Date of Award

Spring 5-15-2020

Document Type

Dissertation (799 registration)

Degree Name

Doctor of Education in Educational Leadership


Graduate Studies

Committee Chair

Michael Coquyt


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



Current research has recognized considerable benefits of parent and family engagement with their children’s schools. However, research shows many systemic and individual barriers to effective parent and family engagement. Located in a rural Minnesota setting, Faribault Public Schools (FPS) has a large population of Somali refugee parents with limited English proficiency. Based on data from FPS, children from these families are falling behind in school. The FPS system has acknowledged the need to enhance engagement with these families to more effectively support their children’s success in school.

The purpose of this quasi-experimental, qualitative case study was to characterize Somali refugee parents’ understanding of their role in school-parent relationships and investigate the impact of a research-based intervention that aimed to enhance parent-child and parent-school engagement. Questions included: 1) What are Somali refugee parents’ understanding, perceptions, and expectations of school parent involvement, and; 2) Did the training intervention, designed to enhance school-parent relationships and parent engagement behaviors among Somali refugee parents, succeed?

The study adapted Epstein’s School-Family-Community Partnership Model and used it to design a training intervention that was delivered as a component of the district’s Community School model. Pre- and post-training face-to-face interviews were conducted with 12 Somali parents. The training intervention consisted of nine weekly sessions. Interviews questioned parents about their school engagement practices and perceptions about the strategies presented to them through the training sessions. Results from parent interviews were coded to identify common themes.

None of 12 male and female parents in the study had attended school in their home country or the United States. All lacked English proficiency. Prior to the intervention training sessions, parents reported that overall, their interactions with their children’s schools were positive. Their lack of English skills, they indicated, make it hard for them to understand school policies, their child’s school progress, and teacher expectations. Findings during the training intervention and in post-training interviews revealed that the training intervention appeared to result in both increased parent engagement knowledge and parent engagement behaviors.

This study provides FPS, the two FPS Community School sites, and the broader education field with specific strategies to improve school, family, and community relationships with Somali families.

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.



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