Parental involvement in an urban minority school district
TABLE OF CONTENTS ABSTRACT iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS v DEDICATION vii TABLE OF CONTENTS viii LIST OF TABLES xi LIST OF FIGURES xii I. INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction 1 Background of the Problem 3 Statement of the Problem 6 The Purpose of the Study 6 Theoretical Rationale for the Study 7 Research Questions 9 Research Design 10 Program Description 11 Significance of the Study 13 Limitations of the Study 13 Definition of Key Terms 14 Organization of the Study 15 II. LITERATURE REVIEW 17 Introduction to Parent Involvement 17 Legal Demands for Parent Involvement 20 Educational Approaches 23 Evaluation of the Effects of Parent Involvement 28 Factors Related to Parent Involvement 31 Barriers to Parent Involvement 32 Solutions to Overcome Barriers to Parent Involvement 39 Parent Involvement and Student Academic Success 41 Conclusion 45 III. METHODOLOGY 47 Overview of Research Design 47 Location of Study 48 Participants 50 viii
Instruments 52 Data Collection 54 Treatment of the Data 55 Summary 56 IV. RESULTS 57 Overview of Results 57 Overview of Domains 58 Domain 1: School Environment 58 Domain 2: Curriculum 59 Domain 3: Self-Development 59 Domain 4: Program Improvement 60 Introduction to Focus Groups 60 Section 1: Focus Groups 61 Focus Group 1: Staff 61 Domain 1: School Environment 61 Domain 2: Curriculum 62 Domain 3: Self-Development 62 Domain 4: Program Improvement 63 Focus Group 2: Parents 64 Domain 1: School Environment 64 Domain 2: Curriculum 65 Domain 3: Self-Development 65 Domain 4: Program Improvement 66 Focus Group 3: Students 67 Domain 1: School Environment 67 Domain 2: Curriculum 68 Domain 3: Self-Development 70 Domain 4: Program Improvement 70 Summary of Focus Group Results 71 Section 2: Individual Interviews 71 Introduction 71 Individual Interview Results 72 Domain 1: School Environment 72 Research Question 1 98 Summary 100 Domain 2: Curriculum 100 Research Question 2 118 Summary 119 Domain 3: Self-Development 120 Research Question 3 124 Summary 125 Domain 4: Program Improvement 125 Research Question 4 132 Summary 133 IX
Section 3: Program Participants' Attendance 133 Conclusions 139 V. DISCUSSION AND RECOMMENDATIONS 141 Introduction 141 Reasons for Parent Participation 143 Conclusions 143 Discussion of Findings 147 Further Research 162 Implications for Practice 164 Implications for Policy 165 Closing Remarks 165 References 167 Appendix A- Informed Consent Forms Appendix B- Focus Group Interviews Appendix C- Individual Interviews x
LIST OF TABLES 1 Individual Interview Categories 10 2 Barriers for Parents and Educators 33 3 Attendance 135 4 Average Attendance per Class for Each Session in Each Year.... 137 5 Breakdown of Parents and Children 138 XI
LIST OF FIGURES 1 Domain 1 and Themes 149 2 Domain 2 and Themes 152 3 Domain 3 and Themes 154 4 Themes and Characteristics for Domain 1 157 5 Themes and Characteristics for Domain 2 158 6 Themes and Characteristics for Domain 3 159 7 Themes and Characteristics for Domain 4 160 xii
CHAPTER 1 1 INTRODUCTION Introduction Positive parental involvement has been linked to indicators of student academic success (Fan & Chen, 2001; Desimone, 1999; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005). The evidence that parental involvement has beneficial effects on students' academic achievement is so compelling that policymakers, school board administrators, teachers, and parents all agree that parental involvement is critical for children's academic success (Fan & Chen, 2001). When schools support parents' involvement in their children's learning, regardless of the families' income, education level, or ethnic background, children are more likely to: earn higher grades and test scores and enroll in higher-level programs; be promoted, pass their classes, and earn credits; attend school regularly; have better social skills; show improvement in behavior and adapt well to school; and graduate from high school and go on to postsecondary education (Christenson, 2004; Delgado-Gaitan, 2004; Drummond & Stipek, 2004; Epstein, 2001a; Fan & Chen, 2001; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005; Miedel & Reynolds, 1999). Parents want assurances that their children will receive adequate preparation that will lead to rewarding adult lives. For children, parents are the most important influences in their lives. They help shape the morals, values, and manners that will help them to succeed in school and life. Parents serve as the first and most enduring teachers who play a crucial role in helping their children learn (Miller, 2001).
