fr om other ethnographic st udies to support his theory regarding the different approaches to schooling taken by some ethnic groups. Ogbu advanced a cultural ecological theory that looks at the role of community forces in the achievement outcome of different minor ity groups. This theory, supported by a body of ethnographic research (e.g., Hayes, 1992, Ogbu, 1978; Ogbu, 2003) posits that different ethnic groups view schooling in differe nt ways and that this results in different outcomes. While this theory focuses on st udents in school and the behaviors in which they engage, it has much to say about immi grant parents and their beliefs about and approach to education. Ogbu classified ethnic groups into in voluntary (nonimmigrant) and voluntary (immigrant) minorities. Involuntary mi norities (e.g., Native Americans, African Americans).are minority groups that did not come to America willingly, they were


20 incorporated into America unwillingly. Vol untary minorities (e.g., im migrants, refugees) are groups that come willingly to the U.S. in pursuit of a better life. Because of this history, these groups have a di fferent relationship to mainst ream American society and institutions, including schools. For i nvoluntary minorities even though the forced incorporation happened genera tions ago, Ogbu (2003) notes, “t he community forces that developed among their forebears continue to in fluence their educational ideas, attitudes, and behaviors.” (p. 51). Involuntary and voluntary minorities also a pproach schooling diffe rently. Involuntary minorities are mistrustful of schools and teacher s, feel alienated, are concerned with how they are represented by the school’s curriculu m, and how caring schools are. In addition, these minority groups have high verbal aspi rations for education but these but not matched by behavior, and they hold schools rather than childre n responsible for performance. In contrast, voluntary minoritie s tend to have an instrume ntal view of schooling, that is they see teachers and schools as having the knowledge and skills they (voluntary minorities) need to advance in the new society. Though these minorities may view schools as not having the interest of minorities as a primary concern, this is far less important to them than the pragmatic value of schooling and its role in their success in the new society. In addition, these minority groups match their verbal commitment to education with behaviors (studying, complyi ng with class rules) conducive to school success. More recent scholarship has argue d that the interac tion between immigrant status and education is more complex (e.g., Foley, 1991; Gibson, 1997; Lee, 1994) but


21 Ogbu’s theory remains an influential one in examining the relationship between different minority groups and the schooling process (Gibson, Trueba, 1991). One of the few studies to explicitly address non-immigrant parents’ overall perceptions of the schooling process was conducted with 15 poor and working class Caucasian parents in an urban school (O’C onnor, 2001). The study used interviews to ask parents about their expectations of th e school, perceptions of both school staff and school programs, and involvement with school activ ities. Parents believ ed that the school was responsible for teaching the “basics” (math, reading, and writing), and were interested in learning ways they could s upport their children’s l earning. Parents also expressed the need for better communication fr om school staff. In addition, the parents expressed the difficulty of pa ying for medical care for thei r children and thought that a school clinic or a school nurse present on a da ily basis would be he lpful to children and parents. Finally, parents talked about th e need for more after-school and weekend activities for their children, but said they we re aware that financial constraints prevented such activities from being implemented. Parental Roles in the Schooling Process Role Beliefs While research in the area of parental pe rceptions of the schooling process has tended to focus on very specific aspects of school s and the schooling pro cess, there has been surprisingly little research in the area of parents’ role be liefs. As Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) point out in a review of resear ch on parental role beliefs, this area has been “examined in the literature only tangentia lly with reference to parental involvement in children’s schooling” (p. 11).


22 In their review of six relevant studies in this area, Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) concluded that the studies showed that parents’ belief s about their role in their children’s education varied according to class background, achievement level of the child, and nationality of the parents. The st udies reviewed indicated that working class parents, parents of high achievers, and Chin ese parents (residing in China) took a more active role in their children’s education th an did upper-middle-class parents, parents of low achievers, and U.S. parents (regardless of ethnicity) who took a more passive role in their children’s education. Another study of 234 low-income Afri can American, Caucasian, and Latino parents of second and third graders used a te lephone survey to assess parents’ beliefs about their role in their children’s le arning (Drummond & Stipek, 2004). Parents reported that it was very important for them to help their children with reading and math, help them with their homework, and be awar e of what they were learning in school. Asked what other things they thought it was important for them to do to enhance their child’s success in school, parents’ most common responses were being supportive, teaching social skills, and teaching another sk ill such as the piano or time management. In a crossnational comparison about the ro le beliefs of U.S. and Chinese parents, researchers (Stevenson, Lee, Chen, Lummis, Stigler, Fan, & Ge, 1990) found that U.S. parents (regardless of ethnicity) held more passive beli efs about their role in their children’s schooling in comparison to Chines e parents. Specifically, the American parents in the study did not view home support as incl uding help with homework, communicating the importance of achievement and monitoring their children’s work.


23 Parent Roles Dauber and Epstein (1993) exam ined eight schools in Baltimore, Maryland that were being supported through a grant to help im prove parent involveme nt. The researchers examined parent understandings of school practi ces, specifically with regard to parent involvement and parent percepti ons of their roles in their children’s education. These schools served parents living in public-hous ing projects, rentals, and homes in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods. Participants in the study were 2, 317 parents of elementary and middle school-age d children who comple ted a questionnaire that asked about their perceptions of how well their children’s sc hools conducted parental involvement activities in nine areas, incl uding home-school communication and practices to involve parents at home. The questionnaire also asked pa rents about the kinds of roles they played in their children’s education in several areas, including homework assistance. However, in reporting their conclusions, the researchers focused on the role parents played in assisting with homework activities. With regard to understandings of the sc hooling process, the re searchers found that overall parents perceived the schools ha d few successful practices in place to communicate with them, inform them of expect ations in their children’s classrooms, and would have liked for the schools to give them specific strategies they could use to help their children at home. Parents in the st udy reported assisting their children with homework for most of the time children were engaged in homework. However, parents reported that they would spend more time assist ing their children if they were given more specific guidance from teachers.


24 Another study that examined parent role s in their children’ s education used a population of Headstart parents wi th children in eight schools in a large Northeastern city (Seefeldt, Denton, Galper & Younoszai, 1998). Seefeldt et al. examined 246 parents (45% Latino, 39% African American, 11% White, and 4% Asian) whose children had completed a Headstart program previously a nd were in the spring of their kindergarten year at the time of the study. Due to the diffe rent ethnic groups in cluded in the study the researchers used race/ethnicity as a control in interpreting their results. One hundred and fifty-seven parents were part of a demonstration projec t to increase parent involvement while 96 were in a comparison group that did not receive the services that the demonstration project provided. Questionnaire s were used to asse ss parents’ beliefs about their ability to impact their children’s learning relative to othe r variables, and their involvement behaviors. Parents in the de monstration project and the comparison group reported playing similar role s in both home-related involve ment (e.g., talking to their children about their school day almost every day) and school -related involvement (participating in school activ ities, and keeping in touch w ith their child’s teacher). Parents with higher self-efficacy beliefs pl ayed more active roles in school related activities (e.g., volunteering in their child’s school). Another study using low-income parents investigated the types of roles parents reported playing at home and school. Patrik akou & Weissberg (2000) administered a survey to 246 African American and Lati no parents whose children attended three Midwestern inner-city schools. Parents reported assisti ng with homework completion and checking homework completion as the most common roles they played at home. At school, parents’ most common form of i nvolvement consisted of picking up their


25 children’s report cards. Parents rarely volunteered in their chil dren’s classroom, attended PTA conferences, initiated phone calls or mee tings with their children’s teachers, or asked teachers for strategies to help their ch ildren at home. Results also indicated that African American parents were more invol ved than Latino parents at home. The researchers noted that 50% of the Latino parent s in the sample indicated that Spanish was their only language and that this, consistent with previous research (e.g., Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001; Delgado-Gaitan & Trueba, 1991) probably acted as a barrier to them assisting their children with homework. Finally, in his ethnographic study of th e Shaker Heights community, Ogbu (2003) also found that parents did not play an active role in assisting their children at home. Ogbu found in the sample of African Ameri can parents that, although they expressed high expectations for their children’s academ ic achievement, they did not engage in behaviors such as assisting with and monitoring homework completion. Schooling Process and Roles: Other Immigrant Groups Perceptions of the Schooling Process In a study of Latino immigrant parents’ ro le beliefs, Chrispeels and Rivero (2001) also examined parent perceptions of the sc hooling process. They f ound that participants reported feeling excluded from the schoo ling process as the schools their children attended had no bilingual staff. In addition, the parents, including those involved in their children’s school, reported feeling disrespected on many occasions by school staff. For example, the parents reported feeling th at on many occasions their concerns were trivialized or dismissed by school staff.


26 As in the case of Latino parents, there is a small body of res earch on the views and perceptions of Asian immigrant parents in the countries to wh ich they immigrate. In a study of 87 East Asian parents (Taiwanese, Chinese, and Hong Kongese), Zhang, Ollila, and Harvey (1998) found that parents perceive d Canadian schools were not strict enough with students and there was not enough discipline for children. In addition, a majority of the sample helped children with homework. In a test of Ogbu’s voluntary/involuntary thesis (1978, 1992), re searchers (McNall, Dunigan, & Mortimer, 1994) examined attit udes toward education among a sample of 105 Hmong adolescents and 111 Hmong parents in Minnesota. Overall, the researchers found that their sample fit in to the voluntary minority categor y. The Hmong adolescents reported that their parents had specific educat ional goals (e.g., Maste r’s degree) for them and most students reported that their parents expected that at a minimum they complete a college degree. Similar to the findings with the Hmong pa rents, Lee (1994) found in an ethnographic study of Asian students at a hi gh school in Philadelphia that parents held strong beliefs about the importance of edu cation to succeeding in American society. Students also reported that parents managed their children’s ti me out of school to ensure that children devoted enough time to studying. Finally, to explain achievement differences between East Asian students and Anglo students, Schneider & Lee (1990) conducte d an ethnographic interview study in two Illinois elementary schools. As part of th e study, they interviewed 36 East Asian parents and 26 Anglo parents regarding pe rceptions of school related be haviors. Interviews with East Asian parents revealed th at they had higher expectati ons for their children than


27 Anglo parents for specific grades in school and for eventual educational attainment. They viewed education as critical to su ccess in America and particularly key in overcoming discrimination in employment. Pa rents also believed that education would make their children better people. Role Beliefs Much of the research on immigrant parent s’ understandings of the schooling process and their role beliefs has focused on Latino pa rents. Some research on this population has found that Latino parents tend to define their place, roles, and res ponsibilities in their children’s education as a mo re supportive one (Valdes, 1996; Delgado Gaitan, 1991). They feel it is necessary for them to meet their children’s basic needs and teach them family norms (Valdes, 1996; Delgado Gaita n, 1996). Valdes (1996) found that Latino parents do not see it as necessary for them to initiate communication with schools and engage in commonly accepted American forms of parent-school interactions such as volunteering in the classroom. Valdes ( 1996) also found that when Latino parents were invited to their children’s sc hools by school personnel, the pa rent’s perception of their lack of competency in English and lack of knowledge of the school system often prevented them from responding to these in vitations. Chrispeels and Rivero (2001) describe this as Latino parents holding a “ci rcumscribed sense of place” (p. 123). They attribute these behaviors in part to Latino pa rents holding different cultural constructions about parents’ roles in th eir children’s education. Few studies have directly examined th e understandings immigr ant parents hold of schooling and their role and responsibilities in th e schooling process. One study that directly addressed these issues was a study by Chrispeels and Rivero (2001) of Latino


28 parents. In a study of the implementation of a parent education program, Chrispeels and Rivero (2001) examined “How…Latino parents define their role and perceive their place in their children’s education and their rela tionship with the sch ool?” (Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001, p.121). The authors were interest ed in examining how a parent education program (the PIQE) influenced parents’ unde rstanding of their role in their children’s education. They theorized, based on earlier wo rk, that parents’ leve l of involvement in their children’s education is influenced by how they define their role and responsibilities in their child’s life, whether they perceive th emselves as having the skills to participate effectively in their children’s education a nd how they perceive th e school’s opportunities for parent involvement. Four themes emerged in the study that were related to the Latino parents’ concept of their role (or “place” as the authors term it) in their children’s education. These themes were parent participation, aspirations for thei r children’s future, li teracy, and homework. Chrispeels and Rivero (2001) found that prior to the implementation of the PIQE, parents attended school events and meetings and vi sited classrooms infrequently. In addition, they indicated that they felt they had very little power over what happened at school and perceived that the responsibi lity for decisions belonged to teachers and children. In the area of future aspirations, some pa rents had never considered the option of higher education for their children. Overa ll, whether they had considered higher education or not, parents knew very little about what was involved in the college application, financing, and completion process. In the area of literacy, parents engaged in very few literacy activities, such as reading to children and taking them to the library. Finally, prior to the implementation of the parent education progr am, most parents did


29 not supervise or help with homework. They attributed this to th eir lack of knowledge about homework content, language barri ers, and their lack of time. Hayes (1992) in examining Ogbu’s volunt ary/involuntary minority typology among a sample of 12 Mexican American teenagers in suburban California look ed at the beliefs of their parents regarding schooling. She found that the parents in the sample exhibited the characteristics of voluntary minorities in thei r beliefs about educati on but did not exhibit these characteristics in the role they played in th eir children’s educati on. Parents in the sample strongly believed in the value of Am erican education to their children’s success. Parents believed that their ch ildren’s education gave them th e chance to go to college and to find work that paid higher wages and wa s easier than the manual jobs they (the parents) sometimes held. Parents also desire d to contribute to thei r children’s education through homework assistance and communicati ng with teachers regarding progress. However, they cited language as a barrier to homework assistance. A few parents also expressed that they did not felt the school was concerned abou t Mexican children. Though not explicitly expressed by parents, another barrier that the researcher found was the sample parents’ belief that it was the school’s job to make most decisions concerning their children. Thus parents’ role in their child ren’s education consisted of signing paperwork brought home. Overall, there was a profound lack of communication between parents in the sample and the school, re sulting in situations such as parents being unsure exactly why their children had ente red special education, not knowing that teachers assigned homework, and one student dropping out for weeks without his mother knowing.


30 In interviews with three immigrant pare nts (two Latino pare nts and one African parent) as part of a larg er ethnographic study, Paloma Mc Caleb (1994) found that the parents valued education and communicated th e value of education to their children and that parents felt they were responsible for e ducating their children in the home. Parents also felt that it was important for them to maintain communication with the school and the classroom teacher so they could more effec tively help their children. Parents felt that assisting children with the completion of homework and en suring that it was completed was one of the best ways they could help their children succeed in school and cooperate with the school. However, aside from assisting with homework completion, Paloma McCaleb did not ask parents to describe ot her ways they undert ook to educate their children in the home. Parent Roles In an ethnography of the re lationship between home and school in a Latino community in California, Deldgado-Gaitan a nd Trueba (1991) found that Latino parents in the study rarely engaged in literacy activities w ith children at home. In addition, many of the parents in the study did not help thei r children with homework because they felt they were unable to and that the childre n were more capable of doing the homework alone as they had been schooled in the U.S. As for expectations of schoo ling, the authors reported th at the parents in the study valued education highly, expect ed their children to take adva ntage of their education so they could find good jobs, and viewed educati on as preparation for a career and learning to maintain and respect parental values. Parent often perceived schools as being permissive of inappropriate behaviors. Parent s had clear expectations for behavior in and


31 out of school and reprimanded children when they behaved badly in school. However, parents did not reprimand children for poor academic performance in school but did reward them when they performed well in school. Perez-Carreon, Drake, and Calabrese-Barton (2005) used a case study approach to examine the engagement of immigrant parent s in their children’s education. They identified three types of engagement: the “strategic helper”, the “presence/questioner”, and the listener. The strategic helper fo rm of engagement was illustrated by the experience of one of the pare nts in the study, Celia, who work ed to gain an understanding of her son’s school and classroom so she c ould use that knowledge to advance her son’s education. Celia volunteered as a classroom he lper to make herself valuable to her son’s teacher and school. She was able to then us e her knowledge about cl assroom activities to advocate for a better education for her son, e.g. questioning the English instruction that he received. One of the fathers in the study, Pablo, illust rated the presence/questioner form of engagement. Pablo was not involved with his children’s schools as Celia was, partly because he was an undocumented alien and f eared detection. However, Pablo found other, mostly out of school, ways to be activ e in his children’s education and advocate for a better educational future for them. For instance, he completed homework with them, even though he sometimes only served in a monitoring role due to his limited knowledge of academic subjects. In addition, Pablo was able to advocate for his son’s placement in a better middle school because he utilized his relationship with his son’s teacher and his (Pablo’s) social networks to find out the procedure for requesti ng a school change.


32 The third form of engagement that the author s identified was that of a “listener”. The experience of Isabel is descriptive of the e xperience of a listener. Isabel was a very recent immigrant to the U.S. and, as the auth ors point out, lacked any knowledge of how U.S. schools work and lacked a social netw ork in her community from which she could obtain information. Isabel did not form a re lationship with her child’s teacher. Her child’s teacher mistreated her and Isabel’s strategy was to complain to the principal. Isabel spoke to the principa l twice but nothing was ever done and her daughter continued to be mistreated by the teacher. The authors cl assified Isabel’s form of engagement as a “listener because she was not able to (for many reasons beyond her control) take an active role in her child’s education. Her role was that of a passive listening posture in most of her interactions with the school system. In the previously described Schneider and Lee study (1990) that examined possible causes of differences in academic achieveme nt between East Asian and Anglo children, the behaviors of East Asian parents and A nglo parents that might contribute to the academic success of their children were examined. In relation to parent involvement activities, the authors found th at the East Asian parents were less likely than Anglo parents to spend time assisting their children with homework, but indi cated that they had invested a lot of time teaching their children basic academic skills before they entered school. Many of the East Asian parents pe rceived the schools as not giving enough homework so they assigned work to thei r children using materials they purchased themselves. In addition, a striking difference between the East Asian and Anglo parents was the amount of control exerted over childr en’s time. Many of the East Asian parents reported that they closely controlled thei r children’s time outsi de of school, often


33 establishing a specific amount of time fo r studying and limiting activities (e.g., t.v. watching) that interfered with this. Many of the East Asian parents paid for private lessons outside of school; these lessons in cluded things like music and language. Academic lessons were particularly popular. In the previously mentioned study with Hmong parents (McNall, Dunigan, & Mortimer, 1994), researchers f ound that because of language barriers and low levels of formal education in their country of origin, few parents in the study had the capability to assist their children with homework. Howe ver, parents had strong beliefs about how much time should be spent studying each day and controlled their children’s time to ensure this. The management of children’s time was also reported in an ethnographic study with Asian high school students in Philadelphia (L ee, 1994). These students reported that their parents managed their time out of school to ensure that they devoted enough time to studying. Schooling Process and Roles: West Indians As previously noted, there has been very litt le research on West Indian populations in the U.S. Most prior research on West Indian populations in the U.S. has concentrated on ethnic identity (e.g., Waters, 1999) or examined mobility and income differentials between West Indian Blacks and African Americans (e.g., Sowell, 1981). Much of the research examining understandings of West Indian parents about the schooling process has been conducted in England (e.g., Crozier, 2005).


34 Perceptions of the Schooling Process Using a qualitative design, Cr ozier (2005) examined the e ducational experiences of a group of Black Caribbean and mixed race stude nts through interviews with 25 parents. Unfortunately, this study is limited because it examined the experience of Black Caribbean students in England and not the U.S. Also, Crozier was primarily interested in capturing information on the students’ experien ces in school and did not focus on parent perceptions of the schooling pro cess. However, some of the findings are relevant to this area. For instance, the parents in Crozier’ s sample reported that they found school officials unwilling to engage in open and fra nk discussion about children’s behavior and progress in school. In addition, parents perceived teachers and schools as having considerable power over their children but believed that they did not use this power fo r the best interest of their children. Parents saw teachers as more inte rested in managing parental concerns as opposed to actually addressing them. Parents al so reported that they felt teachers had low expectations of their children which resulted in teach ers not communicating with them when there were issues in academic performance. Windrass and Nunes (2003) also found th at Caribbean parents held negative perception of schools. The authors examined 2 recent Montserratian immigrant mothers’ perceptions of teaching and learning in Eng lish schools and how it differed from those of a White British teacher. The authors found that the mothers were dissatisfied with the level of home-school communication. They report ed that in Montserrat teachers kept in close contact with parents about children’s progress. Mothers were particularly dissatisfied with the level of information they received a bout the academic tasks their


35 children engaged in at school. The mothers in this study reported that they always knew what was being learned in Montserrat b ecause children brought home their books and they could get an overview of the content be ing covered. However, in England, because, children’s homework was in the form of wo rksheets, mothers felt they had only a limited idea of what was being covered in school. Mo reover, this limited th eir ability to help their children with their homework because they sometimes misunderstood the intent of the worksheets. Finally, in a review of re search on Afro-Caribbean parents in England and their relationships with the educati on system there, Crozier ( 2001) notes that these parents often reported feeling both frustrated by their encounters with teachers and school officials and often silenced when they expre ssed their concerns about their children and about school practices. Expectations of the Schooling Process Using a second generation sa mple of 16 Caribbean pare nts of 11year-olds in England, Nehau (1999) examined home, sc hool, and child influences on academic achievement. Among the areas she assessed we re parent attitudes toward education. Nehau (1999) found that parents placed a high premium on academic achievement and saw education as a vehicle for upward mobility. In fact, parents named specific grades and credentials (e.g., A levels) that they want ed their children to achieve in school. In addition to seeing education as a means for upward mobility, the parents saw education as opening up a wider variety of opportunities an d also valued education for their selves personally.


