news releases

2006.01.23 > For Immediate Release
contact: Teresa Gleason - University Affairs
phone: 402.554.2762 - email: tmgleason@mail.unomaha.edu

UNO Study Reveals Emphasis of Latino Parents on Education

Omaha - The results of a recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Nebraska at Omaha (UNO) may help debunk the myth that Latino parents do not value education.

A report on the study, titled "Examining the Impact of Parental Involvement in a Dual Language Program: Implications for Children and Schools," was prepared for the UNO Office of Latino/Latin American Studies (OLLAS) by the UNO-Omaha Public Schools (OPS) Dual Language Research Group.  The study was funded in part by a grant to OLLAS from the U.S. Department of Education and the National Institute of Mental Health. 

The OPS Dual Language Research Group, which formed in 2003, has focused on the role of parental involvement on children's success in the OPS dual language (Spanish-English) program.

Dual language programs allow children to develop proficiency in two languages.  In the participating schools, classrooms in the program are comprised of half native English speakers and half Spanish speakers, and instruction is given in both languages to both language groups.

Parents in the program are actively encouraged to participate in school activities and are required to sign a contract that calls for their support by volunteering during the school year.

The study involved 115 parents and their children enrolled in kindergarten through grade four in the dual language program.  Sixty-eight percent of the parents who agreed to participate were Latino (75 mothers and eight fathers), and 28% were non-Latino (28 mothers and four fathers).

Parents completed questionnaires, available in Spanish and English, in a group setting.  Researchers fluent in both languages were available for assistance.  The questionnaires covered a number of areas, including definitions of school success, involvement in education, barriers to parental involvement, acculturation and reasons for or against enrollment in the dual language program.

The key research findings are summarized below.

- Latino parents rated the academic and social goals of education more highly than non-Latino parents, suggesting they place an increased emphasis on education in general.

- Latino parents viewed academic and social/behavioral outcomes as equally important, whereas non-Latino parents viewed social/behavioral outcomes as being more important than academic outcomes.  This difference for non-Latino parents was more pronounced for parents of girls.

- Latino and non-Latino parents were not found to differ in their self-reported involvement in their children's education.  Additionally, both Latino and non-Latino parents reported greater involvement in the home than school context.  Similarly, both Latino and non-Latino parents reported that the involvement of others (spouses, friends and neighbors) was greater at home than at school.

"The systematic study of dual language programs is an especially important area of investigation because of the latest census trends and because barriers to involvement for the parents of language minority children are likely to differ from those for the parents of language majority children," said Juan Casas, one of the report's authors.

The UNO-OPS Dual Language Research Group consists of Casas, assistant professor of psychology at UNO; Carey Ryan, associate professor of psychology at UNO; Lisa Kelly-Vance, associate professor of psychology at UNO; Brigette Ryalls, associate professor of psychology at UNO; Angela Ferguson, assistant professor of foreign languages at UNO; and Collette Nero, coordinator of psychological services with OPS.

For more information about the study, contact Casas at 402.554.2548 or jcasas@mail.unomaha.edu.

The OLLAS research agenda is designed to address the most urgent and neglected aspects associated with the region's unprecedented Latino population growth and its local, regional and transhemispheric implications.  For more information, visit the Web at www.unomaha.edu/ollas.

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