Promoting Academic Success for Latino English Learners in Elementary School (2015-2016)

In what ways are Latino parents engaged in their children’s education? What facilitates or inhibits parent engagement?

This project was designed to provide students with an in-depth research experience working with a team of researchers engaged in educational interventions for Latino English learners in elementary schools. This team builds on an interdisciplinary approach that includes experts in educational psychology, literacy development, Latino cultural wealth and models for collaboration in schools.

The team conducted two hour-long focus groups at El Centro Hispano, facilitated by a team member who is fluent in Spanish. Participants included 20 Spanish-speaking mothers, each of whom had at least one child in a local public school. The focus groups’ audio recordings were transcribed and translated into English, then transcriptions were coded for recurring themes.

The data showed that Latino parents face significant barriers to engagement in their children’s education. Some of the barriers mentioned in the focus groups included inconsistent ESL programs across schools in the same district, requirement of a social security number, job/work hours, lack of child care, financial setbacks, administrative inaccessibility, limited English language proficiency, insufficient ESL resources (too few interpreters; limited tutoring programs) and schools’ misunderstanding of Latino cultural norms.

However, Latino parent engagement is often reflected in less traditional forms. Implications of the team’s findings are to dispel the myth that Latino parents are unengaged; support and demonstrate the ways Latino parents are engaged; and find solutions to decrease barriers that inhibit engagement.


Fall 2015 – Spring 2016

Team Outcomes

Leslie Babinski, The Targeted Reading Intervention ($274,862 grant awarded from the University of Delaware, 2016)

Bass Connections: Promoting Academic Success for Elementary School Latino English Learners (poster by Setonji Agosa, Hope Arcuri, Libby Dotson, Jessica Del Villar, Leslie Babinski, Carmen Sanchez)

Understanding Latino Parent Engagement (paper by Jessica Del Villar with Hope Arcuri, Setonji Agosa, Libby Dotson)

Latino Parental Engagement: Barriers and Facilitators (paper by Libby Dotson)

Empowering Latin@ Parents: Dismantling Perceptions and Investigating School Resources (paper by Setonji Agosa with Hope Arcuri, Jessica Del Villar, Libby Dotson)

Barriers to Parental Engagement (paper by Hope Arcuri with Setonji Agosa, Jessica Del Villar, Libby Dotson)

EHDx Talks (presentation by Setonji Agosa and Hope Arcuri at the Nasher Museum of Art, April 13, 2016)

Developing Consultation and Collaboration Skills (project website)

This Team in the News

Six Students on Their Community-Engaged Research, from Bangalore to Durham

From Autism to Slums, Duke Students Tackle Challenges in Human Development

Increasing Language and Literacy Outcomes for Latino English Learners

Shaping the Classroom

Congratulations to the Student Leadership and Service Award Winners

Jessica Del Villar, Sociology, Minor in Cultural Anthropology ’16

Setonji Agosa, Public Policy and Education ’18

Hope Arcuri, Public Policy, Global Health and Education ’18

This project team was originally part of the Education & Human Development theme of Bass Connections, which ended in 2022. 

Team Leaders

  • Leslie Babinski, Social Science Research Institute-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Marta Sanchez, Social Science Research Institute-Center for Child and Family Policy
  • Carmen Sanchez, Social Science Research Institute-Center for Child and Family Policy

/undergraduate Team Members

  • Setonji Agosa, Public Policy Studies (AB)
  • Hope Arcuri, Public Policy Studies (AB), Global Health (AB2)
  • Jessica Del Villar, Sociology (AB)
  • Mary (Libby) Dotson, Int Comparative Studies (AB), GCS in Literature Progrm (AB2)

/zcommunity Team Members

  • El Centro Hispano, Durham