A timely opportunity for change: Increasing refugee parental involvement in U.S. schools

Jill Koyama, Fortidas Rwehumbiza Bakuza

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

31 Scopus citations


Refugee youth attend schools in every state in the United States. Yet, little is known about their schooling experiences or the ways in which schools engage their parents. In this paper, we resituate notions of parent involvement by focusing on the interactions between refugee parents and U.S. schools Drawing on data collected during a twenty-six month ethnography of refugees in a Northeastern city, we examine how the influx of refugee students into one school district, not only changes the district’s student demographics, but also leads to policy changes mediated by the repositioning of refugee parents’ involvement in decision-making at one public school, and a reconfiguring of the school leadership advisory team. We document the ways in which refugee parents, when joined with others, engage in what Das Gupta (2006) calls space-making, or the process by which transnational migrants make spaces for themselves within, between, and outside of existing policies, practices, assumptions, and expectations. We show refugee parents advocating for themselves and their children, and working with teachers and community members to navigate uncertain and unfamiliar educational spaces and to build new, more adequate spaces for the emergent needs of a school with changing demographics.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)311-335
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Educational Change
Issue number3
StatePublished - Aug 1 2017


  • Demographic change
  • Ethnography
  • Parent involvement
  • Policy, refugees

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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