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Getting beyond what educators see as wrong: How understanding the strengths of low-income Puerto Rican families can help urban schools improve

Paul Hyry-Dermith, University of Massachusetts Amherst


Parent involvement is one of the factors to which student achievement is consistently and strongly linked in educational research, and is perceived by teachers as a core factor affecting student achievement. Therefore more and higher-quality engagement with students' families has the potential to make a positive difference in urban schools. However, a tendency among educators to focus on perceived family deficits, without a clear understanding of students' families' strengths, may limit urban schools' ability to develop effective family engagement programming. This study involved faculty and staff members at an urban K-8 school in systematically identifying strengths of the low-income Puerto Rican families whose children made up the vast majority of the student body, as a critical point of reference for working with families toward stronger student outcomes. ^ The study was grounded in the principles of Action Research and utilized methods associated with Appreciative Inquiry to involve school faculty and staff members in carrying out, then collectively analyzing the results from, structured interviews with parents of low-income Puerto Rican students at the school. Along with establishing a family strengths inventory for use in ongoing planning for enhancement of family engagement programming at the school, the study included an assessment of the impact of the research process on the perceptions and intended actions of both participating faculty and staff members and those who elected not to participate. The dissertation concludes with a discussion of implications and recommendations related to theory, practice, policy, and research associated with the efforts of schools serving low-income Puerto Rican (and other) communities to strengthen their engagement with students' families.^

Subject Area

Educational sociology|Educational leadership|Multicultural Education

Recommended Citation

Hyry-Dermith, Paul, "Getting beyond what educators see as wrong: How understanding the strengths of low-income Puerto Rican families can help urban schools improve" (2012). Doctoral Dissertations Available from Proquest. AAI3518244.