36 Nehau’s (1999) findings regarding the at titudes of Caribbean parents towards education was supported by Rong and Brown’ s (2001) research with a sample of Caribbean immigrants in the U.S. The author s found that the parents strongly believed in the value of education for upward mobili ty and saw education as a remedy for discrimination (Rong & Brown, 2001). Roopnarine et al., (in press) examined the relationship between parental beliefs and academics among a Caribbean sample that had lived on average 13 years in the U.S. and had young children. Roopnarine also found that the Caribbean parents believed strongly that the preschool and kindergarten curri culum should include academic content. Specifically, almost all parents noted they felt children in pres chool and kindergarten should learn ABCs, mathematics, readi ng, and spelling. Parents overwhelmingly expressed the belief that it is appropriate to require pres chool and kinderg arten children to do homework. Parents explained that they believed the preschool and kindergarten years were a critical period when it is easier for children to learn basic academic concepts and that they needed to learn these concep ts in order to get a good start in school. Waters (1999) in an ethnographic study of 59 West Indian immigrants in New York City found that many West Indian parents in her sample did not know enough to be well involved with their children’s education or assumed that the schools are like the schools back home. Additionally, Waters’ interviews with teachers revealed that they felt West Indian parents sent children to school with the impression that teachers would do their best and they (parents) didn’t re ally need to participate. Teachers also perceived that many West Indian parents, particularly in comparison to African American parents, tended to believe that the teacher is always ri ght. These findings led Waters to conclude


37 that the West Indian parents in her sample did not possess wh at sociologists of education call “cultural capital”, that is the knowledge to reinforce what is learned in school and the resources and knowledge to monitor the schoo l’s performance, which is one of the reasons middle class children do well in school. Parent Roles Roopnarine (in press) found in a sample of Caribbean parents that parents were very involved in selecting and enro lling their children in privat e schools that focused on strong discipline and early academic training, and they spent several hours each week engaging in educational activities with their children. Nehau (1999), using a second generation sample of 16 Caribbean parents in England, examined the role parents played in their children’s educat ion. The majority of the sample consisted of working class parent s. Most were single-parents who worked part-time or full-time. Nehau (1999) assesse d parent attitudes towards education and parent perceptions of their support for their children’s learning. She defined this much more broadly than assistance with homewor k, defining learning as “the gaining of information and understanding; the developi ng of the ability to analyse, make connections and solve problems; and last but not least, the acquiring of specific curricular skills and concepts including those for liter acy, numeracy and scie nce and other national curriculum subjects” (Nehau, 1999, p. 43). In addition to interviewing parents to determine what forms of support they provi ded for their children’s education, Nehau (1999) also conducted in ho me observations of parent-child interactions. In the domain of parental support for e ducation, Nehau (1999), classified parents into two distinct groups based on their patte rns of support for child ren’s learning. Group


38 1 parents strongly endorsed the value of education and took sp ecific and direct actions to support their children’s learni ng. During the preschool ye ars, as well as drawing, coloring, and learning object na mes and letter names, these parents engaged their children in learning games, and engaged in activitie s to build writing, r eading, and numeracy skills. Group 1 parents encouraged their children to become independent readers and often maintained an extensive home library or used the public library to do so. Once children started school, these parents engage d them in completing “school-type work” at home, using materials they obtained from t eachers or from courses they had pursued. Parents actively assisted children with ho mework on a regular basis and used home activities such as cooking to teach children academic concepts. Group 2 parents endorsed the value of e ducation at the same level as Group 1 parent but “supported their ch ildren’s learning…at a more s uperficial level” (Nehau, 1999, p. 48). In the preschool years, they spent little time on literacy or numeracy skills. Reading skills were not a focus until children started school and parents supported this by encouraging children to read their school books. Rather than a focus on academic activities, the focus of Group 2 parents was on maintaining communication with the school about their children’s academic progress and behaviour. Parents assisted children with homework only when asked by children. Group 2 parents placed more emphasis on self-discipline and raising their children to organize and motivate themselves. In examining the possible reasons for the differences between the two groups of parents, Nehau (1999) noted that Group 1 pare nts had a stronger personal interest in education and that they themselves were of ten pursuing additional education. In addition, their children tended to be the oldest in the family. For Group 2 parents, Nehau noted


39 that they sometime prioritized their current employment over their children’s education. Finally, the children of Group 2 parents tende d to have more emotional needs, and a history of difficulty in primar y school (elementary school). In a study of 14 high achieving Afro-Caribb ean professionals in the U.K., Rhamie and Hallam (2002) found that participants reported several types of parental roles in their schooling. These included parental support and encouragement in the form of tutoring, homework monitoring, and academic work in addition to what the school provided. Participants also discussed parental guidance in the form of high expectations for educational achievement and occupational attainment, and goal setting. Finally, participants reported that th eir parents took deliberate act ion to understand the British education system and what actions they needed to take to ensure their children’s success in the system. Finally, some research indicates that some beliefs West Indian parents hold may negatively influence the educational success of their children. In her ethnographic study of West Indians in New York, Mary Waters ( 1999) also interviewed teachers and school staff at two high schools that served a larg ely West Indian student population. She found that guidance counselors at these two schools perceived some beliefs that West Indian parents hold as counterproductive to their children’s educatio nal success. For instance, guidance counselors at the two high schools Waters examined said that an issue with West Indian parents was that they often refused to let th eir children attend good colleges where they had scholarships because they did not want children, particularly girls, to leave home.


40 Differences in West Indian parents’ view of education based on gender were also reported in a study of Guyanese parents. Us ing a sample of 654 G uyanese parents living in Guyana, Wilson, Wilson, and Berkeley-C aines (2003) found that parents viewed education as important for their sons as they matured. However, as girls matured, parents saw education as less important for them. These studies address, in lim ited ways, the perceptions and beliefs of West Indian parents about their children’s education. However the majority of these studies have been conducted with West Indian parents residi ng in the U.K. In addition, examined in a focused fashion, a literature search found no previous published studies that examined West Indian parents residing th e in the U.S. and their per ceptions of schooling and their role in their children’s education. Critical Qualitative Research Given the nature of the questions as ked (an in-depth examination of the understandings of a particular group), th is study was conducted using a qualitative approach, specifically critical qualitative research. Qualitative research assumes that meanings are developed in people’s experien ces and these meanings are made sense of through the investigator’s own perceptions (Merriam, 1998). Guba and Lincoln (1998) note that “human behavior…cannot be understo od without reference to the meanings and purposes attached by human actors to thei r activities” (p. 198 ). In addition, many qualitative researchers and theo rists point out that the etic (outsider) view brought to bear on research problems may not shed much li ght on these problems without the emic (insider) view of groups, indi viduals, and cultures under study The aim of this study was to gain an emic view of a pa rticular cultural group (in this case West Indian parents).


41 Thus, critical qualitative rese arch was the form of research used to conduct this study. It is a form of qualit ative research that is founded in the traditi on of ethnography, which comes to us from anthropology, th e work of Jurgen Habermas, the German philosopher and sociologist, and postmodern insights. Ethnography is a form of qualitative research that studies the beliefs, values, and attitudes that structure behavior patterns of a group of people (Merriam, 1998). Historically, ethnography has been used to study groups of people, particularly those from different cultures ( Carspecken, 1996). Habermas in his Theory of Communicative Action argued for a consensus appro ach to truth. Many critical researchers (Kincheloe & McLaren, 1994; Lather, 1991; Quantz, 1992) have taken Habermas’ ideas, and some of the interpre tative and deconstructive approaches of postmodernism to formulate what comprises cri tical theory today. Some call this critical qualitative research. Critical qualitative research is concer ned with social inequalities and bringing about positive social change in society (Carspecke n, 1996). Kincheloe & McLaren (1994) define critical research in this way: We are defining a criticalist as a researcher or theorist who attempts to use her or his work as a form of social or cultural criticism and who acc epts certain basic assumptions: that all thought is fundament ally mediated by power relations which are socially and historically constituted; that facts can never be isolated from the domain of values or removed from some fo rm of ideological inscription; that the relationship between concept a nd object and signifier and signified is never stable or fixed and is often mediated by the so cial relations of capitalist production and consumption; that certain groups in any society are privileged over others and,


42 although the reasons for this privileg ing vary widely, the oppression which characterizes contemporary societies is most forcefully reproduced when subordinates accept their social status as natural, necessary, or inevitable; that oppression has many faces and that focusing on only one at the expense of others (e.g., class oppression versus racism) of ten elides the interconnections among them; and finally, that mainstream re search practices ar e generally, although most often unwittingly, implicated in the re production of systems of class, race, and gender oppression. (p. 139-140) This definition captures the two defining f eatures of critical qualitative research: (1) its value orientation a nd (2) its epistemological a pproach. As stated, critical researchers tend to be concerned with social inequalities and to be dedicated to producing research that addresses these inequalities. However, Carspecken (1996) notes that the defining feature of critical qualitative research is not its value orientation but its epistemology. Unlike empiricism, which derive s its truth claims from sensory experience and other forms of qualitative re search (e.g., constructivism) that derive their truth claims solely from the subjective experiences of indi viduals), critical epis temology derives its truth claims (called validity claims ) from communicativ e situations. Based on everyday communication, critical epistemology posits three types of ontological categories: subjective, objectiv e, and normative-evaluative. These three ontological categories are the basi s for the three possible types of truth claims, subjective, objective, and normative-evaluative. Truth claims are structured by the audience we appeal to for verification of the claim. Subj ective truth claims can only be verified by the actor himself as no one else has access to his subjective world. One can judge the


43 truthfulness of subjective truth claims by using external indicators but ultimately there is no method for ascertaining the truthfulness of subjective truth claims. Objective truth claims are multiple access truth claims, that is, multiple actors have access to verifying these claims. Normative-evaluative claims are claims for which we appeal to ideas about right and wrong and what s hould and should not be. Given that critical epistemology is based on communicative situations, power must be addressed as “unequal power dist orts truth claims” (Carspecken, 1996, p. 21). Thus, Kinchloe and McLaren’s definition tell us that critical research is concerned with the relation between truth and pow er and presenting a version of the truth that is as free as much as possible from the influence of unequal power relations. Thus, Carspecken (1996) concludes that critical research “gives us principles for c onducting valid inquiries into any area of huma n experience” (p. 8). In sum, this research was an in-depth examination of the beliefs and views of a specific minority group in U.S. society. Criti cal qualitative research was the approach selected because of its epistemological approach and because of its concern with examining the experience of groups in societ y whose articulation of their experience may be influenced by social inequalities.


44 Chapter Three Method This study examined the perceptions a nd role beliefs held by West Indian parents/guardians and caregivers residing in th e U.S. regarding their children’s schooling. Specifically, the study examined West Indian parents’/guardians’ a nd primary caregivers’ understanding of the American schooling proce ss, perceptions of th e process, and their beliefs about their roles in their children’s schooling. This chapter describes the methods that were used to conduct this study. Children were not interviewed as part of this study. In addition, no identifying information about th e children of participan ts was collected. This study employed critical qualitat ive research methodology, a type of qualitative research characterized by its value orientation (concerned with social inequalities) and its epistemol ogical approach (truth is not solely derived from sensory experience or individual experience but from communicative situations). The previous chapter provides a more detailed description of this approach. The selection of participants and the colle ction and analysis of data are discussed in this chapter. Participants Patton (2002) states that cases ca n be individuals, groups, neighborhoods, programs, organizations, cultures, regions, or nation-states. For this study, the cases consisted of parents or caregivers from a sa mple of West Indian families living in the State of Florida who had children enrolle d in public K-12 scho ols during the 2006-2007


45 school year. The sample was a purposeful sample. According to Frankel and Wallen (2000), purposive sampling is the process of us ing personal judgment to select a sample based on previous knowledge of a population and the specific purposes of the research. Researchers assume they can use their knowle dge of a population to judge whether or not a particular sample will be representative of the phenomenon in which they are interested. The participants in this purposeful sample were expected to possess the information the researcher was seeking. The sample size for this study allowed the re searcher to analyze both the cases and the issues unde r consideration in depth. Sample Recruitment Strategies The sample was recruited through the following sources: (1) West Indian community members in Tampa, Florida (2) two West Indian community associations located in Tampa, (3) and two Hindu temp les in Tampa with large West Indian congregations. All three avenues for participant r ecruitment were pursued simultaneously. West Indian Associations and Community Members Members of the boards of each associati on and West Indian community members were asked to assist in identifying families to participate in the study. Members were briefed by the researcher on the purpose of the study and the characteristics of participants needed for the study. They were given a brief oral description of the study and a copy of the Brief Study Descrip tion (see Appendix A). The Brief Study Description Form was used to ensure that a standard recruitment procedure was followed and so that recruiters gave accurate inform ation to participants. Members were also given a copy of the consent form that partic ipants would be asked to complete. They


46 were asked to contact prospective families th at fit the study criteria (i.e., West Indian origin, residing in the U.S., with children enrolled in K12 public schools in the U.S. during the 2006-2007 school year, etc.). Members of the board and community members contacted potential pa rticipants. Using the Brief Study Description, they provided potential participants with overviews of the study and asked them if they would like more information to be sent to them. If so, board members and community members asked potential participants for thei r addresses and for permission to share this information with the researcher. Screening of Potential Participants After potential participants were identified, the researcher was notified and provided with contact information. The resear cher then mailed potential participants a cover letter, a copy of the Demographic Ques tionnaire (see Appendix C), a consent form approved by the University of South Flor ida Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects in Research (Board #2 for Soci al and Behavioral Sciences (USF IRB), and a postage paid, pre-addresse d return envelope. The consent form indicated that there were two phases to the study, with the first being the interview and the second being a follow-up for the verification of the interview transcript and analysis (the consent form noted that this follow-up could take place in person or by telephone), the estimated duration of the interview and the follow-up meeting, noted that the interview would be recorded, and described the procedures to be used to maintain confidentiality. In case potential participants misplaced the study forms, two weeks after the initial mailing, another mailing was comp leted to all non-responde nts that included a follow-up letter, the USF IRB consent form, and a postage paid, pre-addressed return


47 envelope. Some families were referred to the researcher and contacted her for the purpose of arranging a face-to-face meeting. In those cases, the researcher explained the purposes of the study and gave the parent(s)/ guardians copies of: the cover letter, the Demographic Questionnaire, the USF IRBapproved consent form, and her contact information (address, telephone number, and ema il ad dress). Potential participants were asked to return a signed consen t form by mail if they wanted to participate in the study and to provide their mailing address to the res earcher at that time so she could follow up with them. In case potential participants misplaced the st udy forms, two weeks after the face-to-face meeting, the researcher complete d another mailing that included a follow-up postcard, the USF IRB consent form, and a posta ge paid, pre-addressed return envelope. Once potential participants returned consen t forms and the Demographic Questionnaires to the researcher, she used information pr ovided in the Demographic Questionnaire to identify participants who met the study criteria. Religious Institutions The leaders of two Hindu temples in the Tampa Bay area with large West Indian congregations were contacted and given a brie f oral description of the study and a copy of the consent form. The researcher requested a few minutes to talk to the congregation about the study. The research er also provided a flyer about the study (see Appendix E) to congregation members, made an announcement about the study and offered to talk to prospective participants afte r the service. Congregation members who approached the researcher were given a br ief oral description of the study and copies of: the Demographic Questionnaire, the cover letter, the USF IRB-approved consent form, and the researcher’s contac t information (address, telephone num ber, and email address). The


48 congregation members were informed about the study criteria (e.g., minimum length of residence in the U.S.) and asked to return the signed consent form along with the Demographic Questionnaire by mail if they met the criteria and were willing to participate in the study. Once consent had been obtained and res ponses to the Demographic Questionnaire were reviewed to determine if individuals met study criteria, the final sample for the study was selected. Originally, five families we re to be drawn from each of three regions of the Caribbean: (1) Jamaica, (2) Easter n Caribbean, and (3) Trinidad & Tobago and Guyana. However, due to difficulty in locat ing participants from the Eastern Caribbean, the sample selection procedures were amended. The final sample included 13 families, six from Jamaica, four from Trinidad and Tobago, and three from Guyana. All participants had resided in the U.S. for a mi nimum of two years prior to entry into the study, and held permanent resident status or were U.S. citizens. Only families whose children were enrolled in the Hillsborough Count y School District in west central Florida were interviewed were included in the participant sample. Instrumentation During and after recruitment, for the purpos es of the study, three instruments were used. At the time they completed the informed consent form, participants were asked to complete a demographic questionnaire (see Appendix C) to assess whether they met study criteria (e.g., length of reside nce in the U.S., immigration st atus). Participants were also asked to complete a background inform ation form (see Appendix D) that included questions soliciting demographic information su ch as income, highest education level, and household composition (single pa rent, two parent, etc.).


49 No appropriate instrument was identified following a review of the literature for obtaining information about the perceptions of schooling that West Indian parents hold. However, a limited number of studies have developed questions fo r interviewing West Indian parents or immigrant parents about their perceptions of schooling (e.g., Nehau, 1999). Based on the topics of interest and th e questions used in prior studies, a semistructured interview protocol was developed for use by the researcher in interviewing participating parents/guardians (see Appendix E for interview protocol). Carspecken (1996) recommends a semi-structured questionn aire as an appropriate approach to qualitative interviewing. Others refer to in terviews with a semi-structured questionnaire as open-ended ethnographic inte rviews (Fontana & Frey, 2000). The semi-structured protocol allows for maximum flexibility on the part of the interviewer to pursue topics of interest. Carspecken (1999) recommends usin g topic domains, and lead off questions to organize the semi-structured pr otocol. He notes that inte rviewers should use concrete questions to identify abstract ions and avoid asking abstract questions because they want to “hear about the implicit theories” (Carspecken, 1996, p. 156) constituting the actions of participants. He argues th at “Often people act accordi ng to one implicit theory, and talk out theories that are ve ry different” (p. 156). Carspeck en recommends developing a few lead-off questions for each topic domain and noting wh at covert categories the researcher would like the subject to addre ss during the interview “but that you do not want to ask explicitly about because th at could lead the interview too much.” (Carspecken, 1996, p. 157). Thus, the semi-structured protocol used in this study included lead-off questions, possible follow-up questions, and categories of interest. The protocol provided the


50 interviewer with a lead-off question to be gin interviewing in each area and possible follow-up questions aimed at eliciting information in the areas of interest. It is important to note that the interview protocol allowe d the interviewer the flexibility to probe interviewee responses and part icipants the freedom to expa nd on topics about which they wanted to elaborate. In a ddition, the protocol allowed the interviewer the flexibility to explore novel topics that interviewees intr oduced. Carspecken (1996) notes that during a qualitative interview “the researcher will sp end most of her time responding to things said by her subjects rather th an asking questions” (p., 155). Data Collection Procedures Once consent was obtained and it had been confirmed through review of the Demographic Questionnaire that participants met study criteria (e.g., length of residence in the U.S.), the researcher arranged an interview time with participants. The researcher also reminded participants that participati on in the study required two meetings, one for the initial interview and one for the verification of the transcript. Interviews took place in the participants’ homes, workplaces, or in a public location that was convenient for the participants. Interviews la sted for approximately one a nd one-half hours and were audio recorded. The interviews were completed ov er a five month period in 2007. During the time period in which interviews were conducte d, the researcher maintained a reflective journal in which she recorded perceptions that arose as a result of the interviews, thoughts on the information shared with the researcher during interviews, and any emerging themes identified through the researc h. Journal entries were made as soon as possible after each interview. Participants were assigned pseudonyms; only pseudonyms were used in journal entries


51 After the interview was completed, participants were asked to complete the Background Questionnaire (see Appendix D). Pa rticipants complete d the questionnaire independently and the researcher offered to clarify any questions that were unclear. Once transcription was completed, particip ants were mailed or given a copy of their transcripts so they c ould review these items before the follow-up meeting. Then, participants were contacted to schedule the follow-up meeting. Participants were told that this follow-up session could be completed by telephone, if that was their preference. Most participants opted to conduct this se ssion by telephone. The follow-up meeting lasted for approximately 30 minutes. Data Management Each family was assigned a pseudonym. The researcher maintained a list of the family’s names and pseudonyms in a locked fi le drawer in her home. A tape recorder with digital recordings of the interviews wa s also stored in this file drawer. The pseudonyms were also used in transcription of the interview data and in reporting the results of the study. Thus, the transcripts that the peer reviewer (see below) accessed contained only pseudonyms. Transcripts of interviews with families were stored on the researcher’s computer; and the researche r’s computer was password protected. Data Analysis Procedures Chism (1999) notes that: The analysis of qualitative data i nvolves several activities, including: becoming familiar with the data, selecting certain parts of the data as most relevant, sorting the data into categor ies, displaying the data for review, reading within and across categorie s for themes, and synthesizing the


52 information. (p. 1) Data analysis was conducted during as we ll as after the conc lusion of the data collection process. Huberman and Miles (1998) note that researchers should be explicit about their preferences and tell readers “how they construe the shape of the social world and how they mean to give us a credible account of it (p. 181). Thus, the researcher maintained a reflect ive journal. This journal, along with transcriptions of the interviews assisted in identifying researcher biases to ensure that they did not unduly influence the data analysis stage. Examination of the researcher’s reflective journal during the data analysis st age revealed that often, when participants were discussing the backgrounds of some of the students in American public schools, class bias may have influenced their statem ents. Although the resear cher did not closely examine these statements to verify whether th is was in fact the case, the participants’ beliefs about this topic were not the focus of this study and thus, in the judgment of the researcher, the lack of follow-up in this area did not significantly impact the findings of this study. Interviews were transcribed as soon as possible after they took place, resulting in 13 transcripts. First, transcripts were reread several times in order for the researcher to become familiar with the data. Then the transcripts were loaded into ATLAS.ti, a qualitative data analysis softwa re package, designed to assist in the process of coding and analysis of datasets such as transcribed interview data (M uhr & Friese, 2004). ATLAS.ti is commonly used in qualitative research be cause it facilitates the analysis of large quantities of textual data. It is importan t to note that in this study ATLAS-ti was not


53 used to generate codes, but as a tool to fac ilitate the coding of larg e sections of text and to, in the later analysis stages, retrieve sect ions of text that corresponded to these codes. Development of Codes Once the thirteen transcripts were en tered into ATLAS-ti, a deductive coding approach was used to analyze the transcripts. The researcher deci ded to use a deductive coding approach because it meshed well with the design of the study, that is, the study aimed to answer specific research questions. In addition, at the inception of the study, a semi-structured interview prot ocol, which consisted of que stion domains developed to answer the research questions, was construc ted. Thus, a deductive coding approach was a good fit for the study. Using this approach, th e interview protocol was used to develop the codes, with small changes made as need ed (Huberman & Miles, 1998). For instance, when the researcher encountered text segments that did not correspond to the predetermined codes, those segments were assigned a code that more accurately reflected their content. Using this approach, codes we re based on text segments of the transcript but also corresponded closely to doma ins of the interview protocol. To develop a preliminary codebook, the res earcher first random ly selected two transcripts to be used for codebook developm ent. The researcher used ATLAS-ti to select sections of text and then assigned these sections codes th at she believed captured the meaning of the text. In this way, a preliminary codelist was developed. The researcher then gave the same two transcri pts and an interview protocol to a peer debriefer to code independently and to devel op a preliminary code list. The researcher and the peer debriefer then met to compare th e preliminary code lists they had developed. After reviewing the transcripts and the two code lists, the peer de-briefer and the


54 researcher merged the preliminary code li sts they had created to create a working codebook. They then used this working codebook to code one randomly selected transcript together to ensure that they ha d the same understanding of the codes contained in the working codebook and would apply them in the same way to the interview data. Using this working codebook, the researcher an d the peer debriefer then separated to code two randomly selected transcripts indepe ndently. They met again to make the final changes to the working codebook based on thei r coding of this transcript and thus produce the final codebook used for the study (see Appendix F for a copy of the final codebook). For the most part, codes develope d corresponded closely to the categories of questions asked. For instance, one group of codes (“Types of parent involvement”) corresponded to “Parent role in the sc hooling process”, a dom ain on the interview protocol. Interrater reliab ility was calculated on these two transcripts. Interrater reliability was found to be 90%. Analysis across cases was used to determ ine themes that emerged across cases. As described above, a deductive coding a pproach was used and codes corresponded closely to interview categories. Thus, rese arch questions were answered by using the codes that corresponded to a particular re search question and the corresponding text segments. For instance, to respond to Res earch Question 2, “What expectations do West Indian parents and caregivers bring to th e American schooling process?”, ATLAS.ti was used to gather all text segmen ts coded as “Expectations”. Cases were analyzed for themes using a hermeneutic-reconstructive method which required the researcher to make implicit meanings (such as normative-evaluative claims) explicit (Carspecken, 1996, 2003). Using this approach, the researcher “takes the


