Discouraging Partnerships? Teachers’ Perspectives on Immigration-Related Barriers to Family-School Collaboration

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This study investigates barriers to facilitating family-school partnerships with immigrant families as identified by teachers in an urban school district with high rates of immigration. Participants consisted of 18 elementary teachers who identified predominantly as Hispanic (38.9%) or non-Hispanic White (33.3%), were frequently bilingual (55.6%), and were mostly female (94.4%) with an average age of 36.5 years. Participants engaged in focus group interviews that were transcribed and open-coded. Barriers to engagement for immigrant families fell into 3 broad areas: language and culture, family resources, and families’ undocumented status. Many teachers attributed the barriers preventing parental collaboration to school policies (94.4%) and ineffective communication strategies (83.3%). Teachers also identified barriers as emanating from the families themselves, including families not attending school functions (88.9%) and being unresponsive to school-initiated communication (72.2%). Teachers noted that many families lacked resources necessary for school engagement (88.9%) and were hesitant to become engaged with schools due to required screening procedures (55.6%). Overall, numerous barriers to effective family engagement were identified, several of which are directly related to immigration and residency status. Given the strong evidence suggesting that family engagement in education mediates risk for children of recent immigrants, strategies to foster meaningful engagement for all families are desperately needed (Naughton, 2004). Roles for school psychologists to facilitate effective family-school partnerships are discussed.

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