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Jones, Amy English Language Learner Program Improvement Study Faculty Mentor: Dr. Erin Whiting, Teacher Education Parental involvement is a key focus of educational debate today because it has been shown to be correlated to academic achievement. I chose to help research and collect data to include in a longitudinal study conducted by Dr. Erin Whiting and Dr. Ray Graham of Brigham Young University. This purpose of this on-going study is to understand how parents of Hispanic students are involved in their child’s education, and in what ways that may differ from parents of other ethnic groups. As part of this study, I first helped to create a survey that was later distributed to all of the parents of 7th grade students at Dixon Middle School. This survey asked questions that helped us understand how often, and in which ways parents participated in their child’s school experience. Also included in this survey were questions about the parent’s own experience with schooling, their native language, and other questions to help us to understand their background. After creating and translating the survey my main tasks in this project were to: test the survey with both English and Spanish speaking parents to make sure there weren’t any confusing or ambiguous questions, and to find a way to motivate the students to return competed surveys. To test the survey I attending a meeting with the principal of Dixon Middle School and parents who were willing to complete the survey at the school. As they completed the survey I encouraged them to ask for clarification where needed and to note any questions that were confusing. After meeting with the parents the survey was revised and finalized. In order for students to be motivated to bring back their surveys I made posters advertizing a drawing that students could enter after they had turned in a completed survey. The drawing included prizes like i-tunes and mall gift cards. We hoped that this would help us to receive as many surveys as possible. Once the surveys had been distributed and collected from the students I worked on entering in this preliminary data into a database where it will be compared to data collected in 2010. After entering in the data received, I worked to find missing data by first distributing another copy of the survey at the school to students who hadn’t returned the first survey. After collecting only a few more surveys we continued our efforts in receiving as many surveys as possible by mailing the surveys to parents who hadn’t responded, and finally calling the parents who hadn’t turned in their surveys to encourage them to send in a completed survey. My hypothesis when beginning this project was that among the many variables affecting parental involvement, the ability to speak and understand English would be the most significant. I also hypothesized that a cultural barrier including views of an ideal parent-teacher relationship would vary depending on background. Because this is a longitudinal study, findings in this stage are still inconclusive. However, while inputting data and studying the resources that have been published I gained a lot of insight into the reasons that Hispanic parents participate differently than English-speaking parents. Although my understanding has broadened and deepened, my hypothesis has not changed. My part of this large, ongoing project was not completed without frustrations and obstacles. One of the main obstacles in completing this project was the difficulty Dr. Graham and I had in communicating with the principal of Dixon Middle School. When our telephone calls weren’t returned and we didn’t have her permission, we were unable to send home the surveys, and this put us weeks behind schedule. Another obstacle in completing this research was the large number of surveys that weren’t returned to the school. I was very surprised at the amount of surveys that weren’t returned even after multiple attempts of contact were made with the parent through notes sent home with their children, surveys sent in the mail, and phone calls made to the parent. I learned through these obstacles the importance of perseverance and determination. Overall this project has been very valuable in aiding my understanding of the different cultural and linguistic barriers that many parents face in being involved in their child’s education today. I graduated in August 2009, and am now a full-time teacher of a diverse 4th grade class just outside of Washington D.C. The experience I had in researching had made a huge difference in my understanding of how to support parents of my students in participating in their child’s education. I plan to continue to implement my findings in the relationships I have with parents to help my students succeed.