T. Griego-Jones

University of Arizona (UNITED STATES)
As families migrate from one country to another, school age children and their parents face new and different educational practices and institutions. This paper discusses historical research on how immigration from Mexico to the United States over the last fifty years impacted school practices and policies re: parental involvement, specifically in the border region between the U.S. and Mexico.

The States of Sonora in Mexico and Arizona in the U.S. comprise a geographic unit that has a long history of migration within the Sonoran Desert region. In spite of the border dividing American and Mexican parts of the Desert, familial ties and common economic interests promote migration across the region and until recently, the direction of migration has been mostly northward from Sonora to Arizona. Because of this, schools in Arizona traditionally enrolled many immigrant students from Sonora.

Schools throughout the U.S. have a long tradition of local governance and funding. Parents, and citizens in general, strongly adhere to “local control” of schools, including decisions about funding, curriculum, and teaching practices. Citizens elect local Boards of Education to run their schools, and this proprietary role of parents in the U.S. differed from the role Mexican immigrant parents were accustomed to. Mexican parents, by tradition and culture, were used to deferring to professional educators on all decisions regarding schooling for their children.

During the 1960s and 70s, the rights and needs of immigrant students in the U.S. were incorporated into the Civil Rights Movement. Federal and State legislation addressed needs of immigrant English language learners (ELLs), providing funds for programs to teach English as a Second Language (ESL). Programs for ELLs proliferated in the 1980s and 90s so that by the turn of the century most school districts in the country had special programs to teach ESL. Schools were mandated to hire bilingual teachers and translators (primarily Spanish/English) and teachers who were certified to teach ESL. Programs also included provisions for teaching immigrant parents about the structure and governance of American schools, about curriculum and the rights of parents. The 1980s also brought administrative changes in American schools as parents demanded stronger participation in the governance of schools. Today, virtually all schools have Councils that involve parents in decisions about curriculum and instruction. Many schools in Arizona also have “parent rooms” for immigrant parents to meet and support each other. The activism of American parents was new for Mexican parents but there is ample evidence that they joined minority groups and became more vocal and assertive about their children’s education. They cared deeply about education. In fact, in interviews they often cited education and schools as their motivation for leaving Sonora to go to the U.S.

Mexican immigration to the U.S. peaked in 2009 and since then there has been a steady return migration to Mexico, including Sonora. According to the PEW Research Foundation, from 2009 to 2014, 1 million Mexican immigrants left the U.S. for Mexico. Research conducted in Sonora in 2010 - 2014 indicates that Sonoran schools, now being impacted by return migration, are beginning to change policies and practices related to parents - perhaps because of parents’ experiences in Arizona?