55 insider’s view of a cultural group and reconstr ucts tacit cultural themes and structures that members commonly employ to interpret the world [and] judge the world…” (Coln, Taylor, and Willis, 2000, para. 8). Later stages of data analysis also examined the data to see if systemic issues (e.g., socioeconomic st atus, recent arrival in the U.S.) shed any light on the data. Credibility In any form of research, issues of credib ility are critical as these issues impact perceptions of the research. Carspecken ( 1996) points out that interviewing produces many subjective truth claims and that we are dependent on the honesty and accuracy of the self-reports of the participants. Qualitat ive researchers must also be concerned with minimizing any biases and seeing the experiences that participants relate just as they are and not attempt to alter them or to read more into them than what is really there (Patton, 2002). Thus, researchers should be concerned abou t not altering the real ity of the data. However, there are procedures descri bed by Carspecken (1996) and others (Lincoln & Guba, 1998; Patton, 2002) that shoul d be used to address these issues and strengthen the validity claims within interview data. Thes e approaches are: non-leading interview questions, consis tency checks, member checking, and peer debriefing. Non-Leading Interview Questions First, non-leading interview questions we re used. Interviewing in non-leading ways decreased the possibility that particip ants would tell the researcher what they thought she wanted to hear. Second, as much as possible, participan ts were encouraged to use terms common in their own everyday language. This encouraged clarity and


56 discouraged participants from using terms simply because those were the terms the interviewer used. In addition to the use of non-leading in terview questions, three processes were included to validate the analys is of the data. These processes were: consistency checks, member checking and peer debriefing. Consistency Checks Consistency checks were conducted by revi ewing the transcripts of individual interviews to check for any discrepancies wi thin individual participants’ responses. No inconsistencies were found. Member Checking Member checking is a process which provides participants in a study the opportunity to review the transcri ptions of their interviews. In this study, the participants had the opportunity to determine if their responses to the interview questions were accurately represented in the data. Patton (200 2) notes that researchers can learn a great deal about the accuracy, completeness, fairness, and perceived validity of their data by having their participants react to what is described and concluded. Thus, participants were provided a reasonable opportunity to co mment on the study data. They were told before they agreed to the st udy that participation in the study would involve a follow-up meeting or telephone call to review the transcri pt of their interview. Participants were mailed or hand delivered a transcript of their interview. A follow-up meeting or telephone call was scheduled with participants to obtain their feedback on the accuracy of the transcript. Most participants opted to conduct the follow-up meeting by telephone. Eleven of the 13 participants (84%) took the opportunity to re view the transcript. None


57 of the participants reported problems with th e veracity of the transcripts. However, participants sometimes wanted to correct perceived grammatical errors in their statements. Often, they commented that they never realized how they sounded. Peer Debriefing A peer was used in the development of the codebook used in the study (as outlined above). In addition, a peer reviewed the researcher’s notes, preliminary analysis, and conclusions drawn in order to ensure th at the researcher was on the right path in preparing research findings. The peer debrie fer in this study was a graduate student in the College of Education at the University of South Florida. She had experience in the collection and analysis of qualitative data. Th is peer debriefer assisted in ensuring the validity of codes and in ensu ring that the study was not a ffected by researcher bias, preconceived notions, etc.


58 Chapter Four Results The results of this study are presented us ing a framework of themes that emerged from interviews with participating parents. Data were analyzed relative to Carspecken’s critical theory. Participant Demographic Characteristics The participant sample was obtained us ing the purposeful sampling procedures and inclusion/exclusion criteria discussed in Chapter Three. The sample consisted of representatives (parents/caregivers) of 13 West Indian families from the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Data to be reported we re obtained through an interview with a parent/caregiver from each of these families. Description of Families Information relative to the participating families is reported in Table 1. Of the 13 participating families, 7 (54%) were from Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, and 6 (46%) were from Jamaica. Seven of the families (54%) reported an annual household income ranging from $85, 000 to above $95, 000. Three families (23%) reported an income of less than $35, 000. The children of participating parents/care givers ranged in age from 6 to 18 years, with a mean age of 12.8 years.


59 Table 1 Characteristics of Participant Families (N=13) Characteristic N % Country of Origin Guyana 3 23 Jamaica 6 46 Trinidad & Tobago 4 30 Annual Household Income $15, 000 – 24, 999 1 7 $25, 000 – 34, 999 2 15 $65, 000 $74, 999 2 15 $75, 000 $84, 999 1 7 $85, 000 $95, 000 4 30 Above $95, 000 3 23 No. of School-Aged Chil dren in Household 1-2 10 76 3-4 3 23 Grade Levels of Children In Household (n=22) K-2n d grade 3 13 3r d -5t h grade 3 13 6t h -8t h grade 5 22 9t h -11t h grade 9 40 12t h grade 2 9


60 Description of Interviewees One parent from each of 11 families and tw o parents from each of 2 families were interviewed, for a total of 15 interviewees Table 2 provides a summary of selected characteristics of the interviewees. The num ber of years they had lived in the U.S. ranged from 4 to 30 years, with a mean of 19.4 years. The number of years they lived in their native country before immigrating to the United States ranged from 12 to 51 years with a mean of 24.7 years. All but one of those responding reported having completed some level of college educatio n: six (40%) indicated that th eir highest educational level was a bachelor’s degree or higher. Eighty per cent of the participants reported that their highest educational level was completed in the U.S.


61 Table 2 Characteristics of Interviewees (N=15) Characteristic N % Ethnicity Black 5 33 Indian 5 33 Mixed 3 20 Not Reported 2 13 Immigration Status Permanent Resident 3 20 U.S. Citizen 12 80 Number of Years Lived in U.S. 1-7 2 13 8-14 1 6 15-21 5 33 22-28 5 33 29-35 2 13 Number of Years Lived in Country Of Origin 8-14 2 13 15-21 7 53 22-28 2 20 29-35 1 0 36-42 0 0 43-49 2 13 50-56 1 6 Highest Education Level Attained High school 1 6 Some college 5 33 Associate’s degree 1 6 Bachelor’s degree 4 13 Master’s degree 1 22 Professional degree (e.g., M.D.,L.L.B) 1 6


62 Participant Descriptions Each of the 13 families who participated in this study is described below. Pseudonyms are used to protec t the families’ identities. Clive. Clive is a 38-year-old male, who speaks with a slight accent. He owns a small business and has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. Clive completed his elementary and secondary schooling in his native country. Clive noted that he considers his native country as his home. He reported some involvement with a local West Indian Association, but also noted th at he is not a member of th is or any other West Indian organization. Clive reported that he is keep s track of events in hi s native country through online and print newspapers, as well as thr ough talking to friends and family who have recently returned from there. He is the father of a son in high school. Anita. Anita is a 35-year-old female who works in management at a large corporation and has lived in the U.S. for 17 years. Anita completed her elementary and secondary schooling in her native country. She speaks with a slight accent. Anita noted that she left her native count ry too long ago to consider it home, but that she does not consider the U.S. home either. Anita is not involved with a ny West Indian associations. She reported that she keeps track of happeni ngs in her native c ountry through online newspapers and talking to family members and friends who live there. She is the parent of three children, two in elementary school and one in middle school. May. May is a 65-year-old female and has liv ed in the U.S. for 13 years. May completed her elementary and secondary schoo ling in her native country. She holds two jobs, one in the healthcare i ndustry and the other in the serv ice industry. She speaks with a strong accent. She noted that she considers her country of origin to be her home. She


63 is not involved with any West Indian associ ations. She reported that she keeps track of events in her native country by speaking to family and friends who live there and occasionally by reading print newspapers. May is the primary caregiver for her three grandchildren, two in high school and one in middle school. Cecil. Cecil is a 44-year-old male who has lived in the U.S. for 28 years. He owns a consulting business and speaks with a slight accent. Cecil completed his elementary and secondary schooling in the Cari bbean. Cecil noted that he considers the U.S. his home, but that his native country is still important to him. He is very involved with several West Indian associations in th e Tampa Bay area. He reported that he keeps track of events in his native country because he travels there often fo r business. Cecil has two high school-aged sons. Sunita and Rahul. Sunita is a 40-year-old female who has lived in the U.S. for 20 years. She is a full-time homemaker and speak s with a slight accent. Rahul is a 44-yearold male who has lived in the U.S. for 24 year s. Both Sunita and Rahul completed their elementary and secondary schooling in the Ca ribbean. He works in the healthcare field and speaks with a slight accent. Rahul reported that he keeps track of events in his native country by reading newspapers online. Sun ita reported that she does not keep current with events in her native country. Both S unita and Rahul reported that they consider America home and that their native country does not play a large ro le in their lives. Rahul and Sunita are very involved in religi ous activities with pe ople from their native country. Rahul and Sunita are the parents of two daughters, one in elementary school and one in middle school.


64 Lauren. Lauren is a 55-year old female who has lived in the U.S. for 6 years. She speaks with a strong accent and works in th e service industry. Lauren completed her elementary and secondary schooling in her na tive country. Lauren reported that she is not involved with any West Indian associations She noted that she keeps track of events in her native country by speaking to her family on a weekly basis. Lauren reports that she does not consider the U.S. home and cons iders her native country home. Lauren is the parent of a high school-aged daughter. Evelyn. Evelyn is a 45-year old female who has lived in the U.S. for 4 years. Evelyn completed her elementary and sec ondary schooling in the Caribbean. Evelyn speaks with a strong accent and works in a clerical position. Evelyn noted that she considers the U.S. her home, but that her coun try of origin is still important to her. Evelyn is involved with a local West Indi an association and has a daughter in high school. She reported that she keeps track of happenings in her country of origin by talking to family members and friends who live there. Corinne. Corinne is a 39-year-old female who works in management at a large corporation. She completed her elementa ry and secondary schooling in her the Caribbean. Corinne has lived in the U.S. fo r 22 years and speaks with a slight accent. Corinne noted that she does not consider th e U.S. her home and that for her, her native country will always be home. She is not i nvolved with any West I ndian associations. Corinne reported that she keeps track of events in her native country by talking to family. Corinne has two high sch ool-aged daughters. Michael. Michael is a 46-year-old male who works in customer services in a large corporation. He completed his elemen tary and secondary sc hooling in his native


65 country. Michael has lived in the U.S. for 22 years and speaks with a slight accent. Michael noted that he considers the U.S. his home, but that hi s country of origin is very important to him. He reported that he is sl ightly involved with a We st Indian association in the Tampa Bay area. He keeps track of even ts in his country of origin by talking to family and friends. Michael has a son in middle school. Brian and Nalini. Nalini is a 36-year-old female who has lived in the U.S. for 18 years and works in the healthcare industry. Both Brian and Nalini completed their elementary and secondary education in the Ca ribbean. She speaks with a slight accent. Brian is a 41-year-old male who has lived in the U.S. for 25 years and owns a small business. He speaks with a slight accent. Brian and Nalini reported that they keep track of events in their native country by reading newspapers online. Both Brian and Nalini reported that they consider America home, but that their native country is very important to them. Brian and Nalini are very involved in religious activities with people from their native country. Brian and Nalini are the pa rents of two sons in elementary school. Shirley. Shirley is a 53-year-old female who has lived in the U.S. for 30 years and works in a clerical position. Shirley completed her elementary and secondary education in her native country. She speaks w ith a slight accent. Shirley noted that she considers the U.S. her home, but that her native country is still very important to her. She is not involved with any West Indian associ ations. She reported that she keeps track of events in her native country by talking to fa mily members. Shirley has a son in high school. Gregory. Gregory is a 41-year-old male who has lived in the U.S. for 29 years. He is retired. Gregory completed his el ementary schooling in the Caribbean and his


66 secondary schooling in the U.S. Gregory speak s without an accent. Gregory noted that he considers the U.S. his home, but that his nativ e country is still important to him. He is very involved with several West Indian associ ations in the Tampa area. He reported that he keeps track of events in his native country by reading newspapers online. Gregory has two daughters, one in elementary sc hool and one in high school. Winnifred. Winnifred is a 42-year-old female who has lived in the U.S. for 13 years and works at a large corporation. Sh e completed her elementary and secondary schooling in the Caribbean. She speaks with a strong accent. Winni fred noted that she does not consider the U.S. her home; she st ill considers her nativ e country her home. Winnifred reported that she is involved with a local West I ndian association. Winnifred reported that she does not keep track of even ts in her native country. Winnifred has a high school-aged son. Summary of Participants Overall, most of the participants in the study were not members of local Caribbean associations, although many repor ted some kind of involvement, whether through attendance at social even ts or utilizing resources prov ided by these associations. Although most interviewees di dn’t report business or politic al connections with their home countries, they often maintained communi cation with family and/or friends in their native countries and monitored events in thos e countries closely. Most participants had not experienced the K-12 education system in the U.S.; however, they had completed some kind of post-secondary education in the U.S. Interviewees ha d children at varying grade levels; on average, their children were high school a nd middle-school aged.


67 Interview data obtained in this study were transcribed and analyzed relative to the five research questions presented below. Patte rns and trends are disc ussed below; select verbatim comments are included to illustrate specific beliefs or experiences identified in the analyses of the interview data. Question 1: What are the Be liefs/Values of West Indian Parents /Guardians about the Desired Outcomes of Education and their Views of Public sc hooling in the U.S.? Data were analyzed to capture the beliefs of West Indian parents about the desired outcomes of education and their view s of public schooling in the U.S. Desired Outcomes of Education Four themes emerged from participants ’ discussions of their beliefs about education with regards to desired outcomes of American education: a) preparation for college, b) preparation for work, c) prepara tion for life, and d) preparation beyond work and life. The endorsement rate s of these themes are reported in Table 3. Preparation for college and preparation for work are the most endorsed themes with 53% of the participant sample citing one or more belief statements about education, in general, that fell into these categories. Over all, participants viewed education as a key to long term success. Specifically, they believed that thei r children’s K-12 educat ion would serve as a pathway to college, preparation for the worl d of work, and preparation for life. In addition, a small minority of parents believed that their children’s education should offer preparation beyond life and work.


68 Table 3 Themes from Desired Outcomes Themes Endorsement Rate Preparation for college 53% Preparation for work 53% Preparation for life 38% Beyond work and life 15% n = 13 Preparation for college. Seven parents/caregivers view ed gaining an education as preparation for college. May said she thought education was important for her grandchildren so they could, “…go to college and get to whatever they want.” Anita noted that she and her husband frequently di scussed the importance of school and getting a college degree with thei r older son. She said: Oh, my God, we must talk to our fourteen year old everyday about…actually going to school and getting a college degree will be important if you want to move on. Sunita and Rahul said that the foundati on their children were receiving in school presently would be “…the major thing to gui de them through college…because they have to have a solid backgrou nd to get through studies.” Preparation for work. Six parents/caregivers appeared to view their children’s K12 education as essential for pr eparing them for the working world. Lauren stated that she told her daughter, “…get an education to get a proper job to be able to get all your stuff in your life.” Nalini and Brian discu ssed education as key to getting a good job.


69 They said, “if you have an education you get better jobs, you get better pay, you earn more respect in society.” Michael also discus sed education as key to career success. He said, “education pretty much…paves the wa y for your success…you’ll get your job.” Anita noted that “…education is what they need to get work.” Preparation for life. Thirty-eight percent (n = 5) of the participants talked about their children’s education as preparation for life, whether that was to achieve a certain lifestyle or learning skills that could be applied to later li fe tasks like managing finances and interacting with others. Lauren discusse d what she tells her da ughter about the role of education in life. She said, “Well, I to ld her if you want to become somebody in this life you really need to get an education.” Evelyn noted that education was the key to achieving the “American dream”. She said she tells her daughter that, “..the Amer ican dream does exist a nd there are lots of people who have achieved it. And the Ameri can dream is to be successful…to achieve… financially whatever you want to achieve [and] status.” Brian and Nalini noted that education prep ares you for more than a job, that it prepares you to: …learn and to retain… [it] be tter prepares you for life and adulthood. You learn how to build a family, maintain a family, live as a family and provide for your kids. You know, sometimes you don’t really need mathematics to do that, but it helps you in your later life to manage your finan ces and things you need in your everyday life.


70 May said that she thought education was important even if her grandchildren did not go to college and pursue a professional career. She discussed the importance of common sense, which she noted can be obtaine d without schooling but said, “…but still although you have the common sense you have to ha ve a little grain of intelligence… that comes with education, to make it in life.” Clive noted that he hope d his son’s high school experience would help him to, “…be able to fit in, to learn how to socially interact with other kids, as part of life, it’s going to be pa rt of his experience when he goes out in the world in the workplace.” Beyond work and life. Two of the 13 participants al so talked about the role of education beyond preparing their children for work and life, that it gave them something that it was hard to codify. Michael said he views his son’s educa tion as important beyond mastering basic skills. He said he tells hi s son James not to limit himself to mastering academics. In his words: You need to broaden the horizon because …you learn through books and it is so true. And so ev en back in the days when I was back home and we learnt about London Bridge, my goal as a child was to go to London and see the London Bridge because we sang about it, nursery rhymes…and James had the opportunity to go to London and we walked on the London Bridge and we said we know technically it’s not there, because it was bought so we did the whole history…your horizon now is even broader. Winnifred said,


71 If you want to have a good life or a better life, education is very, very important. …education should n’t be valued in terms of the money it’s going to make. That’s not what I want to communicate to you. That’s the way American society tends to, I’m sorry, tends to think of it. But it doesn’t mean that, it could mean that you do something that you’re happy doing and there is some quality to life. Summary of Desired Outcomes of Education Overall, examination of parents’ views of the outcomes of public education in the U.S. revealed several normative-evaluative va lidity claims (beliefs about what is right and wrong and what ought to be and not to be) th at were explicitly articulated in parents’ responses. Normative-evaluative claims are evident in parent’s expressed instrumental beliefs about the desired outcomes of educati on. Parents explicitly expressed that they believed their children’s education should be pr eparation for college, work, and life, with only a minority of parents endorsing the view that education plays a role beyond the preparation for life and work. Parents also expressed the belief that education was critical to their children’s l ong term success. As Clive expl ained, “Well, I think getting a good education is one of the most important f actors.” Corinne noted that education was a value for West Indian families, “Yeah, I think…and I’m not saying it’s not here in America necessarily, but I think focusing on e ducation is definitely…that’s one of the things I think we pass on.” Anita concurred wi th this saying, “I’m a West Indian, and in the islands, if you had the opportunity to go to school, they tell you go to school and learn and become something.”


72 Views of Public Schooling Five themes emerged from the interviews in relation to views of public schooling in the U.S.: a) academics, b) teachers, c) student behavior, d) opportunities, and e) resources. The endorsement rates of these themes are reported in Table 4. As noted, academics, teachers, and opport unities are the most endorsed themes, with 100% of the participants citing at least one view about public schooling in the U.S that fell under each of these themes. In general, parents disc ussed the lack of rigor in the curriculum in American public schools, but also expre ssed positive views of teachers as being responsive to parent concerns and very willing to help stud ents. However, a minority of parents had negative perceptions of teachers, discussing a lack of communication among other issues. More than half of the parents discussed what th ey considered to be the poor behavior of students in Ameri can public schools. Finally, al most one-third of the parents expressed positive views about the opport unities and resources provided by public education in the U.S., such as extracurricula r activities available a nd facilities such as science labs.


