ERIC Identifier: ED279205
Publication Date: 1986-12-00
Author: Simich-Dudgeon, Carmen
Source: ERIC Clearinghouse
on Languages and Linguistics Washington DC.
Parent Involvement and the Education of
Limited-English-Proficient Students. ERIC Digest.
Over the last two decades, there has been a growing body of research
evidence suggesting that there are important benefits to be gained by
elementary-age schoolchildren when their parents provide support, encouragement
and direct instruction in the home, as well as maintain good communications with
the school -- activities which are known as "parent involvement". Such findings
have led researchers and school personnel to apply parent involvement techniques
at higher grade levels and with limited-English-proficient and
non-English-proficient (LEP/NEP) students as well. The results to date have been
WHAT ACTIVITIES CONSTITUTE PARENT INVOLVEMENT?
In general, parents may become involved by:
--providing a home environment that supports children's learning needs;
--volunteering to provide assistance in the school as teachers' aides,
secretaries, or in other roles;
--becoming activists and decision-makers in organizations such as the local
PTA/PTO, or community advocacy groups that advise local school boards and school
--attending school-sponsored activities;
--maintaining open channels of communication with the teacher(s) and
continually monitoring children's progress in school;
--tutoring the children at home, using specific learning activities designed
by the teacher to reinforce work being done in school (Epstein, 1986).
While most of the activities listed above are undertaken on the initiative of
parents, the last activity -- parent-as-tutor involvement -- is, or should be,
initiated by the teacher. Schools with newly-established parent involvement
programs have noted that parents are willing to become involved, but that they
do not know how to help their children with academic tasks at home, and in
general, are fearful of doing more harm than good. To counteract this, the
teacher must maintain contact with the parents, giving specific assistance with
materials and tutoring techniques that will sucessfully reinforce the work being
done in school (Simich, 1986; Epstein, 1985a).
Parent involvement in the education of high school students, on the other
hand, requires that the parent become co-learner, facilitator and collaborator,
a means of support as the high school-age student develops independence and
explores future educational options.
WHAT ARE SOME SPECIAL ASPECTS OF LEP/NEP PARENT INVOLVEMENT?
For the growing numbers of limited- or non-English-proficient parents, parent
involvement of any kind in the school process is a new cultural concept.
Moreover, attempts by teachers and school officials to involve such parents in
the education of their children is very often interpreted as a call for
interference. The overwhelming majority of LEP/NEP parents believe that the
school has not only the qualifications, but the responsibility to educate their
children, and that any amount of parent "interference" is certain to be
counter-productive. The most important task, then, in involving LEP/NEP parents
in their children's education is to acculturate them to the meaning of parent
involvement in their new social environment.
While most LEP/NEP parents do not have the English language proficiency to
engage in many of the typical parent involvement activities, they may be very
successfully involved in parent-school collaboration at home. These parents can
be taught to reinforce educational concepts in the native language and/or
English. Additionally, bilingual community liaisons should be available to
bridge language and cultural differences between home and school. An added
advantage, of course, is that LEP/NEP parents improve their own general
knowledge, language and survival skills as a result of their participation in
WHAT EVIDENCE IS THERE TO SUPPORT THE NEED FOR PARENT INVOLVEMENT?
Epstein (1985b) has concluded, "the evidence is clear that parental
encouragement, activities and interest at home, and parental participation in
schools and classrooms positively influence achievement, even after the
students' ability and family socioeconomic status are taken into account."
Moreover, there may be evidence to support the conclusion that the most useful
variety of parent involvement is the contact that parents have with their
chidren in the home when such contact is used to encourage and aid school
achievement. Significant findings from several parent involvement programs show
--Parent involvement in academic activities with children at home
consistently and significantly improves parents' knowledge and expertise in
helping their children, as well as their ability to effectively evaluate
teachers' merits (Bennett, 1986)
--Direct parental involvement at home with children's school work has
positive effects on such things as school attendance, classroom behavior, and
parent-teacher relations (Gillum, 1977; Rich and others, 1979; Comer, 1980).
--Students who are part of parent involvement programs show higher reading
achievement than children who are not. Hewison and Tizard (1980) found that
"children encouraged to read to their parents, and to talk with their parents
about their reading, had markedly higher reading gains than children who did not
have this opportunity."
Moreover, small group instruction during the school day by highly competent
specialists did not produce gains comparable to those obtained in parental
involvement programs. Results of a longitudinal study of 300 3rd and 5th grade
students in Baltimore City show that from fall to spring, students whose
teachers were leaders in the use of parent involvement made greater gains in
reading achievement than did students whose teachers were not recognized for
encouraging parent involvement (Epstein, 1985b).
DO THESE FINDINGS APPLY TO LEP/NEP STUDENTS?
In the study conducted by Hewison and Tizard mentioned above, several of the
participating parents were non-English-proficient and/or illiterate, a condition
that neither prevented the parents from collaborating with the school, nor the
children from showing marked improvement in reading ability.
