Project Voices, Individuals, and
Pictures: Engaging Hmong Parents, Schools, and CBOs to Support Student Learning
and Academic Achievement
Kalyani Rai* and Laty Keodouangsy**
*Assistant Professor, UW—Milwaukee School of Continuing Education
**Advisor, Dept. of Curriculum & Instruction, UW—Milwaukee
Prevailing attempts to address the lack of parental involvement in children's schools are based on "middle class Anglo-American value systems" on traditional parental roles in the schools. This approach to address the lack of parental involvement in children's schools is essential but not adequate for many Southeast Asian parents who are considered limited English proficient and particularly, Hmong refugee parents. It fails to recognize culturally specific parental involvement strategies in the SEA community and therefore presents a challenge for educators and schools alike to understand and communicate meaningfully with these parents concerning their children's education.
This paper documents Participatory Action Research with a group of Hmong refugee parents, community-based organizations, teachers, and School administrators who share concerns about their children's education with a focus on the strategies these parents use to guide and help their children despite linguistic and cultural barriers.
The presentation is divided into five sections: Introduction, PAR methodology, Findings, Implications, and Conclusions. The introduction section gives an outline of the most prevailing approaches to address parental involvement in schools. The second section provides an overview of a participatory action research strategy. The findings section explains the major themes that have emerged from the discussion and concludes with a set of implications for educators concerned about involving SEA parents in their children's education.
The conclusion examines how the recent No Child Left Behind act and the issues concerning student academic achievement and increased parental involvement in schools are critical issues that are being addressed in mainstream and culturally-appropriate ways. Through dialogue, action, and reflection employed through the duration of the project, we gather information about how Hmong parents and students navigate the American school system and practice naturally occurring strategies to help students learn in schools.