73 Table 4 Themes from Views of Pub lic Schooling in the U.S. Themes Endorsement Rate Academics 100% Teachers 100% Opportunities 100% Student behavior 53% Resources 30% n = 13 Academics. All parents interviewed discusse d their view of academics in American public schools. Parents’ views regarding academics cente red on the lack of rigor in the curriculum (e.g., level of work was higher in their home countries, not enough time is spent on certain skills or topics) and the lack of homework (e.g., that their children did not receive enough homework from school). Clive chose to send his child to a privat e elementary school because he perceived public school as, “dumbing down your kid and ju st pushing him on to the next grade.” However, Clive noted that he chose to se nd his son to public school for high school. Corinne, while expressing her satisfaction wi th the level of the curriculum in her daughter’s magnet school, said of the curriculum in U.S. schools in general, “I think and I will say that the level of work in the Caribbean is so much higher than the level of work in this country.” Sunita and Rahul’s daughter also attende d a magnet school. Like Corinne, they expressed satisfaction with the academics. Rahul said, “I think the U.S. schooling is very


74 good, very good curriculum”. Sunita agreed sayi ng, “…they do a very good job with the academics, strong academic subjects…” Howeve r, Rahul did express reservations about the accuracy of the curriculum in some respects, pointing out that information provided about diverse cultures was not always accurate. He said, Well, the facts if you go back and review them, they’re not really the truth, they’re not. You know, even my 12-year old daughter can go through one particular text book that we got from one school and she was able to point out things in that that were not correct. Lauren noted that schooling in the U.S. is not as rigorous as in her native country: The schooling back home…is very much like the British, we have the British way and it is more di fficult than here…they keep the kids drilled in Trinidad, drilled. It’s like a non-stop pace, and then you have lessons after-school... Anita noted that the curriculum in American schools did not focus enough on teaching skills until children attained fluency in them. She said, “…my daughter, she’s in 2nd grade right now and every week there’s a different topic in math…There’s not enough time for her to learn one thing, really well, really fluently, or really proficiently.” Cecil discussed his concerns about his s on’s lack of exposure to things he had been exposed to in his own education: That concerns me because I’ve had the opportunity of living overseas and being educated differe ntly than my ki ds…it concerns me sometimes when I ask them a qu estion and at that age, 14 and


75 16, they might not be aware of it or they haven’t been exposed to it because the education system over he re is a little bit different…it concerns me sometimes as a parent…The level of education in United States, I don’t think it’s as broad as the Caribbean. I don’t think it’s as…high as the Caribbean. In relation to homework, parents believ ed that American public schools did not assign enough homework and that this was probl ematic. Michael endorsed this view and expressed his opinion that homework reinforc es concepts taught in school, “So, the homework reinforces, and that’s what homework is for, it reinforces first that you learnt what you were taught and then it’s going to brin g everything together, it gels it together.” Clive also agreed that not enough homewo rk was assigned and shared Michael’s notion that homework reinforced concep ts taught in school. In his words: I mean I don’t understand how they don’t get homework on the weekends here. I mean when I was going to school you get homework during the week but on the weekends is where you’ll have a lot of homework so when you go back to school on Monday you’re not a blank slate because you spent several hours during the weekend repeating stuff that you were taught during the week by doing it, but kids here, most of them don’t get homework on the weekends. Corinne also mentioned the lack of home work and noted that she felt American parents seemed to prioritize extracurricular activities over homework, “…I remember, on 3 or 4 occasions I’ve had parents complain about homework, teachers are giving too


76 much homework. What is too much homewo rk?...the kids are r unning all over the place in after-school activities.” Teachers. All parents discussed teachers as an important part of public schooling in the U.S., 10 of the families (76%) viewed teachers as a positive part of public schooling, while three of the families (23%) viewed teachers in a somewhat negative light. Parents who discussed teachers in posi tive terms viewed them as being receptive to parents, being willing to work with parent s and willing to discuss any issues their children might be having. Clive viewed the teachers at hi s son’s school as open to pa rent concerns. He said: …they’re very receptive wh en you go down there and you don’t get that defensiveness when you talk to the teachers, you know what I mean…so I think there is a culture there of….let’s do what is best… they encourage you to come down if there’s a problem. Corinne viewed teachers as wanting to pa rtner with parents. She commented: I know teachers, I talk to teacher s all the time… teachers want you to talk to them. They want to be appreciated. They want you to partner with them… I can’t say an ything bad about the teachers. These people want to help your kids, they do, they care. Gregory described his daughter s’ teachers as, “Very, ve ry receptive. And they always try to work with me, explain, wh atever. But they never blow me off.” Winnifred viewed her son’s teachers as committed to their work. She commented:


77 I’ve met with every one of Alston’s teachers, every one. And my impression…they are teachers who ar e serious about teaching, they want the best for their students and they work with me. So, the teachers I would say well of them. Three of the 13 families (23%) discussed teachers in relatively negative terms. Participants’ negative views of teachers appeared to center on their lack of communication with them and unwillingness to cooperate with parents. For instance, Lauren seemed to perceive teachers as uncaring and uncommunicative to parents. She said: …if the teacher talks to her [her daughter] in school or whatever, they did not inform me about a nything. And it’s like, I’m coming home every night, the child is slee ping, and I get up in the morning and I have to take her to school nothing is said, nothing came to me, but then at the end of the sc hool year when they send me [the report card] she got a D in this, an A in that, or a B in that or whatever… They just don’t care they don’t care... Based on his experience with his son, Michael also perceived teachers as uncommunicative. He explained: I don’t even know how they feel be cause as I said they’ve never initiated anything, outside of a pa rent-teacher night the first time when school reopens. After th at it’s a done dead deal… unless…there’s a problem with your child, you never see them. They never call for a meeting, I gue ss they think there’s no need


78 to, they’re busy I guess with thei r schedule so th at only allows such and such. They can’t meet with you. So, there’s no flexibility and a teacher taking a little time and saying, I’m going to call…they can’t do it un less there’s a problem. While Lauren and Michael reported a lack of communication with their children’s teachers, Anita described negative communica tions with her daughter Anya’s teacher: …Anya has a teacher who’s constantly writing negative notes in the book, she’s writing about Anya’s reading and Anya’s fluency and Anya didn’t do this today, and Anya didn’t do that…And we’ve written long long notes to each other in Anya’s notebook. I wasn’t even aware that Anya wa s supposed to do a reading test on the computer in school, and I got this note at the end of the marking period that Anya didn’t do a ny tests. So first of all,… why didn’t you point this out in the beginning of the term when I could have done something about it? You wrote it at the end of the term [and] now I don’t have the opportu nity to do anything about it. Anita also discussed how she perceived the cau se of this negative in teraction. She said, “…that’s an example I think where a teacher has selectively chosen not to bring the parent into the game at an earlier point because the child is a minority.” It is important to note that aside from this negative interac tion, Anita described teachers in otherwise positive terms, saying that, “And a lot of the teachers…have been very open and receptive to what you have to say, and they do try to work with you and help you with any problems…”


79 Opportunities. Despite the problems interviewees pointed out with the American public schools (e.g., lack of ri gor in the curriculum) all th e parents interviewed highly valued the opportunities affo rded by the American public school system. Parents endorsed the idea that their children’s educati on would afford them opportunities for career success, the ability to support themselves, and a better life than they themselves have. Clive noted, “But we all can learn so mething. And the opportunity that this country affords us to be good at something is tremendous so, whatever you’re good at, go for it with everything you have.” May said that the American educational system offered opport unities that were not offered to children in her country of origin. She said: As I said already those kids back home some of them don’t have the privilege to enter high school or to go to get certain things. But here you (have) no class [system], everybody is…the same, so long as you have the ability you can get what you want. Evelyn praised the American system fo r the opportunities it provides to children who need extra help as compared to the school system back in her native country. She used the example of her daughter to illustrate her views a bout the opportuniti es available in the U.S. She said: The best of the crop from ‘A’ leve ls are going to go into university which is free education [back] home So, it’s always the best of the crop. Now let’s say that you’re not really the best. Let’s say that you’re somebody who’s plodding, like my second daughter; she’s


80 a little bit dyslexic. We don’t know about dyslexic [back] home. The [Caribbean] system caters for people who are bright, they cater for the children who are bright or if they have the means of getting the extra tutoring that they need…And my second daughter had a dyslexia problem, she did not pass [the exams] for the best school [back home]. She went to a government school. And she has come up here [to the U.S.] and started community college. And I think…she is the perfect example of how this system [U.S. educational system] could work for you because she’s slower…the system encourages you to keep going… Cecil contrasted the oppor tunities offered by the U.S. public school system as compared to the Caribbean educational system: You go back to the Caribbean and you see bright students with no opportunities. I mean, as I sit ther e with you today, I am confident those two boys [referring to his sons] will have scholarships and go on to college. I’m not sure if I co uld have said that if I was [back home]. Student behavior. Fifty-three percent of interview ees (n=7) discussed their views of the behavior of students in American public schools in relatively negative terms. Several interviewees regarded the behavior of students in public schools in the U.S. as problematic. Parents linked the poor behavior of these students to their home lives. Corinne discussed her view of the behavior of children in American public schools as follows:


81 ….And I’m very sorry; these children have no behavior, no manners. And it comes from the home. So my child is sitting in the classroom trying to study and the te acher has to be talking to these kids and if the teacher dares to call home, what do they get? Some parent who wants to come down and yell and scream and sue the school system. Lauren viewed the behavior of ch ildren in public schools negatively and described how she came to believe this ba sed on what her daughter experienced in school. She said For no reason a guy just came up to her [Lauren’s daughter] and hit her in her chest. He was pl aying …he was just one of those little bad boys, you know. And he hit her in her chest. I complained to the principal and complained and nothing was done. They just called the mother in. And I took my child to the doctor and you could see this big red and black and blue mark right there on her chest. And I think people in this country do not discipline their kids. May articulated her belief that parents who could not control their own children should not expect a teacher who is responsible for many children at once to be able to control them. She commented: I think they’re trying, I think the school’s trying. It’s just, the children…their background, where th ey’re really coming from. I don’t think schools have anything to do with it. Because if you’re a


82 parent and you have one child or two children and it’s hard for you to control them, they do as they lik e, they come as they want to come, they go as they want to go. How can you expect a teacher to really, do everything, to teach them manners and teach them discipline? And at the same time they have 30 children and you have two and they are your chil dren, and you can’t say to them, don’t go through the door, they don’t stop, they stil l go through the door…parents need to do more. Shirley discussed the negative behaviors of children in public schools and her belief regarding the origin of these behaviors. In her words: …because there are a lot of kids in public school that don’t have that home base, that value. They don’t have parents to guide them. So, they go to school, they don’t do any work. They skip school. There’s no consequence, you know, so they just go wild. There are a lot of things that go on, there’s drugs… Clive also commented on the behavior of ch ildren in public schools and attributed it to their home environments. He said, “…enforc ing discipline and beha vior, it starts at home. That’s why you have a lot of problem s today because a lot of kids don’t have enforcement at home. They’re raising themselves.” Resources. Thirty percent of the families interviewed (n=4) expressed appreciation for the resources made available to their children by the public schools in the U.S. Corinne who had sent her children to private school for several years before


83 switching them to public schools, was amazed at the resources provided by her children’s public magnet school. She said: And when I went to the public school I was like, you’re kidding me! These resources are available? I mean, you take a science lab in a public school and a science la b in a private school, it’s night and day. Sara’s language teacher in 7th grade has a Ph.D. Her geography teacher in 7th grade has a Master’s from Yale. She continued: My daughter is in public school pl aying orchestra, getting one of the best music programs in a public school in America. She has languages available to her. She has trips to Greece available to her, this is a public school; I’m not paying for this... May, in commenting on the differences betw een schools in her country of origin and schools in the U.S., discusse d some of the resources avai lable that are not available back home. She explained: They [U.S. schools] have the bus to pick them up to take them to school. Back home dem [them] don’t have the school bus. They had to ride with the public bus. [Here] if you can’t afford lunch you can get lunch and breakfast… Gregory commented on a camp to which hi s daughter’s scho ol sent her: I have to commend her school becaus e my daughter just went to a leadership camp, and what it is it’s about divers ity, about gays,


84 lesbian, Muslim, Jews, black, white, fat, skinny, blind, and she went there for a week and it was all paid for. She loved it. Anita expressed appreciation fo r resources available in her son’s future school, “The high school down the street, has so many things that they can offer you. And I’m just wowed by the amount of things that they can offer you. Just the sporting activities are so great.” Racism and the value of education. Parents were also asked about how racism impacted their children’s ability to make full use of the edu cation they received, if it did at all, and how they discussed this issue with their children. Seve nty-six percent of the parents interviewed (n=9) indicated that wh ile racism was a problem, and one of which their children should be aware, education w ould help their children overcome it. Twentythree percent of parents (n=3) indicated that they did not believe that racism was a problem for their children and that they did not discuss this issue with their children. Corinne discussed her beliefs and thos e of her husband on th e subject and how they communicate about racism to their children. In her words: We do talk about education bei ng the ticket and we put out the facts and figures, this is what a high school kid makes, this is what a college student makes. We let them know racism is out there but it’s not going to stop them. We te ll them there’s always going be something out there, it’s going to be a challenge. I don’t want them to go on that crutch of racism. Michael said he tells his son that as a minority it’s important that he becomes educated. He said:


85 …you’re considered a minority so ed ucation has to be your forte. Being a minority sometimes being educated is going to, maybe put you over that little bump than if you’re not educate d. That is going jto drop you to that level where you certainly don’t want to be. So absolutely, the color is a major factor as well. May pointed out that education opened doors to career paths. She commented: So long as you have the ability, you work towards it, dem [them] can’t tell you, you can’t go work in the office if you have the education. They may not pay you the same, but dem [them] can’t tell you say you can’t work in the office because you have your papers....... Asked about her grandchildren’s ability to use their education to achieve future success, May said that racism could not prevent her grandchildren from achieving success. It is there for them. They can’t stop and say, oh me, inna [in] this white man country. This na [isn’t] nobody country. You inna [in] de [the[ country, you come here legal. School here and you go down to school and get what you ’re supposed to get.…nobody can stop you from getting whatever you want. The only problem you have is if you’re illegal and you have people who are here illegal and they get what they want... Rahul said he felt it was important to tell his daughters not to forget history and to know what happens in society but no t to dwell on it. He said:


86 Sometimes I do tell them about you know I mention history, the slave trade, the imperial era. I mention to them because they should be aware of these things That’s history and you don’t forget history. You don’t dwell on it but at leas t you know what you’re out there against. Anita said she felt that in spite of ed ucation, racism still impacted her son’s opportunities, particularly in the job market. She said: Just by the fact that when you go for a job, you know people now are screening your names on your resume. You know if you’re named, uh, Sanjaya, Malakar, you’re probably not going to get that interview because they’re pr obably looking for somebody named Anita Hess [Anita’s name]… And America has a long rooted history into…the Caucasian Ameri can way of life and that people are coming here to take something away from them. Despite her belief that racism impacted her son’s opportunities, Anita expressed her view that education would open doors for h im. She said that education is, “a stepping stone for the door to be opened. And once that door is opened it’s your work, your attitude, it’s how you treat people.” The responses of three of the families in terviewed (23%) reflect ed a belief that racism was not an issue that impacted thei r children’s ability to make use of their education. Winnifred said she tells her son, …if you see it, it doesn’t apply to you, you turn and walk the other way. I don’t know any other way to do it. Because it’s not


87 something I contend with. I may go on an appointment and somebody may raise a question and I’ll say, well, that really doesn’t apply to me. It is alien to me where I come from and I really don’t want to learn about it. So, today’s agenda is... Evelyn did not view race as impacting he r daughter’s chances to get the full value of her education and felt it wa s her daughter’s choices that wo uld impact the value of her education. She said: I just tell her that what I’m lear ning myself, because I’m new. So, I tell her that what I understand here is that they give you a lot of rope to do anything you want to do but you could also hang yourself. Because the minute you make one mistake that’s it for you, you could be whoever, you could have so much money, the best house, whatever, you make one mistake and all that could be gone. So that you always have to understand that rope of trust. In Lauren’s case, it appeared that, because of her own experiences in the American workplace, she did not hold the belief that race impacted opportunities for career success in America. She said: …we try not to talk about that t oo much. Because I don’t have that problem. Because I do all types of hair, all types of hair. When people, especially the Caucasian people, see my operator’s chair, they watch me all the time, a nd they say, ‘Lauren, I don’t know you could do um, ethnic hair.’ And I say, of course, that’s where I


88 came from, that’s what I did al l my life…we really don’t have problems. She also noted that racism wa s not a topic that was discusse d in their family because of the great variety of ethnicities in her family and that of her husband’s family. She said: …my husband’s father was White and his mother was a Spanish woman from Trinidad. So, a bl ond hair blue-eyed man with a brown woman. And my husband he doe sn’t talk about stuff like that. We try not to because we’ve got everything, all mixed up, some married Indian spouses, some married black. My elder daughter her husband is half and ha lf, his father is black and his mother is white... Summary of Views of Public Schooling Overall, regarding the views of public e ducation in the U.S., several subjective validity claims (claims based on a respondent ’s views of reality) were foregrounded (explicitly articulated). The subjectivity and foregrounding of parents’ validity claims is apparent in their clearly expressed views th at public education in the U.S. is not as academically rigorous as education in the Caribbean or as they would desire it to be. In addition, parents clearly articu lated their belief that not enough homework was assigned by schools, sometimes noting that this was problematic because homework was an opportunity to reinforce skills and concepts taught in schoo l. Most parents viewed teachers as a positive part of the public schoo l process, while a few parents differed. Parents discussed teachers in positive terms, noting that th ey were partners in their children’s education and respons ive to their concerns. The small number of parents who


89 discussed teachers in negativ e terms viewed them as unc ommunicative or engaging in negative communications with parents. Parents also discussed their views of the behavior of children in Amer ican public schools; parents perceived children as badly behaved, largely due to their family environm ent. Parents overwhelmingly viewed public education in the U.S. as offering their chil dren opportunities for future success while some parents praised the resources that publ ic schools offered. Finally, although parents discussed racism as an issue, the majority of parents did not believe it would significantly impact the value of their children’s education and thei r ability to succeed. Question 2: What Expectations do West Indian Parents and Caregivers have about the American Schooling Process? Responses were analyzed and five themes (academics, behavior, moral values, teachers, and diversity of the curriculum) emerged that capture parents’ expectations of schooling in the U.S. The endorsement rates of these themes are reported in Table 5. Expectations about academics were the most endorsed theme (92%). In general, parents discussed expectations in the areas of academics, morals a nd values, teachers, behavior, and diversity of the curriculum. Overall, parents expected that schooling should focus on academics, particularly basic skills (reading, wr iting, and arithmetic). In contrast, some parents clearly expressed the be lief that they, and not the sc hools, were responsible for teaching morals and values (38%) and behavior (46%). Some participants expressed the view that the school should merely reinforce what was taught at home. In reference to teachers, parents (46%) expected teachers to care about student progress, assist students, and communicate with parents when there were any issues with student progress. In relation to diversity of the curriculum, some parents ( 38%) expressed the view that the

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90 curriculum of U.S. public schools needs to be broadened to focus more on topics like different cultures. Table 5 Themes from Expectations Themes Endorsement Rate Academics 92% Behavior 46% Teachers 46% Moral Values 38% Diversity of the curriculum 38% n = 13 Academics. When discussing expectations of sc hooling, parents’ responses most often centered on academics. Relative to academics, twelve families (92%) endorsed the idea that schools should focus on academics. Most emphasized the need for schools to focus on the basics and to provide a solid background in academic subjects. They saw this as forming a foundation for life-long learning. Many wanted a focus on reading, writing, and arithmetic, the basic skills. Corinne noted that she felt schools should focus on the basics, saying, “I want the schools to provide the children an edu cation, giving them the reading, writing, arithmetic.” In Shirley’s words, “The academic s, that’s their responsibility.” Asked what it was important for schools to provide his son, Clive said “academics, for him to learn to his fullest extent”. As Sunita and Rahul explained, “A solid background in academics, that’s the main thing. That’s the major thing to guide th em through college and through

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91 life because they have to have a solid bac kground to get through studies.” Anita noted that, “the basic skills are more important because you would need it long term.” She further explained: I think they need to reduce the cu rriculum and focus more on the basics of each subject, things like the lifelong items you’re going to need, like working out percentage, division, addition, subtraction, you know, square roo ting, basic math that you can apply to everything.” Winnifred defined the basics as the canon a nd discussed her puzzlement about what was not being covered in the curriculum at her son’s school, “…it blow s my mind that Alston at 14 had never done any Shakespeare. Not b ecause I did Shakespear e, but I think there is so much to be learned”. Nalini and Brian described their expectations that the basics be taught as well as an appreciation of the usef ulness of these skills: I also think that besides learni ng your basic math skills and you know science and all that …really instilling into these kids that earning an education in your early life will prepare you for other things in your later life [is important]. Like Nalini and Brian, Gregor y felt that the basics s hould be taught, but critical thinking should also be em phasized. He explained: …how to think, thought processes, that’s really important in school…not even just the fundamentals like reading and writing and all that stuff, but, to think. Because you have to think how to

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92 get from Point A to Point B, you still have to think about it. You know, how do you arrive at this answer, how do you do this, how do you do that. It’s all thought. While almost all the parents in the sample focused on academics in their discussion of their expectations of school, it is important to note that Evelyn differed from the rest of the sample. Although Ev elyn did discuss the importance of academics and her expectation that schools provide a “w ide exposure to everything that goes on in the world”, she also articulated an additional expectation of schools. In her words: Well, most importantly I think a school should encourage a good sense of self because this is wher e a child spends 8 hours at least a day. And they should be happy in a learning environment. They should be motivated to learn. Behavior. Behavior and discipline was anothe r topic that parents discussed relative to expectations. Fort y-six percent of parents (n =6) noted that they expected discipline and structure from the schools but s eemed to believe that schools should play more of a supportive than a primary role in teaching behavior. When asked about the school’s role in teaching behavior, Michae l said, “I think the school has a greater responsibility in reinfo rcing all of that”. Clive noted that, “enforcing discipline and behavior star ts at home.” Asked about her expectations, Shirley noted that she e xpected discipline to start at home but be reinforced at school. She said, “And disciplin e. You know I’m not expecting the school to do it because that starts at home, I have to do that.”

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93 Nalini and Brian also viewed the school ’s role in teaching behavior as a supportive one. They said, “It’s probably not their job but they should help because the kids spend a lot of time in school with teachers and that’s one of the things they should at least…put a lot of emphasis on…” Anita appeared to endorse a more equal role for schools and families in the teaching of behavior. Asked about the school’s role in teaching appropriate behavior, she stated: That’s both the school and the parents’ [responsibility]. The school has a responsibility to teach kids how to act in an environment where there are rules and regula tions and the parents have the responsibility to tell th e kids when you’re in that environment, you need to follow the rules. Teachers. Another focus of parent expectations was teachers. Forty-six percent of families (n=6) interviewed discussed expectations of teachers. Parents seemed to expect teachers to care about student learni ng and to communicate with parents regarding any issues relating to student progress. According to Shirley, “I expect good teachers…teachers that will be interested in the students and help them in whatever way they need.” Cecil stated that he expecte d, “Good, capable, informed teachers. Teachers who give, who care.” Lauren discussed her expect ations in terms of communi cation from teachers: I will expect that if a child is not paying attention in school that a teacher will write me a letter or get in touch with me somehow and

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94 say this child is not functioni ng and you need to do something about it. Michael also discussed the importance of teachers communicating with parents: ... So, if I’m a teacher and I’m teaching in a school and a child comes in and something might bye off, then I can say, let me… maybe meet with the parents, one on one, you know, consultation there and doing things to say I care. Gregory articulated his expect ations of how teachers shoul d treat struggling students: They should provide extra help because when they teach their curriculum sometimes they’re on a schedule and they’re just breezing along and that’s okay to a certain extent but then you get kids that get left behind. If a kid doesn’t understand something they need to have time allocated to help those kids. I think that’s extremely important. Morals and values. As previously discussed, parent s expected schools to focus on academics. Concurrent with the need for schools to focus on academics, thirty-eight percent of parents (n = 5) interviewed did not think that it was the responsibility of the schools to teach morals and values. Instead they saw this as the responsibility of the parents. Some parents thought that the sc hool should endorse sta ndards and codes taught at home. As Shirley explained, “Because th e morals and to be a decent person, I think that should come from the home. When he goes to school he should already have that. Academics are what they are there to teach th em.” May agreed with this, saying that the teacher’s job was to teach academics and that “The teacher’s duty is not to teach the

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95 children manners; children must have manne rs going into school. Children must have principles, quality of life going into school.” Parents seemed to perceive the school’s role as enforcing standards and codes taught at home. As Clive explained: School is an enforcer of what is expected, whether they are going to conform is up to…what is accepted at home. School can enforce certain standards and codes, the uniform has to be a certain way, you’re not allowed to talk dur ing class, raise your hand to ask a question…that kind of thing. Corinne agreed with this notion, sa ying, “…I want them to provide an environment where what I’m doing at home is supported by the school system.” Winnifred commented, “Morals, values, it falls on me, it’s my responsibility.” Diversity of the curriculum. Thirty-eight percent of th e parents interviewed (n=3) indicated that they felt public schools needed to increase the divers ity of the curriculum relative to different parts of the world, differe nt cultures, and different religions. Cecil commented on the lack of information about different cultures and other parts of the world, “Do they teach Geography here? I don’t see it in the high schools and the middle schools.” Gregory commented that schools should teach about “…more diverse, cultural things, that’s what I want to see more of. I want to see them do more about educating the kids about different cultures a nd religions…that’s important.” Two of the three Hindu families in the study commented that although schools were supposed to be free of religion, they often covered content, particularly near

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96 holidays, that addressed Christian and Jewish holidays but not holidays associated with other religions. For example, Sunita and Rahul felt that all religions should be addressed in the curriculum, not just Judaism a nd Christianity. Sunita commented: One of the things America prides itse lf on is the fact that they have so many cultures so many races here from other places. The people that my children associate th emselves with are the adults of tomorrow. And if within a safe e nvironment they are not taught to respect my daughter who’s sitting in the next desk, then it’s probably something that they will never be taught and they will always look at her as being diffe rent and having a different value system just because they don’t understand. They’ve never had the exposure, they’ve neve r had the opportunity. Anita also discussed the lack of attention to different cultures in school. In her words: Things are just very bland, there’ s no culture in the schools…[back home] we have Carnival in school s, it’s not a big deal for the students to play steel pan, it’s a national instrument. But in America there’s so much focus on it just being bland. You can’t introduce any of those cultural things in schools. Kids don’t have, they don’t experience culture in school, whatsoever. Summary of Expectations of the American Schooling Process Overall, parent expectations centered on academics, morals and values, teachers, behavior, and diversity of the curriculum. Examination of the expectations parents

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97 articulated reveals several explicit normative-evaluative validity claims. Relative to academics, participants explicitly expressed their belief that academics are the central mission of schooling and that, for the most part, academics should focus on the basics (reading, writing, math). In the area of morals and values and behavior, a minority of the participants clearly expressed their belief that they are responsible for imparting these to their children and not the schools. Similarly, in the area of behavior, some parents seem to hold the belief that schools should reinfor ce what has been taught at home. Almost one-half of the parents seemed to hold the belief that teachers s hould care about student learning, be responsible for monitoring stude nt progress and assi sting students, and communicate with parents about student progress. Finally, in the area of diversity of the curriculum, some parents endorsed the belief th at the curriculum of U.S. schools needs to be broadened to take into account topics like differe nt religions and diffe rent parts of the world, and different cultures. Question 3: What are the Beliefs of West Indian Parents and Care givers in the United States about the Roles they should play in their Children’s Schooling Process? To address this question, participants we re asked to share their beliefs about the roles they should play in two specific asp ects of their children’ s schooling: progress monitoring and school-based involvement (d efined as Parent-Teacher Association membership, membership in any other school based organizations volunteering in any school-based organizations volunt eering in the classroom). Participants’ responses were analyzed and one theme, teaching behaviors for school success, emerged that captures parents’ beliefs about the role they should play in their children’s schooling. The endorsement rate of this theme was 61% (n = 8).

