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The purpose of this three-stage qualitative phenomenology case study was to characterize Somali refugee parents’ understanding of their role in school-parent relationships and investigate the impact of a research-based parent involvement intervention model adapted for use with this study. Research questions included: 1) What are Somali refugee parents’ understanding, perceptions, and expectations of school parent involvement; and 2) Did the adapted training intervention, designed to enhance school-parent relationships and parent engagement behaviors among Somali refugee parents, succeed? Following an initial interview stage, Epstein’s School-Family-Community Partnership Model (2019) was adapted and used to design a training intervention that was delivered as a component of the district’s Community School model. The pre-training interview identified that none of twelve parents in the study had attended school in their home country or the United States. The Somali refugee parents reported that their lack of English skills caused difficulty for them to understand school policies, their child’s school progress, and teacher expectations. Coded and themed results from post-training interviews revealed the parent involvement training interventions had resulted in both increased parent engagement knowledge and behaviors. The study verified parent engagement barriers for Faribault Public Schools’ Somali parents, and the engagement trainings provided the study sample group with focused, evidenced-based knowledge, skills, and recommended actions. Recommendations for practice include aligning school-parent involvement activities with a comprehensive, structured approach such as the Epstein model and the thorough identification of parent engagement barriers for the targeted subpopulation.

Publication Date

Fall 12-15-2020


Parent involvement, parent engagement, parent empowerment, social justice, community school


Adult and Continuing Education | Bilingual, Multilingual, and Multicultural Education | Educational Leadership


Anne Marie Leland, Ed.D. is a lifelong educator with extensive teaching and administrative experience in Adult Basic Education (ABE) and the E-12 field. She has been the Community Education Director with the Faribault Public Schools in Faribault, MN since 2012. Within her previous position at the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development, she was co-facilitator of the Minnesota’s Adult Career Pathways system, now known as Pathways to Prosperity—an innovative approach that helps educationally underprepared adults succeed in well-paying careers by integrating basic skills education and career-specific training in fields where new skills are in high demand. Prior to that employment, she was an adult education specialist at the Minnesota Department of Education providing accountability and workforce education consultative services to all adult education consortia in the state. She has also worked at the local level in St. Paul, Minnesota for the Minnesota Literacy Council. Dr. Leland holds a MN Community Education Administrator license, a grade 6–12 social studies MN teaching license, an MA in Teaching from the University of St. Thomas, a Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certificate from Hamline University, and a BA in History from UCLA. She lived and taught in Pakistan and was awarded a scholarship in 1992 to serve as a Congressional intern.

Full-Service Community School Intervention: Case Study of Somali Parent-School Engagement Within a Rural Midwestern School District