Parental Involvement in Migrant
Education Is at Home, Not at School
from AScribe Newswire,
February 3, 2003
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The traditional definition of
parent involvement many times doesn't work when it comes to
migrant education, according to Gerardo Lopez, an assistant
professor at the Indiana University School of Education in
Lopez focuses in his research on migrant students and their
parents, the majority of whom are Latino.
He said most educators view parent involvement as coming to
school, meeting the teachers and working with them for the
benefit of their child. "I challenge this view, because many
migrant parents whose students are successful don't even visit
the schools; their involvement is in the home. This leaves us
to determine if this type of home involvement is equal to the
physical presence in the school," he explained.
"We are looking at what schools are doing to involve Latino
parents," he continued. "They spend a lot of time, money and
energy on traditional parent involvement issues instead of
building on ways Latino parents are already involved with
For example, Lopez said, many migrant parents take their
children to work with them in the fields so the children can
learn the value and lessons of hard work and the consequences
of not continuing their studies. "The students learn that hard
work is necessary to provide for the family unit and that
education will allow them to provide a better life for their
future families," he said.
Lopez said many people think of California and Texas when it
comes to large concentrations of migrant workers, but the
nearby states of Illinois, Michigan and Wisconsin have sizable
The IUB educator, who also is an affiliated faculty member in
Latino Studies at IUB, said Indiana is experiencing a growth
in migrant students, and it is logical for the IUB School of
Education to study this matter because of its leadership in
identifying educational trends. "Statistics from the 2000
census show that the Latino population in Indiana is growing
exponentially, and since the vast majority of migrant students
and parents are Latino, this area is getting the attention of
state leaders in education and social services," Lopez said.
Jorge Chapa, professor and director of Latino Studies at IUB,
said census statistics show an increase in Latinos in Indiana
between 1990 and 2000 of nearly 120 percent to 214,000. Both
Lopez and Chapa agreed that it is difficult to get accurate
statistics on migrants because of their transient nature.
"Educators are concerned about finding ways to get parents
more involved in their child's education so they can better
understand their plight and build bridges of understanding,"
said Lopez, who came to IUB last fall from the University of
Missouri. He was born and raised in the heavily
Latino-populated East Los Angeles. He completed his doctoral
work in educational administration at the University of Texas,
where he studied issues surrounding migrant education.
Lopez said that many people confuse migrant and immigrant.
"Immigrant refers to the country you are from and migrant is
related to the type of work you do," he said.
He said there are signs of improvement for migrant students,
with states cooperating more instead of working independently.
He cited an example of an area near Peoria, Ill., that
annually gets a large influx of migrants from the same area of
Texas. "Leaders from the school district in Illinois now work
together with the school district in Texas so they know the
abilities of the incoming migrant students before they
arrive," he explained.
But he warned that major problems remain for migrant students
and parents in terms of social conditions. "Many of the
migrant housing camps in this country are substandard in terms
of housing and health care. You would be shocked by the third
world conditions that migrants have to deal with in many
sections of this country," he said.
- Latino Studies