2 In the 1990s, Epstein and researchers at Johns Hopkins University conducted studies to identify and understand what schools need to know and do to develop and implement a comprehensive program of family-school partnership. As a result, Epstein and these researchers developed a research-based framework of the six major types of involvement that form a family-school partnership (Epstein et al., 2002). These six major types of involvement explain how schools can, with families and communities, become and stay informed and involved in children's education at home and at school (Epstein, 2001). These six types of school-related opportunities for parental involvement are: parenting: assisting parents in child-rearing skills; communicating: school-parent communication; volunteering: involving parents in school volunteer opportunities; student learning at home: involving parents in home-based learning; decision making: involving parents in school decision-making, and collaborating with the community: involving parents in school-community collaborations (Epstein, 2001). The National Parent Teacher Association (PTA) produced standards for their parent and family involvement programs (National Parent Teacher Association, 2006). The standards were created around the six types of parent involvement identified by Epstein (National Parent Teacher Association, 2006.) Nearly 100 professional education and parent/family involvement organizations, state departments of education, colleges of teacher education, and school districts endorse them. The standards clearly delineate those practices that have been shown to lead to success and high-quality parent involvement programs (National Parent Teacher Association, 2006). Community members and parents have benefited from collaboration to improve student education. Education research shows that conventional avenues to involvement in
3 the schools are closed to parents (Bermudez & Marquez, 1996; Giles, 1998; Onikama, Hammond, & Koki, 1998; Osterling, Violand-Sanchez, & von Vacano, 1999; Rosado, 1994; Weidman & Romero, 1996). This is because effective participation requires specific cultural knowledge of normal activities in schools. Non-conventional activities, such as workshops that help parents to manage family finances, can encourage the parents to participate in their children's education through parental participation in school. Participation must be encouraged in the manner in which those non-conventional activities that encouraged the parents to participate in their children's education through culturally responsive communication and activities (Delgado-Gaitan, 1991). Schools have benefited by learning how to attract, promote, and increase parental participation in the school's activities. However, examples of non-conventional activities are workshops that are flexible and motivate parents to help their child at home. These activities have helped families to come together and they have built the relationship between school and parents. Background of the Problem There is a consensus among parents, educators, and researchers that parent involvement is an important factor related to academic success in children (Szente, 2006; Wright & Willis, 2004). Parent involvement is positively related to student academic performance, and increasing this involvement may reduce the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students (Lee & Bowen, 2006). Despite parental consensus about the importance of their involvement, there are differences in the types of parental involvement. Lee and Bowen (2006) stated that parents' involvement in their children's education may vary and it includes different activities such as attending parent-teacher
4 conferences or programs that feature their children and other students, or participating in volunteer activities. On the other hand, parents' involvement may include at-home activities such as helping their children with homework, discussing their children's schoolwork or school experiences, and structuring educational activities in the home. The Office of Educational Research and Improvement (2004) reported that it is important for parents to continue with their school involvement during the middle school years, since this participation continues to be related to school success (increased academic success, increased positive attitudes, decreased absenteeism, decreased dropout rates and retention rates, and increased motivation). However, even parents who are actively involved in their children's education during the elementary school years tend to become less involved when the children reach middle school. Studies also show that while parent involvement is associated with increased student success, parent education, Supplemental Education Service (SES) level, and ethnicity/race are less associated with student success (Office of Educational Research and Improvement, 2004, pp. 2-4). However, these factors have served as moderating variables related to parent involvement. While parents may agree regarding the need to be involved in their children's education, there may be differences in parental involvement levels based on moderating variables. Geenen, Powers, and Lopez-Vasquez (2001) reported that United States schools are becoming more and more diverse. They projected that by the year 2050 the majority of students will come from culturally diverse groups. Trends in education also indicate that as the number of minority children in school continues to increase the family risk factors that affect their school achievement also increase. These risk factors are