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98 Overall, participants reported that it was important to monitor their children’s progress in school and be involved in school-based ac tivities. However, while participants noted that they engaged in progr ess monitoring behaviors, most reported that they did not engage in any form of school-b ased involvement. Regarding the teaching of behaviors for school success, participants reported that they taught their children behaviors (e.g., applying themselves) that they believed would help them succeed in school. Progress monitoring. All parents reported that it was important to communicate with teachers about their children’s progress a nd they played this ro le in thei r children’s education. In discussing the relative im portance of volunteering in schools versus checking up on his son’s progress, Clive said: Volunteering is supporting the schoo l but that is second to you really keeping track of what’s goi ng on in school, what’s going on with your kid while they’re in school, where they are vs. where they should be and so on. Asked about monitoring their children’s pr ogress in school, Nalin i and Brian said: Very important, you should always know what their progress is at all times. Every week they get their papers and we [ask] why did you get an S for Satisfactory, instead of an E for Excellent? And [we say] you know, you’re going to have to do that again. Asked about the importance of checking on her son’s progress Winnifred stated, “It’s paramount important. That’s his job and I am his mother. And I’m going to be the parent until he’s an adult.”

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99 Shirley shared her views of progress monitoring: If your child is in school and you want to know how that child is doing, you have to call the teachers. You have to make that first move. I know they send home a progress report, and I know you get your report cards. But in th e middle between that time, you as a parent, have to show some interest. School-based involvement. The families interviewed unanimously said that school based involvement was important. At the same time, only three of the families interviewed (23%) reported engaging in so me form of school-based involvement. Generally, participants attribut ed their lack of school-based parent involvement to time and distance constraints. Obst acles to parent involvement ar e discussed in detail in the reporting of the results fo r Research Question Five. Anita and Michael are examples of two parents who regarded school-based forms of involvement as important. Anita explained, “I think it’s important because parents can watch what the teachers are doing and see if th e school is falling behind and they can be a…parent advocate in what’s going on.” Like, Anita, Michael viewed school based involvement as important. He said, that it is, “Absolutely importa nt…it’s going to give you a pride in self and a pride in parent to see how involved they are with your development in school or upbringing.” As previously noted, three of the families interviewed engaged in school based forms of involvement, Sunita and Gregory are two such examples. Sunita discussed her school-based involve ment and her view of its importance: I think it’s very important, I know that when I go into the

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100 classroom and Devika sees me she gets a sudden lift, which is nice. And I know that the teachers, they always need the help. And then if I have a concern or just somethi ng that I want a little bit of extra information I can usually get it when I make that trip in the school, I think that makes me have a clos er relationship with the teacher. Gregory, who was not a member of the PT As at his daughters’ schools, discussed the forms of school based involvement in which he engages: I’m on the school advisory council. I’ve gone in and given speeches and lectured at her car eer day… and the Great American Teach In they call it at Justine’ s school. Brought my uniforms, put it on the kids, took pictures of them in uniform and stuff like that. So, that’s my volunteering. He went on to discuss his view of the importa nce of school-based forms of involvement: Extremely, extremely [important]. Why? Because you want to have your finger on the pulse. You want to be there, you want to be a part of it. You want to see what your kids are being taught. You want to make sure that they’re being taught. And also it inspires the kid too to see the parent there and getting involved. Teaching behaviors for school success. Sixty-one percent of the parents interviewed (n=8) believed it was an important part of their role to teach their children behaviors that would help them succeed in school and engaged in teaching their children these behaviors. This included behavior s for doing well in school such as expending

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101 their best effort, time management, and appr opriate classroom behavior. For instance, Clive said he tells his son: …don’t shortchange yourself, if you can get an A, get the A, don’t get the B, because you’re lazy. Really work hard, there’s no, no excuse to get a B when you can get an A, especially when I know you can do it…. Don’t accept mediocrity. Corinne said she actually focuses on help ing her daughter develop the skills she needs for school success. Based on advice from a guidance counselor, Corinne was focused on helping her daughter develop skills important to school su ccess, specifically time management. She stated, “So, I’m traini ng her. I’m working with her on her time management and it’s a challenge.” Among the parents who endorsed the idea that teaching behaviors for school success was an important part of their ro le, some focused on appropriate classroom behaviors. Lauren said she tells her daughter: I try my best to put Irina in a good position to tell her to sit up front, pay attention, to always tr y to be in the teacher’s good book, so that they will see you as somebod y who is willing to learn. And that is what in my country we try to do. Like Lauren, May focused on talking to her grandchildren about appropriate classroom behavior for school succes s. For example she tells them: [If you have] your attitude strai ght, you’ll surprise teacher. So whether [the] teacher will like you from Day 1 or not, doesn’t matter. If you can go and prove yourself, say to yourself, I’m

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102 going to show them I’m here to le arn, your duty is here to teach me, and if I’m going to learn you have to mark my books, you have to give me the grades I de serve. So, dem [them] can say, boy I don’t like him and I’m dying for him to get out of my class, but man he’s good. Summary of Beliefs about Roles in their Children’s Schooling Process In sum, examination of parent respon ses about the roles they believed it was important to play in their ch ildren’s education revealed se veral explicitly articulated normative-evaluative and subjec tive validity claims. All pare nts expressed the view that it was important to communicate with schools regarding their children’s progress and actively monitored their children’s progress in school. In addition, all parents expressed the view that school-based fo rms of involvement were impor tant, although most did not engage in this type of involvement. Obstacl es to parent involveme nt are discussed in detail in the reporting of the results for Research Question Fi ve. Finally, a majority of parents believed it was important to teach th eir children behaviors that would lead to school success (e.g., time management) and en gaged in teaching them these behaviors. Question 4: What is the Nature of the Invo lvement that West Indi an Parents Report with regard to their Children’s Schoolin g Process in the United States? Analysis of responses revealed six themes that captured the nature of parents’ non school-based involvement in their children’s sc hooling process. These themes were: 1) homework assistance, 2) monitoring homewo rk completion, 3) parent assigned academic work, 4) progress monitoring-interim me thods, 5) progress monitoring-report cards/conferences, and 6) outside resources. Th e endorsement rates of these themes are

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103 reported in Table 6. Homework assistance, progress monitoring-interim methods, and provision of outside resources were endorsed by approximately 75% of the participants. In general, parents were very active in non-school based forms of involvement (e.g., homework assistance and progress mon itoring using interim methods). Most reported that they often helped their ch ildren with homework completion. A few indicated that while they m onitored homework completion, they did not assist their children in completing their homework. A minority of parents provided additional academic work for their children, either because they perceived the curriculum as lacking in coverage of some areas or because they believed their children needed additional assistance in an academic skill area. All parents interviewed reported that they monitored their children’s progress, whether by using repo rt cards, emails to teachers, or the online system the district provided. Finally, parents often used outside resources such as tutors to support their ch ildren’s learning. Table 6 Themes from Types of Parent Involvement in Schooling Themes Endorsement Rate Homework assistance 76% Monitoring homework completion 30% Parent assigned academic work 46% Progress monitoring-interim methods 76% Progress monitoringreport cards/ conferences 23% Provision of outside resources 76% n = 13

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104 Homework assistance. The majority of families interviewed (n=11) indicated that they supported their children’s learning th rough assistance with homework completion and school projects. Clive described the assistance he gives his son: Well, I pretty much help him with the math, you know when he has problems, like [when] he was doing Geometry. So we’ll sit down on a Sunday evening and we’ll work some problems out or I’ll show him a different approach [based on] how I was taught, how to work the problem… Brian and Nalini indicated that they bot h help with homework. Brian said, “Oh, we help them with homework.” Rahul said that assistance with homew ork is a common occurrence for him and Sunita. He said, “Homework. We help th em with their homework. We always get on their cases with the homework.” Sunita elaborated on this saying, That’s part of the reason why I’m a stay-at-home mom. By the time they come home in the eveni ng, I’ve pretty much got time to be able to help them…we’ll get to it at some point in the evening. And if it’s something that I can’ t deal with, then Rahul’s math ability is better so he’ll help with it. Anita noted that she and her husband invest a lot of time assisting their children with homework completion: I’ve handled it on a week by week basis… just focusing on making sure that they accomplish the tasks and they have a thorough knowledge of what they’re doing. Even when the teacher’s

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105 teaching them, spending one week on one topic, we come home in the evening and actually spend 2 hours every day going over the work, because the kids don’t understand it. Monitoring homework completion. A minority of the families (30%) indicated that they did not assist with homework completion, but that they did engage in monitoring the completion of homework. Even for these parents/guardians, they noted that they contributed some sm all measure of assistance, par ticularly with the completion of projects. Corinne, for instance, said sh e does not assist her daughters with homework as she was told when her daughter was in early elementary school by her daughter’s teacher that she should not assist her. As a result, Corinne noted that, “Since the woman told me not to, I do not help my kids with homework. I might provide guidanc e, like I do when my daughter has a project, we talk about it. I tr y to take it to the next level. Lauren noted that she is unable to assist her daughter Irina with homework, saying, “Well, I cannot help her at all, I just cannot help her. I’m fr om the old school and this is the new school.” However, like Corinne, La uren noted that she assisted her daughter with completing projects. She explained, “If she has a project and she wants me to draw something or help her make something I used to do that, especially in middle school and sometimes in high school… I did help her w ith that.” Asked about the monitoring of homework completion, Lauren said, “I ju st ask her if she did her homework.” Evelyn was a parent who had recently immigrated to the United States. She noted several times during the interview that she ha d been told by her children and had learned

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106 from experiences she had with a son in co llege that in America parents were not supposed to “hover”. She said: For example, I would be what you would call a helicopter parent, all Caribbean parents are helicopte r parents…we hover, we tend to be interested, we want to know. Bu t here the system is you are not supposed to hover, you’re not supposed to do those things unless you’re asked, you know unless your children say, “Mom come along with me.” Based on this understanding, Evelyn did not pl ay as active a role in her daughter’s schooling as did many of the othe r parents interviewed. Evelyn noted that she is asked to sign papers saying that her daughter complete d her homework but because the system is such that you’re not supposed to “hover”, she really doesn’t know what her daughter is doing. She said: You know, having learned from my other three children that I’m not supposed, to [hover] I tend to just ask her, are you doing your homework, or [tell her] get off the computer, or stop watching television. That’s my role as a parent…And if she has a project that she has to complete on time I would encourage her to get it done, I would help her. I would he lp her cut out stuff, get the magazines that she needs. Parent-assigned academic work. In addition to assisti ng and/or monitoring homework completion, some of the parents ( 46%) also provided their children additional academic work. The reasons for this appeared to be either addressing perceived

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107 inadequacies in the school curriculum or a ddressing perceived inade quacies in a child’s skills. In Anita’s case, she believed that th e writing instruction gi ven to her high schoolaged son, Nathaniel, was inadequate. She di scussed her views and how she is addressing this perceived inadequacy: …for high school I think there’s not enough focus on writing, there are not enough writing assignments ...So, we’ve worked with him a lot to teach him the basics of English, and… punctuation and capitalization…good sentence structure, how to write an essay… Michael noted that he belie ves his son’s reading needs to improve and discussed how he has approached this issue: I just think that his reading is a problem so I wanted him to move it up a notch from where it was… I think you have to read everyday…[so] I’ve bought him several books. Everyday that he comes home I encourage him to do at least half an hour of reading because I think it’s imperative. May also noted that she was concerne d about her granddaughter’s reading and was also concerned about the fact that all her grandchildren did not r ead as much as they should. Asked if her concern for her gra nddaughter was based on a concern the teacher expressed, May responded, “No they never complained, because she gets such good grades in school. She made the Honor Roll, pur e As.”. However, May noted she was still concerned and discussed the reasons for her c oncerns and what she had done to address the problem.

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108 I think Nadia’s weak point is r eading. And sometimes I think she reads but she na [doesn’t] understan d. None of them read. If I’m at home on a weekend I don’t see th em reading and I think they should get interested, pick up the paper, read the sport news, the news. With Christopher, they ha d a special assignment from a teacher, they had to read 20 minutes a day, it’s a subject, and when he went to that class, he had to expound on what he read. And I told them they all had to do it…all of them. I try to get them to read at least 20 minutes a day. As noted previously (in the respons e to Research Question 3), parents unanimously endorsed the importance of mon itoring their children’s progress in school and engaged in these behaviors. However, pa rents differ in the ways they monitored their children’s progress in school. Progress monitoringinterim methods. Most parents (n=10) used report cards and conference nights to mon itor their children’s progress but also used “interim methods,” that is methods that would give them feedback in between report cards and parent conferences. These methods consiste d mostly of emailing teachers and using the online system their children’s district has se t up for parents to check on student progress. Cecil showed the researcher a page of his planner where he tracked his son’s classes, teachers, and grades on each assignment. Asked where he got this information, he responded, “I get it, I call the teacher, I go and I talk to the teacher, I don’t wait until there is a problem.”

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109 Asked how she monitors her children’s pr ogress in school, Anita noted that aside from using report cards and parent conferen ces, she uses homework. She stated, “When they get homework, if they’re able to do it a nd how much help they need and where they need help. You know constantly just, supervision.” Shirley noted that she monitors her s on’s progress by emailing teachers. She explained, “I would call the te achers or email them. It’s mostly email…how is [he] doing in this class? Is he keeping up with hi s homework? And then they would respond.” Michael discussed his use of the online sy stem to monitor his son’s progress: [I check] via computer because everything is online. I’m checking the actual book …the online sy stem… that’s geared for the assignments and if the assignments are completed. Because if they aren’t then [the online system will] let you know that it hasn’t been. Winnifred also noted that she uses the di strict’s online system to check her son’s homework completion, “He will do his hom ework because I will check, Edline and Edline shows that the homework is not missi ng.” She also talked about communicating with teachers about her son’s progress. She said, “And I always will email his teachers to say, hey how are things going, what do you need me to do, you need me in any way? What are you doing now?” Progress monitoring-report cards/conferences. A few parents (23%) indicated that they relied solely on report cards and parent conferences to track their children’s progress in school. Asked how she monitors her daughter Irina’ s progress in school,

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110 Lauren responded, “Well, she gets her progress report and that’s what I see, so that’s basically it.” In keeping with her understanding of the ro le parents are supposed to play in their children’s schooling in the U. S., Evelyn described her met hod of progress monitoring. She said, “I ask to see report cards… And I’ve been to two of her Teachers Day, no what it is it? Parents Day, whatever day that you go in and talk to the teachers.” Provision of outside resources. Most parents (76%) provid ed outside resources to support their children’s learning. This usually consisted of tutoring. Winnifred noted that her son receives tutoring on Saturdays: Every Saturday morning he goes for private tutoring. I have a gentleman where if he runs into a little bit of a difficulty with math, I can call that gentleman and take him and he will give him private lessons. Michael noted that for his son, math is an issue and, “…that’s why we ended up with Miss Nadine’s class [a Saturday morni ng tutorial program in math provided by the Caribbean Cultural Association], doing the math on a Saturday.” Evelyn also noted that she utilizes the “tutorial program” for her daughter. Shirley noted that tutoring is a resource she uses for her son: …if he needs help in anything and we cannot help him I make sure that I find a way and a resource for him. The computer is there and if that cannot [help], I find some tutor. If he needs tutoring, it’s there.

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111 Unlike other families who used the Saturday tutorial program or private tutors, Anita utilized online resources: We’re signed up with Edhelper and Edhelper pretty much mirrors the school curriculum and the work they’re doing. So if they get homework or they’re doing a topic we can go on to Edhelper and print out that sheet and give them a little bit more exposure to it, because it’s not enough in the school. In contrast to the other parents whos e use of outside resources focused on academics, Sunita and Rahul utilized outside resources to focus on non-academic areas in which they believed the curriculu m in their daughter’s school was lacking. Sunita said: …like I said music I don’t believe is covered well within the school curriculum so we involve th em in music classes outside the school. Devika is learning to play the harmonium. And…Cerise we give her art classes outside of school because it’s something she enjoys but it’s not covered well within her curricula. Summary of Involvement in the Schooling Process In sum, analysis of the types of actual involvement parents re ported reveal several subjective, objective, and normative-evaluative validity claims. Most parents reported that they engaged in assisting their child ren with homework co mpletion. A minority indicated that while they monitored the comple tion of homework, they did not assist their children in completing their homework. A sm all group also reported that they assigned their children academic work in addition to what was assigned for school. Parents explicitly communicated that th ey did this because they di d not believe that the school

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112 curriculum adequately covered some importa nt areas or because they believed that, regardless of teacher evaluation, their children were lacking in some skill area. All participants interviewed mon itored their children’s progress in school. For a minority of parents, this was limited to examining report cards and speaking to teachers on conference nights. However, for the majority of parents (n=10), this meant using interim methods such as communicating with teachers by email and using the district’s online system. Finally, parents used outside resour ces to support their ch ildren’s learning, most often in the form of tutoring. Question 5: What Obstacles do West Indian Parents report with regard to their Efforts to become Involved in their Children’s Schooling Process in the United States? On the topic of obstacles to involvement in their children’s schooling, five themes emerged from the interviews: 1) logistical barriers, 2) lack of familiarity, 3) attitudes towards cultural differences, 4) exclusion from-decision-making, and 5) approach. The endorsement rates of these themes are reported in Table 7. The most frequently endorsed themes were logistical barriers and lack of familiarity. Overall, most parents identified logistic al barriers (defined as lack of time, distance from school, work schedules) as an obstacle to engaging in school-based forms of involvement. A minority of parents noted th at logistical barriers were an obstacle to engaging in activities like assisting with hom ework completion. A little over one-half of the parents interviewed cited lack of familiarity with the U.S. public school system as an obstacle to their involvement in their child ren’s education. Most discussed “lack of familiarity” as an obstacle in relation to acce ssing resources in the school system. Most parents did not view attitudes toward cultu ral differences encountered in U.S. public

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113 schools as an obstacle to their involveme nt. Although a few parents encountered negative attitudes towards cultural differen ces in the public schools, only one parent explicitly discussed this as an obstacle. A limited numb er of parents viewed their exclusion from decision-making (e.g., regarding course selection at the high school level) about their children’s education as an obstacle. Finally, implicit in the responses of two parents interviewed was an approach to school s that appears to ha ve functioned as an obstacle to their involvement in their children’s schooling. Table 7 Themes from Obstacles to Pare nt Involvement in Schooling Themes Endorsement Rate Logistical barriers 100% Lack of familiarity 53% Attitudes towards cultural differences 15% Exclusion from decision-making 15% Approach 15% n = 13 Logistical barriers. Almost all parents (92 %) cited logistical barriers (defined as lack of time, distance from school, work sche dules) as a barrier to being more actively involved in their children’s school ing. For most parents (76% ), logistics was an obstacle only for engaging in school-based form of i nvolvements such as participating in the PTA and volunteering in the classroom. Asked if she was involved with the PTA a ssociations at her daughters’ schools, Corinne said, “I don’t, I don’t. I do financial contributions and I’ve told teachers, “If you

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114 need anything, call me, I do not have the time.” Asked about obstacles to her involvement in the PTA, she said, “Work schedules, work schedules, my husband and I work very demanding jobs.” Lauren also c ited her work schedule as a barrier to schoolbased forms of involvement, sa ying, “I can’t, the time for me the time factor for me is…because Monday alone is my day off, S unday and Monday that is.” Like other parents, Winnifred cited lack of time as a barrier to engaging in school-based forms of involvement. She noted, “It’s a function of time. I don’t have the time. I’m a single income household and it rests on my shoulders I’d have to give up something to do that.” Sunita noted that, although she was a st ay-at-home mother and had time, driving distance to one of her daughter’s schools was an obstacle, “Well, because it’s so far, you know, it would take half a day for me just to spend just half an hour in her school.” Two parents reported logistics as an obstacle to them engaging in other forms of parent involvement, as well. For instance, asked about obstacles to being more involved in her daughter Irina’s education, Lauren di scussed how her work schedule impacts her ability to be involved: My work schedule is bad. Because my work starts from 12 ’o clock in the day till 8 ’o cloc k at night. I take her to school and then prepare meals and then go to work. So, I’m kind of lost in her life from 3 o clock when she gets here until 8 o‘clock at night; I don’t know what she’s doing. May contrasted the role she played in the life of her first grandchild compared to the ones she is currently raising, noting that sh e has not had the time to be as involved as

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115 she was with her first grandchild. She explai ned, “I used to go for her [Brianna’s] PTA because I didn’t have the shop but I didn’t ha ve the time to get involved with these ones…” May also discussed how her work schedule impacted her ability to monitor her grandchildren’s completion of academic work. She required her grandchildren to read 20 minutes daily because she felt it was important for them and she noted that her evening employment prevented her from monitoring complia nce with this rule. She said, “I try to get them to read at least a 20 minutes a da y but you know when you’re not there, it’s hard. You call on the phone and dem [the m] tell you say dem [them] reading.” Lack of familiarity. Approximately one-half the parents interviewed (n=7) cited lack of familiarity with the American school sy stem as an obstacle to their involvement in their children’s education. Corinne discussed her lack of familiarity with a basic component of the American public school system, grade levels: With the first child it definitely impacted us…the information was there. For example I had to learn with Sara, first of all, grades, I can’t even get this 1st grade, 2nd grade thing figured out. I still have to count. What year is she goi ng to graduate if she’s in 11th grade? That is something that is only now part of my vocabulary. Corinne also talked about how her and her husband’s lack of familiarity with the American school system caused them to miss out on opportunities for one of her daughters: I had no clue about the American school system. My older daughter Sonia signed up for the IB [International Baccalaureate]

