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Citation:Lopez, G. R. (2001). On whose terms? Understanding involvement through the eyes of migrant parents. Paper presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Educational Research Association, Seattle, WA.

The purpose of this paper is to explore alternate conceptualizations of family involvement activity and how current concepts of family involvement in education circles limit alternative forms of involvement among migrant families. This research study found that although parents of successful migrant students did not regularly attend school functions, they strongly perceived themselves as being highly involved in their children's educational lives. These families appeared to be quite strategic in their choice of involvement; they saw the transmission of a work ethic as their way of being involved in their child's education. Parents participating in the case study recognized traditional forms of involvement (attending PTA meetings, parent-teacher contact, volunteering at school functions) as noteworthy, but did not necessarily see them as important forms of involvement that would make an impact on their children's academic development. Data were gathered through six months of observations and in-depth interviews with four migrant families in four different communities in the Texas Rio Grande Valley. School personnel identified them as migrant families whose children had been highly successful in school, as defined by academic and nonacademic achievement standards. The researcher suggests that many different kinds of parent involvement have the potential to impact student achievement, especially in the case of marginalized families, and schools can no longer rely on one-size-fits-all approaches. Based on these findings, the researcher suggests schools should identify new ways to capitalize on the many ways parents are already involved in their children's educational lives. This case study of four different families living in four different communities provides fresh perspectives for educators on involving marginalized families.

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