5 related to student achievement (Sanders & Harvey, 2002; U.S. Department of Education, 2004a). An early childhood longitudinal study conducted by the U.S. Department of Education investigated risk factors as they relate to parent involvement and student achievement. Findings from this study were that poverty, lack of parental education, and being a single parent negatively impacted student achievement gains (U.S. Department of Education, 2004b). More information is needed to fully understand these and additional factors that moderate parent involvement. Trotman (2001) examined factors that affect parental involvement such as family structure, parent socioeconomic status, and parent educational level. Single parent families are increasing along with the needs for these parents to work. Trotman stated that lower levels of parent education, as well as work needs, are related to lower levels of parent participation. Also, cultural influences may affect parent involvement in their children's education. Trotman stated that it is important to understand cultural views and individual perceptions of what constitutes parental involvement. Parent involvement practices vary within and between cultures. Some parents perceive themselves as participating in their child's education if they are involved in the school setting as a teacher's aide or tutor, if they attend field trips, or if they assist with fundraising activities. Others perceive parent involvement as including the following activities: providing their children with a place to study, helping their children with homework, monitoring their children's degree of television watching, and setting curfews for their children. Trotman pointed out the importance of considering the parents' perceptions of involvement when attempting to understand and increase their participation.
6 Statement of the Problem The positive impact of parental involvement on student achievement has been demonstrated by a variety of research studies over the past several years, yet some parents continue to remain uninvolved. Reasons for this lack of involvement must be understood (Szente, 2006) and ways to encourage parental involvement must be developed. Feldman (2003) mentioned that if parents do not show any interest in how their children are doing, if they ignore messages that teachers send home, or if they fail to come to conferences, teachers are likely to feel helpless. Teachers may fear that talking about the role parents need to play in their children's education will sound like they are passing the buck. But the fact is that parents' contribution to the education of their children is essential. Parents are their children's first, and in many ways, their most valuable teachers. Despite the awareness of the benefits of parent involvement in students' lives and the attempts to improve parental involvement in the schools, the fact remains that minority parents often remain hesitant to participate in school programs. The Purpose of the Study The purpose of this research was to explore if the educational needs of minority Latino parents are met in an urban Saturday program. If the needs of minority parents are met, then it is likely that these parents will be able to help with homework, as well as improve the attitudes and behaviors of their children (Gestwicki, 2001).
7 Also, it is important to understand the reason that some parents do not get involved in their children's education. Research has suggested that family structure, education level, and perceptions of involvement are related to levels of parent involvement. However, reasons for the continued lack of parent involvement in the education of their children remain unclear. Epstein and Jansom (2004) reported that the demographics of American families are changing. Theoretical Rationale for the Study Districts are reaching out to find ways to improve parental involvement in their schools. According to the National Parent Teacher Association (NPTA, 1998), when parents are involved in their children's education, those children have higher grades and test scores, better attendance, and complete homework more consistently. With the No Child Left Behind (NCLB, 2001) legislation, educational administrators and teachers are highly interested in programs that result in positive student outcomes, higher school attendance, and an increase in parent participation in family programs. The school under investigation was working to achieve this goal. Previous research noted that various elements enable school family programs to meet the needs of the parents. When the elements are visible, parental participation is not an issue, but an asset. The National Network for family Resiliency (1995) highlighted some common elements in effective programs. The first element is accountability: Programs need both ongoing and regular assessments to make services more responsive to families. The second element is a community base: Programs that are community based need to recognize that children are an integral part of a family and community.
