The Process of Mexican American Catholic School Selection
The Process of Mexican American Catholic School SelectionGilbert L. Sáenz, Ph.D.Director: Merylann J. Schuttloffel, Ph.D.ABSTRACTThis qualitative multiple case study explored the process Mexican American parents use in selecting Catholic schools for their children. Catholic school graduates become the leaders of the Catholic Church and society; and are replete with moral values resulting from the fostering of their faith while in Catholic schools. Their test scores and achievements outstrip those of their public-school counterparts, and their futures are bright as well (Berends, 2009; Dolan, 2010; Gautier, 2005). What about the futures of the 17.9 million Hispanic school aged children in the United States? In 2016, 55 million Hispanic people lived in the United States with 17.9 of their children being of school age (Patten, 2016). Of those children, only 307,664 attended Catholic schools (McDonald and Schultz, 2016). Emerging from this data is the problem that few Hispanic children were attending Catholic schools. This study sought to understand the process used by Hispanic Mexican American parents whose children attended Catholic schools to develop a conduit by which more Hispanic children could attend Catholic schools in the future.Data for this study came from interviews of six Mexican American married couples with their, first born, children enrolled in a Catholic prekindergarten or kindergarten in a Catholic diocese in the Southern region of the United States. Content analysis was used as a means of data analysis. Content analysis is a method that is both systematic and objective, as a means of describing… phenomena (Elo & Kyngäs, 2008). The data were also examined using a modified constant comparison method developed by Glaser and Strauss (1963). The theoretical framework of the study was derived from the rational choice model of Friedman and Hechter (1988), which described the process of school selection consisting of four major constructs: who chooses; the gathering and use of information; negotiated actions; and the aggregation mechanism. The study found that Mexican American parents undertake an informal process of school selection, different from the school selection studies found in the literature and the theoretical framework of the study. The study also found that Mexican American mothers direct the process of school selection, are often predisposed to sending their children to Catholic schools and lead their husbands towards the Catholic school selection as well, consistent with the literature of “who chooses”. However, grandmothers are also involved. In making the decision about selecting Catholic schools, Mexican American parents avail themselves of little information, including from the Internet. They also make a single Catholic school selection versus choosing two or three schools. Mexican American parents consider any negotiations that take place as conversations and due to selecting a single school, these conversations most often are limited to scarcity of resources and convincing fathers of the virtues of Catholic schools. Mexican American parents, who find it difficult to pay tuition costs, nevertheless, decide to send their children, contrary to popular opinion. Mexican American parents gather most of their school information during their visit to the school and cite the actual visit with the school principal as the most critical factor in the process of selecting the Catholic schools for their children. The results of this study identify steps that can be taken by educators, dioceses and policy makers in response to the problem of too few Hispanic children in Catholic schools.
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