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116 program and we didn’t know all the things we had to go through…that teachers [needed to] do the recommendations. The school… they assumed that we had all this information that we knew, but we didn’t… She went on to note that their lack of knowledge negatively impacted Sonia’s application to the IB program, “We didn’t fo llow all the steps, we missed deadlines, we missed stuff; we didn’t know anything.” As a result of the missed deadlines and materials, Sonia did not gain entry into the IB program. Anita discussed how her lack of familia rity with the American school system impacted her ability to prepare adequately for the academic parts of her son’s school experience: I don’t know what to expect. Like at different stages, what’s going to go on, or what’s required of the students. And if I had been in the system, I would understand it better. You know, I would be prepared for high school right now and I’m not. Like I didn’t know that Nathaniel’ school had an IB pr ogram and what IB was, and if I was an American I would have known what that was. Anita also discussed her lack of knowledge abou t the social parts of her son’s high school experience: I probably should know the value of a football game but I don’t. And you know I haven’t developed my son playing football, you know…the all-American sport. My son has never been to baseball game, or a football game, or a ba sketball game. Because we’re not

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117 socially in tune with that, maybe if we had, maybe we can be more accepting of it. In the case of Winnifred, her lack of familiarity impacted her ability to be involved with her son’s education, particul arly in the area of decision-making. She articulated her view that this lack of familia rity partially stemmed from the fact that she sent her son to a private elementary school: It does impact [me]. I don’t know the system and I have tried to work through…and if I knew it I th ink I could be better. But I don’t. And I didn’t start out with public school from the get-go. So, I feel handicapped in some ways. Asked if being an immigrant played a role in her lack of familiarity, Winnifred seemed hesitant to confirm this but agreed upon clos er reflection: I think what impedes me doesn’t ha ve to do with the fact that I’m an immigrant, that doesn’t affect me. That contradicts what I said earlier, that I don’t know the system But let me not say that I don’t know the system because I’m an immigrant. I don’t know the system because (long pause) Well, I guess I don’t know the system partly because I’m an i mmigrant…I’m learning the system as I go along. More specifically, Winnifred believed that her lack of familiarity negatively impacted her ability to make the best choices for her son. She said that her lack of familiarity had probably resulted in her making a bad deci sion for her son as she bought a house in a

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118 neighborhood that was rezoned, resulting in he r son attending a school which she did not hold in high regard: But I wish I knew the system to be able to help the teachers better, help him better, and choose better for him. Like if I knew that he was going to go to that school, I would never have bought that house. But I didn’t know that …the y were going to rezone it that way. In Cecil’s case, when asked about challe nges he faces in be ing involved in his son’s education, Cecil noted that there we re many things about the American school system that were unfamiliar and difficult for him to understand. For example, he discussed differences in grading: The school system here is different, I’m used to forms and a totally different level. And…the grade system. When you get reports and the progress reports, how can you fluctuate from a D to an A? When you get a D back in the Cari bbean, boy to get that thing back up to a B. (Laughs). If you got a D, there was no way you’d get an A [later]. You went down to a D for a reason and the chances of you getting back up to an A was near impossible. Here I’ve seen kids come from an F, a D back to an A. I’m like what in the world did you do, you know somebody? How is that possible? Or because of the curve, or some crap like that. Curve? We didn’t have any curve.

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119 Attitudes Towards Cultural Differences Parents were asked if they encountered di fferential treatment in their interaction with schools because of attitudes regarding culture and whether this functioned as an obstacle to their involvement w ith their children’s education. Thirty percent of parents (n=4) reported that they encountered negative attitudes to cultural differences in the schools. However, only two families reported th at this constituted an obstacle to their involvement. Anita explicitly discussed attit udes relating to cultural differences as an obstacle to her involvement in her children’ s education. Asked what challenges she’s experienced, she said: Well, going back to that culture thing. I mean when you go to the school, you know, the teacher sees y ou and immediately they form an opinion of you. You don’t have that fair shake of being a Caucasian, that they’re going to take you seriously. You have to prove your point to them... I think they still have that attitude, you come to America and you need to speak English and understand America. Anita noted that being a minority “…is de finitely a barrier” and that “…you’re treated differently, because you have to prove yourself, every time you go in there, what you’re saying.” In contrast to Anita, Brian and Nalini expr essed that they never felt they had been treated differently by school staff. They said, “Maybe some communities, you know, depends where you live in the United States probably. But where we live we’ve never experienced that.” Although Brian and Na lini did not explicitly say that negative

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120 attitudes to cultural differences were an obs tacle to their involvement, their statements about the home-school relationship and an inte raction they had with their son’s teacher seem to suggest this. Brian discussed his views (and Nalini concurre d) that the school’s attitude toward cultural differences was a barrier to a cl oser home-school relati onship and that the relationship would be closer if teachers and schools were more sensitive to cultural differences: …the teachers should be more i nvolved and more aware of the different type of cultures and their religion and their backgrounds…and be mindful of those when they teach, for example, Christmas. Even though this country was founded on Christianity, today it’s a time of diversity. They should, they should put as much emphasis on other religious occasions, like [they do] Christmas. Nalini noted that when she had concerns about the teaching of information about Christmas and no other religious holidays she felt uncomfortable talking to the teacher about the issue and as a result decided not to approach her. She said, “I did, I did feel uncomfortable to approach them so that was one of the reasons why I pulled back.” Asked why she had felt that it was best not to discuss her concerns with the teacher, she had difficulty articulating the source of her discomfort: You know, I…what answer can I give fo r that, I just felt that like, I just felt very, I don’t know how I’m going to do this, because what

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121 if they say, because they do touc h upon it, but I don’t want them to, I don’t know what I… Lauren noted that she had encountered di fferential treatment in different places, including her daughter’s schools. However, she did not view it as an obstacle to her involvement: That has been an experience for me all the time, even on my job…I just don’t bother with it.: Static, …yes, because from the time you open your mouth they know you’re not from here, you know and that’s basically the major br eakdown… you know it’s like, you’re from somewhere else…Oh, you just come to take piece of the American pie. Sunita noted that she had encountered negative attitudes relating to cultural differences in the schools and that, in this respect, schools merely reflected what was present in the larger society. Sunita also arti culated that she did not allow this to be an obstacle to her involvement in her children’s schools: It’s something that’s so ingr ained…But you know that sometimes you will walk up to somebody and you feel like you wait a little longer than maybe a person who looked different, spoke differently, and it’s something that ’s so ingrained in society. You know you go to a store and suddenly it takes 5 minutes longer [for them] to come and deal with you. So, it’s something that is in society everywhere… I don’t think it ’s particular to school, but I don’t think the school deals with it any better than society does.

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122 It’s not an obstacle to me because I’ve dealt with it my whole life. I don’t expect any better…you work around it. You know you have to wait 2 minutes longer. You know that’s what you have to do. The rest of the parents interviewed note d that they had never encountered any negative attitudes towards cultural differences or that they had actually encountered positive attitudes. For instance, asked about encounters with differential treatment, Shirley said, “No, no. And I’m being an honest No, it has never [happened].” Michael said, “No, and again I wouldn’t even lie, no, no.” Evelyn said that in her experience teachers and school staff “…have respect for the Caribbean culture…” and that she had “heard many teachers say that the West Indian students are very good students, that they are model students.” Exclusion from decision-making. Two families discussed the way decisions were made at school as an obstacle to their involve ment in their child’s education. They noted that school staff sometimes ex cluded parents from decisions in which they thought they should be involved. Winnifred discussed her dissatisfaction with an experience she had when her son Alston was in middle school. In essence, her son was allowed to choose, without her input, an academic track for his high school years and c hoose a less academic track than she wanted him to choose: This is a big problem I’ve had w ith Alston being in public school. Decisions that are not child appropr iate are left to the children. They say on one hand that they want parents involved but on the other hand they do things quite the opposite…I can remember when Alston was in middle school and he had to make his career

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123 choice… when the time came for that choice, that choice was made completely without me….basically, he completed [a] form. Based on this experience, when her son was in middle school, Winnifred attempted to become more involved in the decision-making process when he was in high school: Having learnt my lesson that that ’s the way it goes, I know when it came down to high school, no it just cannot happen that way. So I called up the high school and requested an appointment with the counselor to select his courses. And she said no, she cannot meet with me, she has to meet with Alston…Essentially she told me that he will make his choices and then he will bring home the form for me to sign. And I said no, you’re putting the buggy before the horse. It just cannot be. He is a child. He cannot make choices that are long term for career, he ju st cannot. I as his parent, I need to be involved. She says, well it is his choice. So I insisted, I said no, not with my child. Cecil reported having a similar prob lem with regard to his son: You know [as] a high school stude nt, my son would come home and say, “Dad, we’ve figured out what we’re doing next year.” I said, “We, I didn’t have the option. Who sat down with you and chose those courses?” “Oh, the c ounselor.” I said, “No Drew, no. You bring it home, we sit down and we will look into what classes we’ll be doing next year.”

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124 Cecil articulated that he felt such an experi ence was different from the way things were back home. Approach. While the majority of the parents who participated in this study reported a positive relationship with their chil dren’s schools, two families described their relationship with their children’s schools in overwhelmingly negative terms. Closer examination of their responses revealed a difference in how they approached the relationship with schools. For these two pa rents, their approach to their children’s schools appeared to function as an obstacle fo r them. In comparison to the other families interviewed, these two families, Lauren and Michael, were the only two to describe their relationship with their children’s schools in mo stly negative terms. Analysis of their interview responses reveals implicit normative-evaluative claims about the responsibilities of parents in relation to school s, claims that differ from the other families interviewed. In comparison to the other pa rents interviewed, Michae l and Lauren tended to place more responsibility on schools for communicating with them about their children’s progress and building a closer rela tionship. For instance, the majority of parents interviewed believed it was their re sponsibility to constantly check on their children’s progress, using methods like emails to teachers. In contrast, implicit in Lauren’s responses was the belief that the sc hool was responsible for contacting her if her child did badly: I will expect that if a child is not paying attention in school that a teacher will write me a letter or get in touch with me somehow and say this child is not functioni ng and you need to do something about this or the child did not pa ss this test; she needs to go to

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125 night school or evening classe s or something, and make it mandatory. But they don’t do that. It ’s just like, they do or they don’t do, they fail or they don’ t fail, it doesn’t matter. This is again evident when Lauren said of her daughter’s school, “…and I spoke to some of them, they seemed nice and I sai d, well, if there’s a pr oblem with Irina, you can give me a call and they never did.” Im plicit in Michael’s responses was the belief that the school was responsible for contact ing him when his son began to experience difficulty. He discussed his inter actions with his son’s school: And I say that to say that James fell back in school, wasn’t doing his work. [And] there’s no one to say his homework wasn’t done. They said there were methods, check on line but nobody to call to say, this is a concern, we need to address it [italics added]. They waited until we addressed it. And then it became a problem. Michael went on to discuss hi s expectation regarding what the school should do with a child struggling academically: So, if I’m a teacher and I’m teaching in a school and child comes in and something might be off, then I can say, let me pull you aside, see what’s going on, maybe meet with the parents, one on one, you know, consultation there, a nd doing things to say I care. The school has to provide that. Asked about the home-school relationship, other families often noted that schools were doing enough and that it was the parent s’ responsibility to forge a closer

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126 relationship. Cecil’s and Sh irley’s comments about the hom e-school relationship reflect the views of most of the pare nts interviewed. Cecil said: And the majority of the time it’s the parents who don’t reach out to the school…which teacher doesn’t want to know about a student’s parent? But they don’t have time to pick up that phone and call you. It’s up to you as a parent. So when you ask me if the relationship should be closer, yes it should, but you know what, parents need to make the move. They need to be a little more proactive. Asked if there should be a closer ho me-school relationship, Shirley said: Yeah, there should be. You know parents should communicate more with the teachers. I mean [with] Alex’s school, the teachers, if you need them to, then they’ll communicate with you. You as a parent have to make the first ste p, I think. And then the teachers will follow. In contrast, when she was asked if there should be a closer home-school relationship and how it should be achieved, Lauren appeared to assign the school more responsibility in buildin g this relationship: Yes, of course, of course…The teacher should really and truly when they’re marking the papers put a little foot note on each paper and when they go up to the school o ffice, write a little note to the parent or send some comment to the parent that you need to pay attention to the child, this ch ild is slipping or whatever.

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127 Michael, although he discussed the logi stical limitations schools faced in attempting to connect with parents, also appe ared to assign the school more responsibility in building a closer homeschool relationship: …it would be a nice thing to sa y, this is John Doe from Smith Middle School, just checking in to say if you have any questions, just let me know, James had a wonderful week this week. Now that would be a wow-wow-wow. But mark you they might have 46 kids, they might be dealing with 50 classes, to make a call is not in their budget. Michael also assigned the school more re sponsibility for engaging parents in school-based forms of involvement. He said, “B ut I don’t think they tr y to get the parents involved in as much as we should. Fundrai sers, back home, you’re going to have a fundraiser, almost whenever necessary.” Summary of Obstacles to Parent In volvement in the Schooling Process Overall, analysis of parents’ responses about obstacles to involvement in their children’s schooling revealed several implicit and explicit subjective and normativeevaluative validity claims. The majority of parents interviewed openly discussed logistical barriers (e.g., work schedules, distance from school ) as an obstacle to engaging in school-based forms of involvement. Howe ver, very few parents cited logistical barriers as obstacles to enga ging in activities like assis ting with homework completion and homework monitoring. Approximately one-hal f of the parents interviewed cited lack of familiarity with the American school system as an obstacle to their involvement in their children’s education. Most noted that because of this lack of familiarity they had

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128 difficulty in accessing resources available in the school system. Attitudes towards cultural differences were explicitly discusse d as an obstacle by onl y one parent. Most parents did not view this as an obstacle. Tw o parents explicitly discussed their exclusion from decision-making about their children’s ed ucation as an obstacle This appeared to be based on normative-evaluative claims a bout the roles of parents in the decisionmaking for children’s academic careers, that is, that parents should play an active role in making decisions in their children’s education. Finally, the implicit normative-evaluative claims (that in the parent-school relationship the schools bore more responsibilit y than they did) in the responses of two families appeared to have shaped they way th ey approached their children’s schools. In turn, this seems to have made it more diffi cult for them to have a positive relationship with their children’s schools. Interestingly, while these two parents’ expectations were probably normative (given the responsibility of schools for monitoring student’s progress and notifying parents if there are issues), this approach doe s not seem to have served these two parents well. Summary In summary, parents were asked questi ons addressing five areas: 1) desired outcomes of public education and views of public schools in the U.S., 2) expectations of public schools, 3) their beliefs regarding parent involvement, specifically progress monitoring and school-based involvement, 4) the nature of their involvement in their children’s schooling, and 5) obstacles to their involvement in their children’s schooling. A semi-structured interview protocol that provi ded the researcher with flexibility to probe

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129 interviewee responses allowed for a thorough examination of interviewee perceptions of these areas. Parents’ views of the outcomes of public education in the U.S. yielded several normative-evaluative validity claims that were explicitly articulated in the interviews. Parents expressed instrumental views about the desired outcomes of education, noting that they saw their children’s current schooli ng as preparation for college, work, and life; a minority of parents endorsed the view that education plays a role beyond the preparation of life and work. Parents also strongly believed that education was important to their children’s future. Asked about their views of public education in the U.S ., interviewees articulated several subjective validity cl aims. Participants frankly e xpressed their views that the quality of public education in the U.S. is not as academically rigorous as education in the Caribbean. On the other hand, most parents viewed teachers as a positive and important part of the public school process. Parents who discussed teachers in positive terms noted that they were committed to their children ’s education and responsive to parents’ concerns. The small number of parents (n=2 ) who discussed teachers in negative terms noted that they felt teachers sometimes did not communicate w ith parents about unsatisfactory student progress. Parents al so discussed their views of what they perceived to be many negative behaviors by students in American schools. They attributed these behavioral issues for the mo st part to the family environment. Parents overwhelming viewed public education in the U.S. positively, partly because of the resources available, offering their children opportunities that would lead to long term success. Finally, only when asked did parent s discuss racism as an issue. Parent

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130 responses revealed that the majority of them did not perceive racism as an issue that would significantly impact the value of their children’s education and their ability to succeed. In addition, to perceptions of schooling, participants were asked about their expectations of U.S. public schools. In general, parent expectations centered on academics, morals and values, teachers, behavior and diversity of the curriculum. Parent responses revealed several explicit normativeevaluative validity cl aims. Participants explicitly expressed their belief that academ ics are the central concern of schooling and that, for the most part, academics shoul d focus on the basics (reading, writing, and mathematics). In reference to morals a nd values and behavior, a minority of the participants expressed their be lief that they are responsible for imparting these to their children and not the schools. These same parents believed that schools should merely reinforce what has been taught at home. On th e topic of teachers, pa rents articulated their expectations, noting that teachers should be caring, responsible for monitoring student progress and assisting studen ts, and communicate to parent s about student progress. Finally, a small number of parents endorsed the belief that the curriculum of U.S. schools needs to be broadened to take into account topics like different re ligions and different parts of the world, and different cultures. Parents were also asked about their beliefs about two t ypes of parent involvement, progress monitoring and school-based forms of involvement. In this area, parents explicitly articulated normative-evaluative a nd subjective validity cl aims. All parents expressed the view that it was important to communicate with schools about and to actively monitor their children’ s progress in school. Also, a ll parents expressed the view

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131 that school-based forms of involvement were important, although few of them engaged in such activities, largely because of logisti cal issues. Finally, a majority of parents expressed the belief that it was important to te ach their children beha viors that would lead to school success (e.g., paying attention in class). In addition to questions about their beliefs about parent involvement, participants were also asked about the types of non-school based involvement in which they engaged. Analysis the types of actual involvement partic ipants reported reveal several subjective, objective, and normative-evaluative validity claims Most parents repo rted assisting their children with homework completion, although so me parents noted that they monitored homework completion but did not assist their children with it A minority of parents also reported that they assigned their children academic work in add ition to school-assigned work because of perceived gaps in the curricul um or weaknesses in their children’s skills. All participants interviewed monitored their children’s progress in school. Although a few parents did this only through the revi ew of report cards and parent-teacher conference nights, most also used interim methods like communicating with teachers by email. Finally, most participants interviewe d provided outside resources to support their children’s learning, consisting most often of tutoring. Finally, parents were asked about obst acles to their involvement in their children’s schooling. Examinati on of participant responses re vealed several implicit and explicit subjective and normative-evaluative va lidity claims. The majority of parents interviewed, identified logist ical barriers (e.g., work sche dules, distance from school) as an obstacle to engaging in school-based fo rms of involvement. However, very few parents cited logistical barriers as obstacles to engaging in ac tivities like assisting with

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132 homework completion and homework monito ring. Approximately one-half of the parents interviewed cited lack of familiarity with American schooling as an obstacle. Parents noted that their lack of familiarity impacted their ability to access resources available in the school system. Most pare nts did not view attitudes towards cultural differences as an obstacle to their involvement in their children’s education. In fact, only one parent articulated that this was an obsta cle. Two parents, b ecause of their beliefs about the role they should play in their ch ildren’s education, viewed their exclusion from decision-making about their ch ildren’s education as an obstacle to involvement. Finally, the implicit normative-evaluative claims (that in the parent-school relationship the schools is responsible for communicating with pare nts about lack of student progress) in the responses of two fa milies appeared to have influenced their relationship with their children’s schools nega tively. In comparison to other families in the study, these two parent s’ beliefs seemed to have contri buted to negative interactions with their children’s schools.

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133 Chapter Five Discussion A review of the literature on home-school relationship s and parental involvement indicates that understanding the expectations and understandings that families have about schools and how they define and perceive th eir roles in their ch ildren’s education is important to improving such relationships (e .g., SEDL, 2002). Moreover, the review of the literature revealed a paucity of this information relative to immigrant parents in general and to West Indian families in particular. Using interviews with 13 families, the present study examined West Indian parent s’ and caregivers’ understandings of the American public schooling process, as well as their expectations for schooling and the roles they play in their children’s educati on. Several themes emerged from interviews with families regarding these areas. This chapter summarizes the results of the current study and examines the findings within the context of the salient lite rature. It must be noted that, due to the paucity of research relating to West Indian immigrants and the schooling process, the body of research with which the findings fr om this study could be compared was quite small. The chapter is organized according to the research questi ons addressed in the study. Following a discussion of noteworthy findings, their implications for school personnel are examined, limitations of the study are reviewed, and suggestions for future research are offered.

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134 Desired Outcomes of Education Analysis of participant responses ab out the desired outcomes of education indicated that they expected their children’s schooling to prepare them for college, work, life, and preparation beyond work and life. Participants explicitly discussed their expectation that their children’s public sc hool education would pr ovide them with a foundation that would help prepare them for coll ege. In addition, they believed that their children’s education was cri tical to obtaining future employment. They discussed education in terms of how it would help prep are their children for lif e, suggesting that it would help them with practical skills, such as managing fina nces. Overall, participants viewed their children’s education as critical to their long term success, whether they pursued postsecondary education or not. These findings align with pr evious researchers’ findings which indicated that Latino and West Indian parents view education in very pragmatic ways, that is, they view schooling prin cipally in relation to its role in attaining specific higher education cr edentials, and long term succe ss (Delgado-Gaitan, & Trueba, 1991;Nehau, 1999; Rhamie & Hallam, 2002). Thes e findings also fit with Ogbu’s (1983) theory that immigrant or vol untary minorities have an in strumental approach to schooling; that is, they view education prim arily as offering skills and knowledge that lead to long term success in thei r new home country. Views of Public Schooling in the U.S. With regard to parental views of public schooling in the U.S., parents most often discussed academic standards and expectati ons, teachers, student behaviors, and their beliefs about the opportunities and resour ces American public schools offered their children. Overall, parents’ comments reflected their belief that academic standards and

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135 expectations in American public schools were not as rigorous as were academics in the Caribbean. In addition, some expressed di ssatisfaction with the lack of homework assigned by schools, sometimes noting that it was a missed opportunity to reinforce skills covered during the school day. In contrast to concerns about the curriculum in American public schools, many parents discussed teachers in mostly positive terms, noting that they engaged in open communication regarding st udent progress and were generally very committed to the education of students. However, two parents did report mostly negative perceptions of teachers, commenting on thei r lack of availability and failure to communicate with parents when there were issues relating to st udent progress. On the other hand, despite mostly positive perceptions of teachers, many parents spoke in overwhelmingly negative terms about student behavior. For example, they strongly believed that students in U.S. public schools engaged in high levels of disruptive behavior. Participants generally perceived teachers as doing the best they could to manage student behavior, and attributed student behavior problems to the home environment. Parents’ most positiv e comments centered on the opportunities and resources provided by public schools, speaki ng in very admiring and appreciative terms about the opportunities afforded by the Americ an public school system. For instance, some parents noted that the American public school system afforded the opportunity for every child to attain long term success, which was sometimes not available to every child (particularly those with lear ning difficulties or from poorer backgrounds) in participants’ home countries. The finding in this study that most parents (11 of the 13 families interviewed) reported satisfaction with levels of home -school communication, sp ecifically teacher

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136 communication regarding student progress, diffe rs from prior research on West Indian parents in England where Crozier (2005) repor ted that a major source of dissatisfaction for parents with schools was the unwilli ngness of school personnel to communicate frankly with parents regarding students’ academic and behavior al progress.. Similarly, in a study in England Windrass and Nunes ( 2003) found that school personnel did not communicate enough about students’ academic progress or have mechanisms in place to do so. One possible reason for this difference in findings could rela te to the different contexts within which the research was c onducted (England vs. the U.S.). This finding also differed from research with low SES families in the U.S. from a variety of ethnic backgrounds(African American, White, a nd Latino parents). (e.g., Hayes, 1992; Lawson, 2003; O’Connor, 2001) which found that a majority of these parents perceived schools as being uncommunicative and unrespo nsive to parent concerns and to hold negative views of their children; in additi on, parents in these gr oups were found to be generally mistrustful of schools (Lawson, 2003; O’Connor, 2001). Perhaps the fact that the sample in the present study consisted of mostly middle-SES parents contributed to the difference in findings. In addition, it could be argued that another reason for positive perceptions of home-school co mmunication is that the pa rents in this sample who perceived schools as communicativ e carried more than their fa ir share of the burden in the home-school relationship. Since the pare nts took on most of the responsibility for initiating and mainta ining communication, l eaving schools with th e relatively minimal role of responding to parent concerns, it’s un surprising that they ha d positive perceptions of schools in the area of home-school communication.

