Hmong Families and Schools Promoting Students’ Success
University of Minnesota Extension, HOPE Community Academy, Prairie Seeds Academy, and Minnesota Department of Education staff are working together to strengthen interactions and partnerships between Hmong families and school staff.
The state of Minnesota, long known as a leader in education, is also a leader in an educational achievement gap for students of color (Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, 2015). The reasons for this gap include Minnesota's many new immigrant and refugee communities. This history of immigration can lead to a generational legacy of inequity. For example, many Minnesotan students are descendants from the South Asian population that came to the U.S. as refugees from Laos after the end of the Vietnam War. Many parents lack literacy skills, relevant job experiences, and English proficiency. These deficits negatively impact the youth academic success.
In order to understand the needs of communities of color, Extension Center for Family Development designed and conducted a series of focus group discussion with service providers and parents with children in school between 2007 and 2011. The aim of these focus groups was to discuss factors for student success identified in the literature. These focus group discussions were done separately among Latino, Somali, African American, American Indian, and Hmong participants. The goals was to have the conversations within each group’s traditional language and cultural values.
What we learned in these focus groups was that views of success, as well as the challenges and strategies to promote school educational success for their children, differ for each ethnic group. For Hmong parents, success means that their children must be the ideal student and get a good job. An ideal student gets good grades, has good reading and writing abilities, is obtaining skills for a good job, has received a high school diploma, and is accepted to college, and graduates with a degree.
The main challenges Hmong parents reported to support their children to achieve school success were absence of Hmong-speaking school staff to assist parents with school related issues and a lack of communication with teachers due to language and cultural barriers.
Extension’s Programmatic Response
Education: Our Best Legacy is a parent curriculum developed by Extension educators in English and Spanish in conjunction with the input of parents, teachers, and administrators. With support from an Extension Issue Area grant, this curriculum will be adapted for Hmong families in partnership with Hope Community Academy in St. Paul and Prairie Seeds Academy in Brooklyn Park. Because Hmong parents know what they need to support their children to educationally succeed, this project proposes to address these needs directly through a tailored ecological intervention based on the Partnering for School Success model.
This project is based on a model that recognizes that student success in school is impacted by multiple factors in the family and community. This project will focus on one of the major factors related to academic achievement for Hmong students: family support and involvement at school.
The project outcomes include a curriculum adapted to a Hmong audience, a companion “Train-the-Trainer,” a pilot study of the curriculum’s effectiveness, and technology sessions to support parents and caregivers in electronically monitoring their children’s performance and communicating with school staff.
Expected Outcome and Impacts
This project has multiple expected outcomes and impacts:
- A cultural and linguistic curriculum to help Hmong parents to understand the U.S. educational system and ways to support their children.
- Trained facilitators to find better ways to engage families to support their children’s education.
- Hmong parents and caregivers will understand their important role for their children's academic success and will become more involved in their children’s education to reduce the achievement gap.
- A pilot implementation will provide evidence of the effectiveness and impact of this curriculum that could be disseminated for the use in other Minnesota schools.
- Dissemination of the pilot’s findings through scholarship and community outreach and community knowledge sharing.
This project launched in Fall 2016.
Translate, adapt, and pilot existing curriculum
Develop the Train-the-Trainer for facilitators
Year 1 and 2
Deliver Train-the-Trainer to facilitators
Implement curriculum with parents
Pilot curriculum and collect data
Deliver technology sessions
- Silvia Alvarez de Davila, Extension Educator — Family Resiliency (principal investigator)
- Kathleen A. Olson, Program Director — Partnering for School Success (project manager)
- Mary Jo Katras, Program Leader — Family Resiliency (supervisor)
- Pangjua Xiong, Principal at Weaver Elementary School in Maplewood Minnesota (Hmong culture and education specialist)
- Debra Landvik, Educational Specialist — Minnesota Department of Education (family engagement specialist)
- Sally A. Baas, Associate Professor — Concordia University (Hmong culture and education specialist)
- Jennifer Skuza, Assistant Dean — Center for Youth Development
- Blong Xiong, Associate Professor — Department of Family Social Science, University of Minnesota (Hmong culture and education specialist)
- Maychy Vu, School Director — HOPE Community Academy
- Juavah Lee, Program Development Coordinator — HOPE Community Academy
- Choua Yang, School Principal — Prairie Seeds Academy
- Jeannene Miller, Academic Coordinator — Prairie Seeds Academy
- Bruce Yang, Multicultural Associate — Multicultural Center for Academic Excellence, University of Minnesota
Partnering for School Success: More About the Project — Learn about the focus groups research with different cultural groups, and the development of the Partnering for School Success project.
Creating School-Family Connections — Use this inventory to look at the conditions that enhance productive school-family relationships: approach, attitude, atmosphere, and actions.