Title

A timely opportunity for change: Increasing refugee parental involvement in U.S. schools

Document Type

Article

Department

Institute for Educational Development, East Africa

Abstract

Refugee youth attend schools in every state in the United States. Yet, little is known about their schooling experiences or the ways in which schools engage their parents. In this paper, we resituate notions of parent involvement by focusing on the interactions between refugee parents and U.S. schools Drawing on data collected during a twenty-six month ethnography of refugees in a Northeastern city, we examine how the influx of refugee students into one school district, not only changes the district’s student demographics, but also leads to policy changes mediated by the repositioning of refugee parents’ involvement in decision-making at one public school, and a reconfiguring of the school leadership advisory team. We document the ways in which refugee parents, when joined with others, engage in what Das Gupta (2006) calls space-making, or the process by which transnational migrants make spaces for themselves within, between, and outside of existing policies, practices, assumptions, and expectations. We show refugee parents advocating for themselves and their children, and working with teachers and community members to navigate uncertain and unfamiliar educational spaces and to build new, more adequate spaces for the emergent needs of a school with changing demographics.

Publication

Journal of Educational Change

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