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137 Findings in this study about parents’ positive views of the opportunities and resources offered by public schools such as e quipment and free camps found in this study support other researchers’ findings with West Indian families (Nehau, 1999). This finding is unsurprising as the parents in this study were products of the education system of their home countries and used it as their frame of referen ce. These are countries where the education systems do not have as many re sources (e.g., a variety of extracurricular activities and extra assistance for struggling students) as do many American schools. In addition, the education systems in these count ries sort children as young as eleven, thus giving only a small number of children th e chance to study for admission to higher education. In fact, some part icipants openly discussed their appreciation of the fact that the American public education system affo rded opportunities to a larger number of children and the chance for students with va rying abilities to succeed. These findings also fit with the framework of Ogbu’s (2003) cultural-ecological theory which argues that immigrants’ frame of reference in evaluati ng educational opportuni ties and resources in the U.S. is “back home,” while involuntar y minorities often compare their schooling resources and opportunities to t hose of White Americans. While parents discussed the opportuniti es and resources provided by public schools in positive terms, they also spoke very negatively about behavior issues in U.S. public schools. These findings align with those from research with Latino families in the U.S. and Asian families in Canada and the U.S. (Delgado-Gaitan, & Trueba, 1991; McNall, Dunnigan, & Mortimer, 1994; Zhang, Ollilla, & Harvey, 1998). These findings seem sensible when one considers that the e ducation systems in the home countries of the

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138 study participants stress strict obedience to authority and often use corporal punishment to enforce this obedience. Racism and the Value of Education Participants were also asked if racism im pacted their children’s ability to derive full benefit from their education, and if so, how. The majority of parents acknowledged racism as an issue in the U.S. and talked to their children about it; however, they viewed it as an issue that would be overcome by thei r children’s attainment of high levels of education. A minority of the sample did not discuss racism as an issue with their children, mostly because they di d not view it as an issue that would affect their children or, in the case of one famil y, because of their family composition (the family was composed of multiple ethnicities and the parent s did not view this as a topic that was appropriate for discussion). Findings in this study relate d to racism were similar to those of a study with East Asian parents (Schneider & Lee, 1990) which found that parents perc eived racism as an issue for their children but viewed it as an obstacle that could be overcome with education. The present findings also fit w ith Ogbu’s ideas (2003) about the views of voluntary minorities regarding racism, that is, that they do not see it as a major obstacle to their success in the new country. Ogbu (2003) noted that volunt ary minorities, (in contrast to involuntary minorities) place great fa ith in school credentials as the route to achieving the “American Dream”. Moreover, voluntary minorities do not have the same history of seeing community members obtai n education that does not result in concomitant financial and social success as involuntary minorities did during the preCivil Rights movement in America.

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139 Expectations about the American Schooling Process Parents’ expectations about the American schooling process centered on academics, behaviors, moral values, teachers, a nd diversity of the curriculum. In general, parents believed that the top priority of schooling should be academics. They believed that schools should focus most of their time on teaching academics, as opposed to investing time in an area such as behavior where they believed that schools should play only a supportive role, merely reinforcing wh at was taught at home. However, while they felt schools should play only a supportive role in the teaching of behavior, they clearly believed that schools s hould play no role in the teachi ng of moral values. Another focus of parent expectations related to t eachers. Parents expected teachers to be committed to student learning and to communi cate with parents regarding issues in student progress. Given the perspective of many of the parents that academics should be the primary focus of schools, it is not su rprising that only a minority expressed the opinion that schools needed to di versify their curricula to teac h more about other parts of the world, different ethnic groups, and different religions. The priority placed on academics by parents fits with other research (Roopnarine, in press) that also indicates that West Indian parents believe in a primary focus on academics within the schooling process. Overall, in this sample, parents believ ed that academics should be the focus of schooling, expected teachers to care about student learning and to communicate regarding student progress, and, for the most part, se emed unconcerned about whether the school curriculum reflected their specific cultural expe riences. These findings were consistent with previous research with West Indian families (e.g., Crozier, 2005; Windrass &

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140 Nunes, 2003 ) in which parents expressed di ssatisfaction with le vels of home-school communication but did not identify diversity as a curriculum issue. This is in contrast to research with African American families re lating to American schools which indicates that parent expectations focu s on teachers who care about students and curriculum that reflects African American experiences (Ogbu, 2003; Thompson, 2003). While the parents in this sample belie ved academics should be the central mission of schooling, research with some low SES Af rican American and Wh ite parents indicates that these parents believe the school’s re sponsibilities should go beyond a focus on academics (e.g., Lawson, 2003; O’Connor, 2001) and provide resources such as GED classes to support families. In a National Association of School Psychologists (NASP) study of parental expectations of the schoo ling process (Christenson, Hurley, & Sheridan, 1997) that used a sample of parents from different SES backgrounds, the authors also found that parents expected schools to do more than focus on academics. Parents in that study reported that they would like schools to offer activities that helped them understand school policies, knowledge to help them nego tiate the schooling process, and to provide specific strategies on how to support their chil dren’s education. The fact that findings about expectations differ from other resear ch (e.g., NASP, 1997) makes sense when one considers parent experiences in their countries of origin. As many parents in this study indicated, schools in their countries of origin lacked many of the re sources available in U.S. public schools. However, schools in those countries still provided a rigorous academic education. Thus while parents were extremely appreciative of these resources when they were provided by U.S. public schools, they did not view th em as essential to the schooling process or exp ect them to be provided

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141 It is likely that participants’ belief that academics should be the focus of schooling also illustrates that that their expectations were shaped by their experiences in their country of origin. In education systems in the participants’ countries of origin, academics are the central focus. In addi tion, as parents often noted when discussing behavior issues in U.S. schools, schools in their prior home c ountries were places where strict rules for behavior were the norm and de viations from this were puni shed, mostly with corporal punishment. Moreover, these educational sy stems (as parents themselves sometimes communicated) are not required to educate ch ildren with a variety of behavioral and emotional needs as U.S. public schools are. Thus, the parents’ expectation that schools would focus only on academics and not behavior makes sense. In addition to experiences in the country of origin, participants’ position as immigrants to a new country where they hope fo r their children to su cceed may also help to explain their belief that academics shoul d be the central mission of schooling. Ogbu (2003) noted that voluntary minorities have a clear understanding of schools as “delegate agencies,” that is institutions responsible for teaching children the “knowledge, skills, values, behaviors, and language they will need as adults to qualify for and be rewarded in the workforce” ( p.47). Voluntary minorities also believe that the skills and knowledge their children will obtain in sc hool are crucial to gaining the credentials needed to access the “American Dream”. This instrumental vi ew of schooling has been found in research on other immigrant parents (e.g., Ogbu, 2003; Schneider & Lee, 1990; Thompson, 2003). In addition, this view of schoo ling helps to explain why most parents interviewed did not find it important for curriculum to be diverse and address their own cu ltural experiences. It was not that parents did not find it important for their childre n to be familiar with their

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142 cultural background; in fact many of them ope nly emphasized the importance of this and how they ensured that familiarity. However, since for parents interviewed the principal purpose of schooling was to impart the skills and knowledge needed to achieve success in American society, curricula on their cultural ex periences was not cons idered essential. Beliefs about Parental Roles in Children’s Schooling Parents were asked about the roles they should play in two specific aspects of their children’s schooling, progress mon itoring and school-based involvement (e.g., volunteering in the classroom, PTA membership ). Parents overwhelmingly agreed that it was important to monitor their children’s prog ress in school and saw this as central to their role as parents. Similarly, they also believed that it was impor tant to be actively involved in their child’s school often noting that involveme nt was an opportunity to motivate their children. Interestingly, questioning in this area revealed that most parents also believed that teaching their children about behaviors important to school success (e.g., the importance of paying at tention in class and time ma nagement) was an important part of their role. The findings in this area are inconsistent with some research findings with Latino immigrant parents (e.g., Chrisp eels & Rivero, 2001; Delgado Gaitan & Trueba, 1991; Valdes, 1996) which found that th ose parents believed their primary role in their children’s schooling was to provide for basic needs and to teach family norms, but that they did not believe it wa s important to initiate communication with their children’s school or to engage in school-based form s of involvement. However, the present findings did fit with two othe r studies with small sample s of Latino parents (Paloma McCaleb, 1994; Perez-Carreon, Drake & Calabr ese-Barton, 2005) which found that those parents believed it was important to take an active role in their children’s education,

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143 particularly by monitoring progress and engagi ng in school-based forms of involvement, such as volunteering in classrooms. It’s im portant to note that the latter findings come from two studies with very small samples. In addition, the difference in findings with Latino families may be partly explained by differences in samples such as educational background and acculturation level. Specifically it’s difficult to compare findings across studies because studies use samples from diff erent parts of the Spanish speaking world and families, even though they may be classi fied as low SES in the United States, may have high levels of education in their count ries of origin and thus be comfortable interacting with formal instit utions such as schools. Involvement in the Schooling Process Although parents overwhelmingly articulat ed the belief that school-based forms of involvement were important, th ey were not very active in that regard. In contrast, they were very active in non school-based forms of involvement, such as assisting their children with homework completion, progr ess monitoring using report cards and conferences as well as emails and phone calls to teachers, providing outside resources to assist their children in school, and assigning academic work to remediate perceived skill deficits or gaps in the curriculum. Thei r non-involvement in school-based activities, despite their expressed belief that it is im portant to be involved in their children’s education reflect a decision by th ese parents to, given the time available to them, invest that time based on those things that were most likely to have an impact. For example, participating in the PTA or volunteering in th e classroom would likely have little impact a child’s education, espe cially when compared to activit ies such as reviewing homework. In general, these findings align well with rese arch on American parents, which shows that

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144 the most common forms of parental invol vement are monitoring homework completion, checking homework completion, and reviewi ng report cards (Dauber & Epstein, 1993; Patrikakou & Weissberg, 2000). On the othe r hand, in his ethnogra phic research with working class and middle class families in Sh aker Heights, Ohio, Ogbu (2003) found that parents often did not supervis e their children to ensure that homework was completed. Parents in his study cited lack of time because of employment obliga tions as the reason for their lack of supervision. Like the African American families in Shaker Heights, research with Latino immigrants (e.g.,;Chrispeels & Rivero, 2001; Delgado Gaitan & Trueba, 1999; Hayes, 1992) has found that these parents do not assist students with homework or engage in additional academic activities to complement the school curriculum, often because of language barriers and lack of education on the part of the parents. However, a small body of ethnographic research with East Asian parents (e .g., McNall, Dunigan, & Mortimer, 1994; Schneider & Lee, 1990; Zhang, Ollil a & Harvey, 1998) has found that these parents manage time outside of school to ensure enough time is spent on academics. In addition, Schneider & Lee (1990) found that the East Asian parents in their sample, monitored the completion of homework, assi gned additional academic work, and often provided outside academic resources such as tutoring lessons for their children. The stress on home-based involvement, parent assigned academic work, and provision of outside academic resources aligns with th e findings about the parent involvement activities of the particip ants in this study. The present findings also fit with pr ior research regarding West Indian populations (e.g., Nehau, 199; Rhamie & Hallam 2002; Roopnarine, in press) that shows

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145 that these parents are involved with th eir children’s educati on outside of school, including assisting with the completion of homework, engagi ng in educational activities at home, assigning additional academic work, and communicating regularly with schools regarding children’s academic progress a nd behavior, and the provision of outside resources such as tutoring to assist child ren. Finally, these findings fit with Ogbu’s description of some of the behavior of voluntary minority parents who he reports as providing supervision at home to ensure that academic work is completed (Ogbu & Simons, 1998). Obstacles to Parent Involvem ent in the Schooling Process Participating parents overwhelmingly cited l ogistical barriers (def ined as lack of time, distance from school, and work schedul es) to parent involv ement in the schooling process. In addition, approxima tely one-half of these parent s identified their lack of familiarity with the American school system as an obstacle. Many of the participants did not themselves participate in the K-12 edu cation system in the U.S., which probably was a factor in their lack of familiarity with U.S. schools. Parents who cited lack of familiarity as an obstacle explained that this mostly impacted them by hindering their ability to access resources such as programs for their children. Two parents identified attitudes towards cultural differences as an obstacle to their involvement. Four other parents identified attitudes toward cultural differe nces as an issue, but did not see it as an obstacle to their involvement, no ting that this was an issue th ey dealt with in society and that schools were not an excep tion. Negative attitudes toward s cultural differences have also been reported by Lati no parents (Chrispeels & Ri vero, 2001;Hayes;1992).

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146 In addition to attitudes toward cultura l differences, a minority of parents (two) found that exclusion from decision-making was an obstacle to their involvement in their children’s education. The two parents who identified exclusion from decision-making as an obstacle came into conflict with thei r children’s schools because of different normative beliefs they held about the role parents should play in academic planning for high school-aged students. Specifically, these pa rents strongly believed that they should play a key role in these decisions and this conflicted with the pers pective of the student services staff at their children’s schools. Finally, analysis of interview data suggest ed that the way two parents approached their child’s school probably functioned as an obstacle to their involvement. These parents assigned most of the responsibility for communicatin g about student progress and building a home-school relations hip to the school. For instan ce, they believed it was the responsibility of the school to contact them when their child was having difficulty in school. It is important to note that if one examines the home-school literature, the beliefs of these two families are reasonable. Recommendations for best practices in homeschool collaboration say that schools are responsible for encouraging family participation (e.g., Adams & Christenson, 2000; NASP, 2005). However, because of the failure of their children’s schools to perform basic parts of such a role in th e development of homeschool relationships, these families experienced a more negative relationship with their children’s schools. In contrast, the other families in the sample experienced positive home-school relationships because they assume d responsibility for much of what (based on what the home-school literature suggests) was supposed to be the school’s role.

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147 A connection between parents’ beliefs a bout where responsibility lies in the home-school relationship and the quality of that relationship has also been found in research with Latino immigrant parents. Ch rispeels and Rivero (2001) and Hayes (1992) found that parents’ beliefs helped to shape th e relationship they had with their children’s schools. Specifically, parents who believed that the responsibili ty for communication rested with the schools and that they had li ttle power over what happened at school, were less involved in their children’s education a nd overall felt alienated from their children’s schools. Finally, the small body of research re lating to the relationships between immigrants and schools makes it difficult to draw conclusions about obstacles to immigrant parent involvement. However, lack of familiarity with the American school system attended by their ch ildren, commonly mentioned by pa rents as an obstacle to involvement aligns with some previous re search (Perez-Carreon, Drake, and CalabreseBarton, 2005). These studies found that parents’ lack of familiarity with the American school system prevented them from understand ing processes such as entry into special education and how to effectively advocate for their children when there were issues with teachers, and lack of familiarity with cont ent covered in the curriculum prevented them from assisting their children with homework completion. Summary of Findings Overall, participants in this sample re ported positive percepti ons of teachers and resources in American public schools. Thei r expectations of schoo ling centered mostly on academics. In addition, parents had positive expectations of the rewards that education would bring for their children. Pa rents reported that sc hool-based involvement

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148 was important, but reported very low levels of such involvement. On the other hand, they reported very high levels of home-based i nvolvement in their children’s education. Finally, parents reported logi stical limitations (e.g., time, schedule conflicts) as major barriers to parent involvement. In additi on, some parents reported attitudes towards cultural differences and exclus ion from decision-making as obstacles to involvement. Finally, parents who had a more passive approach to the home-school relationship appeared to have more negative relationships with their children’s schools. In sum, parents experiences with educational system s in their countries of origin and their perspective as immigrants in a destination country appeared to shape a great deal of their perceptions and expect ations of schooling. Implications of Results for School Personnel Research shows that home-school collabo ration and parental involvement play an important role in successful academic outcomes for students (e.g., Christenson, 1991; Halle, Kurtz-Costes, & Mahoney, 1997). In addition, the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB), that is significantly reshaping many areas of American education, requires schools to develop ways to involve parents in efforts to improve schools (NCLB, 2001). Thus it is incumbent on schools to impr ove home-school communication. Among school personnel, school psychologists are uniquely pos itioned to play a role in the process of improving linkages between home and school. This is evident in the NASP position statement on home-school collaboration wh ich recommends that school psychologists work to identify effective strategies fo r home-school collaboration and notes that “successful home-school collaboration is dependent upon educators, families, and

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149 community members working together to understand each other’s perspectives….” (NASP, 2005, p. 4). Although a great deal of additional research is needed, this exploratory study may offer school personnel at least a prelimin ary, basic understanding how one immigrant group understands schooling, and their relationship with schools, particul arly as there is considerable variance in how different cultur al groups view schooling and their role in the schooling process. It is important for school personne l to understand that not all families understand their role in schools in the same way and to understand the contributions that these parents can and ofte n do make to their children’s education. For instance, in this study, while many parent s engaged in very little school-based involvement, they played very active roles in their children’s e ducation through such methods as assisting with homework co mpletion, monitoring homework completion, monitoring progress through online systems, a nd providing outside resources to assist their children academically. Furthermore, in designing parent involvement programs, it is important to understand why diverse groups of parents are not actively involved in the school building and target these issues. For instance, the resu lts from this study indicate that even when language barriers are not pres ent, as in the case of families from the English-speaking Caribbean, immigrant parents’ lack of familiarity with the American school system can function as a significant obstacle to their involvement. This would suggest that it is critical for schools to offer parent educati on programs for parents new to the U.S. In addition, the parents in this study who reported distant and negative relationships with their children’s school had a passive approach to schooling. For

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150 example, they believed the onus was on schools to update them on student progress. In contrast, parents who took on most of the responsibility for co mmunicating with school personnel reported very successful relationships with schools. While it’s important for schools to recognize and assume their res ponsibility in developing and maintaining home-school relationships, perh aps parent involvement program s that target parent role beliefs would empower parents to be more invol ved in their children’s education. In fact, there is some evidence to support this. For instance, Hayes (1992) found that parent role beliefs can function as an obstacle to parental involvement and another study found that a parent involvement program that targeted parents’ role beliefs was successful at increasing involvement (Chr ispeels & Rivero, 2001).. Almost half (six out of thirteen) of the parents reported encountering negative attitudes toward cultural differences in thei r children’s schools. Two of them believed that those negative attitudes represented an obsta cle to their involvement in schools. However, the other four parents dismissed it as an issue that they were used to encountering in daily life. Yet, if school personnel hope to build strong home-school partnerships, it’s important that all families, regardless of cultural background, are treated with respect in schools (H enderson & Mapp, 2002). Though this was a small sample, some of the participants’ experiences illustrate that some families, partly because of expe riences with the education system in their country of origin, bring very different expectations and belie fs to the schooling process. For instance, two parents repor ted that they felt excluded from important decisions for their high school-aged children. One parent, in particular, encounter ed conflicts with student services personnel in this area. Ex amining the responses of these parents, it is

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151 clear that they and the school had very different beliefs about the role of a parent in the schooling process. Thus, it is important for school personnel working with diverse families to be aware that they may not always have the same assumptions as do other families about their role in the schooling process. Finally, it is important for school pe rsonnel to have a basic grasp of the understandings and expectations parents from diverse bac kgrounds have of schooling as this may impact parent support of certain be st-practice inte rventions in schools. For instance, some schools, often through the us e of programs such as Positive Behavior Support (PBS), are increasingly devoting re sources to the management of student behavior. For such programs to be implem ented successfully, they require support from all stakeholders within the school district. However, the results of this study indicated that these parents did not see behavior mana gement as an important part of schools’ missions. Thus, it might be important to understand parent beliefs about schooling in order to effectively target these belief s and inform parents about the important relationship between behavior and acad emic climate and performance. Limitations of the Current Study Through the interview method, several resear ch questions were asked of 13 West Indian families residing in the Tampa Bay, Florida area. Participants responded to questions regarding their view s of public schools in the U.S. their expectations of the schooling process, the roles they play in their children’s ed ucation, and obst acles to their involvement in their children’s education. Se veral strategies were employed to increase the likelihood that valid findings and interpre tations were advanced. However, not all threats to the validity of the research could be controlled. Thus, several limitations to the

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152 present study must be consid ered when interpreting the re sults and making suggestions for future research and practice. First, there is limited generalizability of the results due to the small sample size and the geographic limitations of the population sampled. In addition, because participation in the study was voluntary, the sample may not represent the full diversity of West Indian immigrants in the U.S., or even in Florida or the Tampa Bay area. In fact, an examination of the sample reveals that it consisted primarily of middle to high SES participants and that the participants did not represent all the islands of the Caribbean. Another issue with qualitative research ba sed on transcribed data is the accuracy of transcription. To address this issue, a procedure of member checking was used. Participants were provided a reasonable opportunity to comment on the study data by reviewing a transcript of th eir interview. A follow-up m eeting or telephone call was scheduled with participants to verify the tran script. Eleven of 13 participants (84%) took the opportunity to review the tr anscript. None of the partic ipants reported problems with the veracity of th e transcripts. Limitations also exist with regard to erro rs associated with bias and subjectivity on the part of the researcher in interpreting the interview data. Huberman & Miles (1998) pointed out that data analysis in qualitative re search is often difficult because it is based on the subjective interpretation of the research. In this study, a reflective journal was utilized to record perceptions of the res earcher that might bi as data analysis. Examination of the researcher’s reflective journal during the inte rview analysis stage revealed that during the interview proce ss the researcher did not closely examine (through more extensive questioning) class bias es the participants may have held about

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153 the family background of some students in the public school system. However, since this was not directly relevant to th e questions of interest in th e study, the absence of follow-up on this issue is not thought to have signi ficantly impacted the findings of the study. Another method used to lessen the impact of researcher bias, and specifically to improve the reliability of the codes used in the study, a professional peer of the researcher was used to estimate inter-rater reliability. Briefly (see Chapter 3 for a more detailed description of this process), the researcher and another gr aduate student coded several interview transcripts independently to develop a codebook for the study. Inter-rater agreement was computed for this process, indicating that agreement between the researcher and the peer was approximately 90%. Another limitation of the current study is specific to studies that rely solely on interview data, which is the subjectivity of the responses from the participants, particularly because of social desirabili ty. In responding to interview questions, participants may have attempted to portray th emselves in a favorable light rather than sharing authentic experiences. Consistenc y checks (reviewing the transcripts for inconsistencies within individual participan ts’ responses) were used to assist in ascertaining the veraci ty of subjects’ responses and re vealed no inconsistencies in participants’ responses. However, this pr ocess would not ensure that participants’ expressions were not influen ced by social desirability, but merely that they were consistent in the views and opinions expressed. Suggestions for Future Research The purpose of the current exploratory study was to examine the perceptions and expectations that West Indian parents hold regarding the schooling process in the U.S.

