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Parental and Community-Involvement in Dual Language Education

​As indicated by Cortina, Makar, and Mount-Cors (2015), “dual language programs have a long history of parental and community support” (p. 11). Additionally, many of the schools that have initiated a dual language program were the result of on-going campaigning by local parents and community members (Cortina, Makar, & Mount-Cors, 2015). Freeman’s (1996) research at Oyster Bilingual School in Washington, D.C. only solidified the interrelated continuum of parental and community support with dual language programs. From her findings, Freeman (1996) concluded that dual language schools need to consider the sociopolitical atmosphere and address the needs of the local families and community members from which the school is located. Furthermore, the success and effectiveness of a dual language program is directly influenced by the school’s parental and community involvement (Freeman, 1996).

Lee and Jeong’s (2013) study of a Korean-English dual language school exemplified Freeman’s (1996) position on parental input being essential to dual language programs’ success. The Korean parents voiced their concerns with the type of language use that occurred during class time, as reported by their children, which did not reflect the 50-50 two-way immersion model that was to be followed (Lee & Jeong, 2013). Additionally, without the parents’ concerns, the school’s administration would not have realized the need for hiring highly qualified teachers who have a clear understanding of dual language education (Lee & Jeong, 2013).

Dual language programs attempt to raise the language status of the minority or subordinate language, often the non-English partner language, as well as the ethnic status of its minority students (Oberg de la Garza, Mackinney, & Lavigne, 2015). Lee and Jeong (2013) did find that the parents were pleased that the dual language program encouraged their children to be proud of their native-Korean heritage and language. Freeman’s (1996) school issued a mission statement that explicitly stated its inclusive stance for multiculturalism and diversity. It should also be noted that both of the dual language schools from Freeman (1996) and Lee and Jeong’s (2013) research were developed because of a grassroots campaign by the parents and community.

Children whose parents are actively engaged in their education and schooling activities, both at school and at home, typically experience higher academic achievements than those whose parents do not take an active role in their education (Ryan, Casas, Kelly-Vance, Ryalls, & Nero, 2010). Many consider parental involvement as the “participation in school functions and events and direct communication between parents and school personnel” (Ryan et al., 2010, p. 392). However, Epstein’s (2001) definition included participation done in the students’ homes and throughout the community.

There is a popular belief that parents from ethnic and language minority backgrounds, who are also considered to be from lower socio-economic and educational statuses, do not value their children’s education as noticed by their lack of presence in schools (Ryan et al., 2015). The Korean parents from Lee and Jeong’s (2013) study contradicts this belief as they reported that if it were not for the dual language program at the school, they would have not felt comfortable enough to interact with their children’s English-dominant teachers, confidently assist their children with homework and studying, nor attend school functions and events (Lee & Jeong, 2013). Lindholm-Leary (2012) pointed out, many dual language learners who perform on par or above their non-enrolled counterparts on state tests are considered to be minorities from impoverished communities. Larson and Rumberger’s (1995) study that is featured on What Works Clearinghouse’s (2017) webpage described the positive impact that keeping consistent, open parental and community communication can have on ethnic minority students. Larson and Rumberger’s (1995) study is even more relevant as the vast majority were English language learners.

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