The effects of the American Dream Academy on Hispanic parents' beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors regarding pre-kinder to post-secondary education
ABSTRACT The high percentage and the steady growth of Hispanic/Latino students in Arizona demand that special attention be placed on improving academic achievement and attainment. The need to support Hispanic/Latino parents in becoming meaningful positive contributors to their children's schooling continues to surface as a critical issue in school improvement efforts in many Arizona districts. American Dream Academy, part of the Center for Community Development and Civil Rights at Arizona State University, has aimed to address this critical issue. Their focus has been to change Latino parents' beliefs about, knowledge of, and behaviors related to their children's education from pre-kindergarten to the post-secondary level. The Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler model, Realizing the American Dream, for parental involvement was the basis for the design of the curriculum used by the American Dream Academy. The purpose of this study was to analyze the efficacy of the American Dream Academy in changing the beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors of parents. The data sources were demographic and pre- and post-academy surveys taken by 719 parents representing 42 Title 1 school districts throughout Maricopa County, Arizona during the spring semester of 2012. Two tailed t tests and the significant p values revealed statistically significant changes after participation in the academy for each one of the survey statement constructs, beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors. A computation of the effect sizes using Cohen's d revealed that there were moderate to large effect sizes for each of the constructs. The knowledge construct had the largest effect size. Pearson correlation coefficients revealed that the gains for each construct were positively correlated with each of the other constructs and that the relationships were statistically significant. The significant effects of the American Dream Academy's curriculum were considerable in changing parents' beliefs, knowledge, and behaviors as to pre-kindergarten and post-secondary education. Of special notice is the effect that the academy had on parents' knowledge of how to help their children as they navigate through the United States' educational system. It is recommended that school districts partner with the American Dream Academy in efforts to engage parents in meaningful participation.