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154 and the roles they play in their children ’s education. An additional purpose was to examine whether some theoretical ideas (e .g., Ogbu’s work with voluntary minorities) and qualitative findings with other immigrant gr oups were consistent with the findings of this study of a sample of West Indian parents. It is hoped that the re sults of this study can be used to guide future research and practi ce and contribute to a be tter understanding of the needs of immigrant parents. This st udy was one of the few qualitative studies to investigate West Indian parent s’ perceptions of the schooling process and their role in their children’s education. Although the findi ngs of this study yi eld some interesting information for practitioners working in district s with populations of West Indian or other immigrant groups or those interested in desi gning home-school collaboration programs, it is necessary to replicate these findings with a more representative sample of West Indian parents before broad generaliza tions can be made about the perceptions of West Indian parents in the U.S.. Since this study was conducted with a small sample in the Tampa Bay area, it may not be repres entative of all West Indians in the Tampa Bay area, in Florida, or the wider U.S. Given its pr oximity to the Caribbean and its access to immigrants from that region, research of this nature is particularly important for the State of Florida. Replication of th ese findings with a larger samp le of West Indians living in Florida, as well as elsewhere in the U.S. woul d help clarify and add to the findings of this study. In spite of the limited generalizability, this study was successful in capturing the perceptions and beliefs of at least a small group of immigrant parents regarding U.S. public schools. Given the paucity of resear ch on this topic, and the importance of understanding parent perspect ives in order to improve home-school communication, it is

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155 suggested that further resear ch with this immigrant group and other immigrant groups be conducted. Moreover, it would be beneficial for this research to use ethnographic approaches that combine parent and teacher interviews as well as observations at schools in order to gain a more comprehensive understanding of the relationship between immigrants and U.S. public schools. For districts with la rge immigrant populations experiencing a lack of home-school communication, th is kind of research would be particularly helpful prior to designing home-school collaboration programs. Finally, regarding Ogbu’s ( 1984) cultural ecological theory that looks at community forces, there is a small body of re search that has been conducted abroad to examine this theory. However, given how in fluential and widely cited the theory is, surprisingly little research has been conducted within the U.S. to test it. Thus it is strongly suggested that more qualitative a nd ethnographic research be conduced with variety of immigrant groups in the U.S. in order to examine this theory.

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163 Roopnarine, J. L., Krishnakumar, A., Metindog an, A., & Evans, M. (in press). Links Among Parenting Styles, Academic Social ization, and the Early Academic and Social Skills of Pre-Kindergarten an d Kindergarten-age Children of Englishspeaking Caribbean Immigrants Roopnarine, J., Bynoe, P. F., & Singh, R. (2004) Factors tied to the schooling of children of English-speaking Caribbean immigrants in the United States. In U. P. Gielen, & J. Roopnarine (Eds.), Childhood and adolescence: Cross-cultural perspectives and applications (pp. 319-349). Westport: Connecticut: Greenwood. Schneider, B. & Lee, Y. (1990). A model for academic success: The school and home environment of East Asian students. Anthropology & Education Quarterly 21 (4), 358-377. Sassen, S. (1999). Cracked casings: Notes toward an analytics for st udying transnational processes. In J. L. Abu-Lughod (Ed.), Sociology for the twenty-first century: Continuities and cutting edges (1st ed., pp. 135-145). Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Seefeldt, C., Denton, K., Galper, A., & Younosza i, T. (1998). Former head start parents' characteristics, perceptions of school clim ate, and involvement in their children's education. The Elementary School Journal, 98 (4), 339-349. Simon, B. S. (2004). High school outreach and family involvement. Social Psychology of Education, 7 185-209. Sowell, T. (1981). Ethnic America: A history New York, NY: Basic Books.

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164 Southwestern Educational Developmental La boratory (2002). A new wave of evidence: the impact of school, family, and commun ity connections on student achievement. National Center for Family and Comm unity Connections with Schools. Starkey, P & Klein, A. (2000). Fostering parental support fo r children’s mathematical development: An intervention with Head Start families. Early Education and Development, 11(5), 659-680. Stevenson, H. W., Lee, S. Y., Chen, C., Lummis M., Stigler, J., & Fan, L., et al. (1990). Mathematics achievement of children in china and the united states. Child Development, 61 1053-1066. Surez-Orozco, C., Irina Todorova, & Louie, J. (2002). Making up for lost time: The experience of separation and reunification among immigrant families. Family Process 41 (4), 625-643. Surez-Orozco, M. (2000). Everything you ever wanted to know about assimilation but were afraid to ask. Daedalus: Journal of the Am erican Academy of Arts and Sciences 129 (4), 1-30. Super, C.M. & Harkness, S. 1997. The cultu ral structuring of child development. In J. Berry, P.R. Dasen, & T.S. Sarasw athi (Eds.), Handbook of Cross-cultural psychology, 2nd. Ed. Vol 2 (pp.3 29). Boston: Allyn & Bacon. Thompson, G. (2003). Predicting African Amer ican parents and guardians satisfaction with teachers and public schools. Journal of Educational Research, 96 (5). Trueba, H.T. (1991). Comments on Fole y’s “Reconsidering Anthropological Explanations…”. Anthropology and Education Quarterly, 22 (1), 87-94.

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165 Urban Institute. (2004).The health and wellbeing of young children of immigrants. Retrieved on April 6, 2006 from U.S. Census Bureau (2000). The foreign born population: 2000. Washington, DC: US. Census Bureau. Retrieved on April 6, 2006, from od/2003pubs/c2kbr-34.pdf. Valdes, G. (1996). Con respeto: Bridging the distance between culturally diverse families and schools. New York: Teacher’s College Press. Vickerman, M. (1998). Crosscurrents: West I ndian immigrants and race. New York: Oxford University Press. Waters, M. C. (1999). Black identities: West Indian immigrant dreams and American realities Cambridge: Harvard University Press. Williams, E. (1983). Columbus to Castro: The History of the Caribbean 1492-1969 Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. Wilson, L. C., Wilson, C. M., & Berkeley -Caines, L. (2003). Age, Gender and Socioeconomic Differences in Parental Socialization Preferences in Guyana. Journal of Comparative Family Studies, 34 (2), 213. Windrass, G., & Nunes, T. (2003). Montse rratian mothers' and English teachers' perceptions of teaching and learning. Cognitive Development, 18 (4), 555-577. Wood, W. D., & Baker, J. A. (1999). Preferen ces for parent education programs among low socioeconomic status, culturally diverse parents. Psychology in the Schools, 36 (3), 239-247.

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166 Zhang, C., Ollila, L. O., & Harvey, B. C. ( 1998). Chinese parents' perceptions of their children's literacy and schooling in Canada. Canadian Journal of Education, 23 (2), 182-190.

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167 Appendices

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168 Appendix A: Study Description for Asso ciation Members/Community Members A graduate student at the Un iversity of South Florida is conducting a study of West Indian parents’ and guardians’ perceptions of the public schooling process in the U.S. She’s looking for West Indian families who have lived in the U.S. for at least 2 years, are permanent residents or U.S. citizens, and ar e willing to meet with her on two separate occasions for approximately 90 minutes each time. She’s interested in talking with you about your perceptions of the American edu cation system, your beliefs about education, and things you do to suppor t your child’s education.

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170 Appendix C: Demograp hic Questionnaire First Name: ____________________ Last Name: ____________________ 1. Country of Origin (Circle one) 1 Antigua 2 Barbados 3 Guyana 4 Jamaica 5 Trinidad 6 Other: ___________________ 2. How many years have you lived in the U.S.? _______ 3. What is your status in the U.S. (Circle one) U.S. Citizen Permanent Resident Other 4. Number of children (ages 1 – 17) residi ng in your household who attend public school: (Circle one) 1 2 3 4 5 More than 5 (specify number) _____ 5. Age and Grade of each child Child 1 Age: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 2 Age: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 3 Age: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 4 Age: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 5 Age: __________ Grade in school: __________ NOTE: PLEASE USE BACK OF PAGE IF MORE THAN 5 CHILDREN

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171 Appendix D: Background Information Form Participant Number : ___________(Provided by Researcher) Last Name : ____________________ First Name : ____________________ Ethnicity (Circle one) 1 Afro-Caribbean 2 Chinese Caribbean 3 Doogla (Black/Indian) 4 European-Caribbean 5 Indo-Caribbean 6 Mixed _____________________ 7 Other ______________________ Primary Occupation : ________________ Secondary Occupation : ______________ Annual Household Income before taxes : (Check one) Below $15, 000 $15, 000-$24, 999 $25, 000-$34, 999 $35, 000-$44, 999 $45, 000-$54, 999 $55, 000-$64, 999 $65, 000 -$74, 999 $75, 000-$84, 999 $85, 000-$95, 000 Above $95, 000 Highest Education Level Completed : (Circle one) Country Where Completed 1 No formal schooling ______________ 2 Elementary ______________ 3 Junior Secondary ______________ 4 High School ______________ 5 Post-secondary-non degree ______________ (e.g., technical college) 6 Some college ______________ 7 Associate degree ______________ 8 Bachelor’s degree ______________ 9 Master’s degree ______________ 10 Professional degree (e.g., M. D.,L.L.B) ______________ 11 Doctoral degree (e.g., Ph.D., Ed.D.) ______________ How long did you live in your country of or igin before immigrating to reside permanently in the U.S.? _______ Marital status : (Circle one) 1 Never married 2 Married 3 Separated 4 Divorced 5 Widow/Widower

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172 Appendix D: (Continued) Number of adults (18 years or older) residing in your household : ___________________ Number of children (ages 1 – 17) residing in your household : (Circle one) 1 2 3 4 5 More than 5 (specify number) _____ Child 1 Biological Adopted Other Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 2 Biological Adopted Other Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 3 Biological Adopted Other Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 4 Biological Adopted Other Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Child 5 Biological Adopted Other Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Others: Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________ Age: __________ Birth date: __________

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173 Appendix D: (Continued) Grade in school: __________ Age: __________ Birth date: __________ Grade in school: __________

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174 Appendix E: Semi-structured Interview Protocol Topic Domain 1: Background Information/Family Information Leadoff Question : What kinds of ties or connections do you maintain with _______(country of origin)? If not addressed in the initial response, the following questions will be asked: 1. How often do you visit________? ( Typically what are the reasons for your visits?). In a year, how much time do you spend in there? 2. Do you have family there? Children? a. Where was each of your children born? 3. How much time, if any, does your child typically spend in ______. What’s the purpose of his/her visit(s)? ( school breaks, holidays?) 4. How do you keep track of events in ________( country of origin)(print newspaper, online papers, visiting speakers, etc.)? 5. How involved are you with the _____ community? 6. How involved are you in the political life of _____ Vote? Political fundraising? a. The political life of the U.S.? Vote? Political fundraising? 7. Do you plan to continue to reside in the U.S. or do you desire to return to live in ______ at some time in the future? 8. Where do you plan to resi de after retirement? 9. How would you describe your ethnic identity? 10. Do you feel like the U.S. is home? 11. What do you like about living in the U.S.? 12. Is there anything that you miss about ______? Categories of Interest: family composition, a cculturation, extent of ties maintained to country of origin, extent par ticipant identifies with culture and country of origin and America and American culture. Topic Domain 2: Perceptions of schoo ling/Understanding of schooling process Leadoff Question : What do you think about K-12 public schooling in the U.S.? As an immigrant to the U.S., in what way(s) does schooling in the U. S. meet or not meet your expectations for your child’s education? If not addressed in the initial response, the following questions will be asked: 1. What do you think about what your child learned during the past school year (e.g., how does what was learned relate to their future?) 2. How do you compare schooling in the U.S. to schooling in ___________? a. What differences do you see between schools back home and public schools in the U.S.?

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175 Appendix E: (Continued) b. What kinds of things would they t each in schools back home at the age your child is now? 3. What do you believe is important for schools to provide your child? 4. How successful are the schools your child is enrolled in at providing those things? 5. What kinds of things do you te ll your child about school? a. Education in general? 6. What do you want for your child’s future? 7. In your experience how do kids coming from another culture who go to school in the U.S. fare? ( Advantages, Disadvantages). 8. How familiar are you with policies in your child’s school and school district? 9. How familiar are you with the expectati ons of your child’s teacher(s)? a. The curriculum? Categories of Interest: purpose of educati on, how successful school is at fulfilling parent’s view of purpose does education lead to social mobility? W hat is the value of education? Their understandings of what schools provide. If it’s important why is it important? Does racism affect the impor tance of education (reduces the payoff education gives, makes it more important? Difference in elementary vs. secondary education and what they should provide, how they communicate/do they communicate messages about education to their children) Topic Domain: Parent role in the schooling process Leadoff question: I would like to focus now on your ro le as a parent in your child’s schooling. However, if your experience differs or has differed in any way for one or more of your children, please let me know. Tell me about some of the things you’ve done th is past year to help your child in school. If not addressed in the initial response, the following questions will be asked: 1. Homework seems to be a big issue with many parents these days. Do you see this with your child? a. Do they usually seem to need help? b. How do you handle that? 2. Has your child had any academic difficul ties, e.g., problems with a particular subject? a. If so, how did you deal with this? 3. Has your child had any behavi or difficulties in school? a. If so, how did you deal with this? 4. Are there any resources outside school th at you utilize to he lp your child with school ( tutors, enriching activities, encyclopedias, provision of study

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176 Appendix E: (Continued) space, computer access )? 5. Talk about the kinds of experiences a nd activities in which you have engaged with your child outside of school. a. Do you link these activities to school in any way? b. Do you try to make these learning e xperiences in any way? Or do you see this time with your child more as a time for them to relax and have fun? 6. From your perspective, what are some important things you believe it is your responsibility to teach your child? (e.g., morals, respect for authority, appropriate behavior in classroom; how does he/she learn this--others in the family and how do those others teach him/her?) 7. What do you see as the school’s re sponsibility to teach your child? 8. In what ways do you see school and home learning merging? Categories of Interest: How do they see their role in their children’s education? At school? A home? How do they support their ch ildren’s learning, i.e. what materials do they provide, what activities do th ey engage in with their children. Topic Domain: Home-School communication (*Note: Parents will be asked to talk about their experiences with their children overall and to note any differences in experiences between children.) Leadoff question: What type of interactions or i nvolvement do you typically have with your child’s school? If not addressed in the initial response, the following questions will be asked: 1. To what extent are you involved with any particular type of school activities (e.g., PTA, fundraising, volunteering in cla ssroom, and any other school activities )? 2. How important do you think it is for parent s to be involved in these activities? 3. How do you think teachers and administrato rs regard parents’ involvement in their child’s school? a. How do they express this feeling? 4. How easy or difficult has it been for you to communicate or in teract with school officials/teachers? Are there particular factors that help or hinder you from communicating with teachers or school officials? 5. What type of issues do you typically talk about with your child’s teachers or other school officials? a. How receptive is/are your child’s teacher(s) to your concerns? b. How receptive is the administrati on of your child’s school to your concerns?

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177 Appendix E: (Continued) c. Are there any issues (e.g., academic, social, cultural) that you believe may be impacting your child’s performance/ behavior in school, but which you do not feel comfortable di scussing with school offici als/teachers. Why? 6. How do you communicate about home issu es that might impact schooling? a. How important is it to do so? 7. How do you check up on the progress of your child? a. How important do you think it is to do so? 8. What understandings do you believe teacher s and school staff have of you and your child’s cultural background? 9. What have you communicated about your cultural background/values to teachers/school staff? 10. Do you feel there should be a closer relationship between home and school? a. How so? How do you think this relationship could be achieved? b. What role do you think the school and the parents should play in this process? Categories of Interest: How parents communica te with schools, their relationship with schools, what kinds of activitie s they engage in to build and maintain relationships with schools, and what their beliefs are about the importance of certain home-school activities. Topic Domain: Obstacles to involvement in schooling (*Note: Parents will be asked to talk about their experiences with their children overall and to note any differences in experiences between children.) Lead off question: What personal or other challenge s, if any, have you experienced in your attempts to be involved in your child’s schooling in the U.S.? (e.g., work schedule family commitments scheduling of school meetings, activities, and events ?) If not addressed in the initial response, the following questions will be asked: 1. To what extent does lack of familiarity with the American school system prevent you from being more involved in your child’s schooling? 2. To what extent does lack of familiarity with content being covered in school impact your involvement? 3. Are there any challenges specific to being an immigrant in the U.S. that prevent you from becoming more involved in your child’s schooling? 4. Any other challenges I haven’t addressed? 5. What would assist you in becoming mo re involved in your child’s schooling?

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178 Appendix E: (Continued) Categories of Interest: Barriers parents face in being part of their children’s education. Barriers of work schedules, fam ily commitments, cultura l differences, lack of understanding of how American schools f unction, lack of educ ation, racism, antiimmigrant bias, lack of desire to be involved in childre n’s beliefs in importance of different types of parent involvement.

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179 Appendix F: Codebook 1. 0 Connections to home country 7.0 Culture 1.1 Own a home 7.1 References to WI, Carib, home country, fam cult (+, -, 0) 1.2 Own a business 7.2 References to U.S. culture (fams, etc.) (+, -, 0) 1.3 family 7.3 References to religion 1.4 political connections 1.5 Good/ bad things about home country 8.0 Perceptions of public schools 8.1 Teachers administration (+, -, 0) 2.0. Contact with home country 8.2 Curriculum (+, -, 0) 2.1 visits to home country 8.3 Behavior (+, -, 0) 2.2 read newspapers/ access information online 8.4 Systemic (processes, policies, busing, magnet schools, spec programs) (+, -, 0) 2.3 Using others as a source of information 8.5 Students, family background of students, parents, home life(+, -, 0) 8.6 Resources (+, -, 0) 3.0 Connections with Community (in U.S.) with region/country community 3.1 friends 9.0 References to private school 3.2 Associations (includes programs the association organizes) 9.1 Reasons for choosing private 3.3 special events (festival, gala, sports etc.) 9.2 Reasons for leaving private 4.0 Child's identity/child's connections with culture 10.0 Differences between school systems 10.1 Teachers (+, -, 0) 5.0 Relationship to U.S. 10.2 Curriculum (+, -, 0) 5.1 Political (voting, party membership, etc.) 10.3 Be havior, values, social, interpersonal, (+, -, 0) 5.2 Future plans (residence, retirem ent) 10.4 Resources (+, -, 0) 5.3 Reference to U.S. as home, not home 10.5 Sy stemic (processes, policies, etc.) (+, -, 0) 5.4 Good/bad things about U.S. 6.0 Ethnic identity

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180 Appendix F: (Continued) 11.0 Expectations of school (and does school meet ex ps.) 14.0 Parent Involvement 11.1 Academics 14.1 Formal channels (PTA, volunteering, open houses etc.) 11.2 Behavior, social, interpersonal, values 14.2 Home (help w/ homework, extra work) 11.3 Real world, workplace, preparation for life 14.3 Knowledge about policies, curriculum 11.4 Teachers 14.4 Progress monitoring 11.5 Systemic 14.5 Communication with teachers, school staff (other than open houses) e.g., email, phone calls, visits 11.6 Resources 14.6 Outside resources to help w/ school (other than parent help) 14.7 Fundraising and other forms of involvement 12.0 Beliefs 12.1 Value of education 15.0 Barriers to Pa rent Involvement 12.2 How to approach school and education, attitude 15.1 L ogistical (work schedules, school schedule, transportation) 12.3 Race/ethnicity, class, immigrants Status and education 15.2 T eacher, staff factors 12.4 Parent Involvement 15.3 Systemic factor s (policies, processes, lack of familiarity) 12.5 Parent responsibility to teach 15.4 Cultural differences, bias 12.6 Communication with schools, home school relationship 15.5 Communication issues 12.7 What it's important to communicate to school re: culture 12.8 Beliefs about immigrants & schools 16.0 Facilitators of PI 16.1 Communication tools 13.0 Communication with schools 16.2 Teacher, staff factors 13.1 Positive 16.3 Logistical (work sche dules, school schedule, transportation) 13.2 Negative 16.4 System ic factors (e.g., PTA) 13.3 How do you communicate w/ schools (email, letters, phone) Note regarding direction of differences: (-) means negative about U.S. (+) means positive about US

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Forde, Susan Chanderbhan.
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West Indian parents', guardians', and caregivers' perceptions, understandings, and role beliefs about K-12 public schooling in the United States
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ABSTRACT: The purpose of this exploratory study was to examine the understandings and perceptions that West Indian parents and caregivers residing in the U.S. have about U.S. public schools. A second purpose of this study was to examine the consistency between these findings and the cultural-ecological theory advanced by Ogbu (1974) which posits that immigrant minorities to the U.S. hold different perceptions and expectations in relation to U.S. schools. Using interviews with 13 families in the Tampa Bay area, the study examined West Indian parents' and caregivers' understanding of the American public schooling process, expectations for education, role beliefs, and roles they played in their children's schooling. Several themes emerged from the interviews regarding these areas. These themes included: families viewed education in very instrumental ways (a finding that aligned with Ogbu's cultural-ecological theory), families had overwhelmingly positive perceptions of resources and opportunities offered by U.S. public schools, and most families were satisfied with the home-school relationship. A minority of families described negative relationships with schools. In addition, families reported that they believed school-based involvement was important. However, they reported very low levels of school-based involvement, but high levels of home-based involvement. Obstacles to parent involvement included logistical barriers, and lack of familiarity with the U.S. school system. Implications of the findings for school personnel are discussed and suggestions for further research are offered.
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Home-school communication
Parent involvement
Immigrant families
Cultural-ecological theory
English-speaking Caribbean
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