A more recent study, the 3-year Trinity-Arlington Teacher and Parent Training
for School Success Project, has shown the most comprehensive findings to date
concerning parent involvement and limited-English proficiency. This project, the
result of a collaboration between Trinity College in Washington, DC and the
Arlington, VA Public Schools, was designed to facilitate the acquisition of
English language skills by high school LEP students from four language
backgrounds (Khmer, Lao, Spanish and Vietnamese) through the development of
supportive relationships among the students, parents and school staff. The role
of the parent-as-tutor was stressed and facilitated by community liaisons
proficient in the native language of the parents. Parents were shown how to
collaborate, to be co-learners with their high school-age children in the
completion of specially-designed home lessons from the Vocationally-Oriented
Bilingual Curriculum (VOBC), a supplement to the ESL program which was in use at
the implementation site.
Several locally-developed and nationally-validated measures of English
proficiency were administered to the students. Additionally, both parents and
students were administered a content test to provide evidence of cultural
knowledge gained as a result of the VOBC information exchanged between parent
and student. The study showed positively that the VOBC home lessons reinforced
ESL concepts and language skills taught to students during regular ESL classroom
instruction. Significant gains were also recorded in the English language and
survival skills of the parents; and, as a result of their collaboration on the
VOBC home lessons, parents and students alike learned a great deal about life in
America and about the American school system.
In many LEP/NEP households, parents worked two or three jobs and were often
not available to work with their children on the VOBC home lessons. Likewise,
many students were unaccompanied minors and/or heads of household, and did not
have the luxury of parental involvement. Such cases highlighted another very
important finding: in households where parents were not available to work with
their children, interaction with guardians and siblings over the VOBC home
lessons often provided the same positive reinforcement as when parents
participated, possible evidence that home activities could be even more
productive if the whole family were to be involved in their completion (Simich,
HOW CAN SCHOOL DISTRICTS INITIATE AN LEP/NEP PARENT INVOLVEMENT PROGRAM?
To develop a parent-as-tutor, collaborator or co-learner program, the
collaboration of all school personnel is essential. Regular classroom teachers,
ESL teachers, counselors, and administrators should receive training in how to
develop better home and school collaboration with LEP/NEP parents and how to
involve them in the education of their children. An essential component of the
parent involvement effort is the bilingual community liaison, a highly respected
member of the parents' language community who is knowledgeable about the
American school system.
Information on the VOBC, Teacher's Guide to the VOBC, a training videotape to
supplement the VOBC and other materials developed by the Trinity-Arlington
Project may be obtained by writing the National Clearinghouse for Bilingual
Education, 11501 Georgia Avenue, Wheaton, MD 20907; (301) 933-9448 or (800)
FOR MORE INFORMATION
Bennett, W.J. FIRST LESSONS: A REPORT ON ELEMENTARY EDUCATION IN AMERICA.
Washington, DC: Department of Education, 1986.
Crespo, O.L. (comp.). PARENT INVOLVEMENT IN THE EDUCATION OF MINORITY
LANGUAGE CHILDREN. A RESOURCE HANDBOOK. Rosslyn, VA: National Clearinghouse for
Bilingual Education, 1984. ED 261 540.
Comer, J.P. SCHOOL PROSE. New York, NY: Free Press, 1980.
Epstein, J.L. "Parent Involvement: Implications for
Limited-English-Proficient Parents." In C. Simich-Dudgeon (ed.) ISSUES OF PARENT
INVOLVEMENT AND LITERACY. Washington, DC: Trinity College, 1986.
Epstein, J.L. EFFECTS OF TEACHER PRACTICES OF PARENT INVOLVEMENT ON CHANGE IN
STUDENT ACHIEVEMENT IN READING AND MATH. Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins
University, Center for Social Organization of Schools, 1985. (b).
Epstein, J.L. "Home and School Connections in Schools of the Future:
Implications of Research on Parent Involvement." PEABODY JOURNAL OF EDUCATION 62
(1985). (a): 18-41.
Gillum, R.M. "The Effects of Parent Involvement on Student Achievement in
Three Michigan Performance Contracting Programs." Paper presented at the
American Educational Researach Association Annual Meeting, 1977.
Hewison, J., and J. Tizard. "Parental Involvement and Reading Attainment."
BRITISH JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 50 (1980): 209-215.
Rich, D., J. Van Dien, and B. Mallox. "Families As Educators of Their Own
Children." In R. Brandt (ed.). PARTNERS: PARENTS AND SCHOOLS. Alexandria, VA:
Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development, 1979.
Simich-Dudgeon, C. TRINITY-ARLINGTON PARENT INVOLVEMENT PROJECT, FINAL
REPORT. Submitted to the Office of Bilingual Education and Minority Affairs.
Washington, DC: Department of Education, 1986.