Hmong Parent Involvement in a Hmong Charter School: Obstacles and Opportunities in Involving Hmong Parents to Participate in their Children’s Education
Doctor of Education
Parent involvement is a critical topic in American education and student achievement. Navigating a complex parental involvement system in any country is often challenging for immigrant families, especially those with limited engagement in their native countries’ school systems. For many recent immigrant groups, parent involvement in education is limited due to parents not understanding the educational model being used in the United States and the limited outreach models that are culturally relevant. Many immigrant parents feel they are on their own when it comes to being involved in their children’s education, especially for the Hmong. Hmong came from an oral culture where knowledge was passed from father to sons and mother to daughters, not in a school setting. To this group, parent involvement means working hard, staying out, and letting the school system and their experts decide for them. For these and other reasons, parent involvement has been and continues to be a challenge for Hmong parents, even though many Hmong have lived in the United States for over 46 years. Additional challenges include the language barrier, job, family, time conflicts, and other problems in the traditional public school system. Recently, the charter school movement has drawn many Hmong families to enroll their children at these choice schools due to their hope that these schools will help their children retain their language, culture, and identity.
In this study, a group of 11 individuals from three different stakeholder groups—parents, teachers, and administrators—were interviewed using a qualitative, descriptive case study approach. The overall research question inquired to answer the question: How does a Hmong charter involve its parents in the education of their children? Seven themes emerged: Hmong Program as Reasons for Working and Enrolling Children at Ib Tiam Academy; Parent Involvement as Understood by Stakeholder Groups; Parent Engagement in General and During COVID-19; Communication with Hmong Parents; Activities to Involve Hmong Parents; Obstacles to Involving Hmong Parents; and Opportunities to Expand or Increase Hmong Parent Involvement. This study concludes by examining the implications of these seven themes and proposes recommendations on how these themes can be applied in similar charter school systems or the general American education system to involve Hmong parents.