Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major

Literacy in Schooling

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Judy Sharkey


The intention of this study was to examine the experiences of nine Spanish-speaking families in a public kindergarten setting during the 2005-2006 school year to understand how individual agency of parents, access to a community's practices and events, and the resulting interrelationship, shape parent understanding of and participation in school practices and events and ultimately impact student achievement outcomes. In a nation that is becoming increasingly diverse, the Hispanic population is the largest minority group in the country. There are more than two million English-language learners in the U.S. K-3 classrooms with Spanish accounting for almost 80% of the non-English languages (Abedi, Hofstetter & Lord, 2004). The documented trend of educational underachievement of Hispanic students as well as reports of limited parent involvement patterns among diverse families make this study significant both locally and nationally. Added to the landscape of this study are the conditions and provisions of No Child Left Behind with its high-stakes system of accountability, the identification of subgroups based on race, ethnicity, socioeconomic status, English language proficiency, and its impact on practices, programming and educators' assumptions.

A case study method was chosen to gain an in-depth understanding of the meaning for the participants with the unit of analysis being the families. Using Cummins' (2001) and Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler's (2005; 1997) frameworks as analytical tools, I found that parents placed high value on their children's education and were motivated to be engaged in the process, yet, parents' role construction and the development of a sense of efficacy in the education of their children were totally dependent on opportunities for engaging in the practices within the community and the perceptions of educators who dictate the ensuing micro-interactions that exist. The conditions for the Latino parents reflected both the existence of collaborative and coercive relations of power (Cummins, 2007; 2001).

The findings counter negative assumptions held by wider society concerning Latino parents' orientation toward education and challenge a deficit perspective of language-minority parents. Implications for deep educational reform that will lead to the creation of collaborative school environments for culturally and linguistically diverse families are suggested.