8 Programs that encourage neighborhood and school involvement help communities respond to the needs of individuals and families. The third element is comprehensiveness: Programs that provide continuous, intense interaction with competent, caring adults and peers are more effective than programs designed solely for crisis situations. Effective programs focus on services that address the educational, health, social, and emotional needs of both the parents and children. The fourth element is empowerment: Programs that provide nurturing connections with others help families learn about community resources and link them to the world of work. Successful programs involve clients in shaping their own interventions. The fifth element is complexity: Programs must focus on root causes since addressing immediate symptoms is not enough. Early intervention and crisis prevention should be emphasized. According to Lezotte (1991), the correlates of effective schools proved way to improve parental involvement and student learning. These correlates are a widely known set of research-based constructs with which to evaluate a school and enable a whole school to improve. The effective school correlates are as follows. 1. Clear school mission. There is a clearly articulated school mission in the effective school whereby the staff shares an understanding and commitment to instructional goals, priorities, assessment procedures, and accountability. The staff accepts responsibility for the students' learning of the schools' essential curricular goals. 2. High expectations for success. In the effective school, there is a climate of expectation in which the staff believes and demonstrates that all students can attain mastery of the essential content and school skills, and the staff believes that they have the capability to help all students achieve that mastery.
9 3. Instructional leadership. In the effective school, the principal acts as an instructional leader and effectively and persistently communicates that mission to the staff, parents, and students. The principal understands and applies the characteristics of instructional effectiveness in the management of the instructional program. 4. Opportunity to learn and student time on task. In the effective school, teachers allocate a significant amount of classroom time to instruction in the essential content and skills. For a high percentage of this time, students are engaged in whole class or large group, teacher-directed, planned learning activities. 5. Safe and orderly environment. In the effective school, there is an orderly, purposeful, businesslike atmosphere that is free from the threat of physical harm. The school climate is not oppressive and is conducive to teaching and learning. 6. Home school relations. In the effective school, parents understand and support the school's basic mission and are given the opportunity to play an important role in helping the school to achieve that mission. Research Questions The following are the questions that will be investigated in this study. 1. What are some of the experiences parents encountered when coming to a Saturday program? 2. What type of courses will increase the participation of parents in the school? 3. To what extend do parent involvement programs benefit the community and education in general? 4. What are some of the parent involvement practices the program participants use to contribute to the Saturday program's growth?
10 Research Design A comprehensive description of the research method and procedures for this study is presented in Chapter III. This section is provided as an overview. Three focus groups are identified by whether they are made up of parents, teacher, or students. The subject in each focus group were chosen based upon length of participation. To glean a more in-depth understanding of the participants' perceptions as to what parental involvement practices contribute to the growth of the Saturday program, individual interviews were conducted. Overall, 25 individual interviews were conducted. Five primary questions were asked to all participants taking into consideration the common responses from the focus groups. Categories were used to group specific participants for interviews and codes were used for confidentiality (see Table 1). Table 1 Individual Interview Categories Category I Category II Category III Category IV Category V Five parents who participated in the Saturday program for at least one year. Codes: Inf. 6- 10. Five teachers who participated in the Saturday program for at least one year. Codes: Inf. 1-5. Five support staff members who participated in the Saturday program for at least one year. Codes: Inf. 16-20. Five community members who support the Saturday program for at least one year. Codes: Inf. 21-25. Five high school students who participated in the Saturday program for at least one year. Codes: Inf. 11-15.
11 After all the interviews were complete the data collected from attendance record were reviewed which indicated the length of participation in programs, as well as the continuity and retention of parents in family programs. A goal of this research was to investigate if parents' needs were being met and the factors that affected attendance in the Saturday program. Program Description The Saturday program is a family program that allows family members of all ages to come to school from 8:30 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday and select various classes from adult or child oriented offerings. At the beginning of each semester the school sends registration forms with all the selections of the classes and registrations dates to each of the students' homes. Some of the classes that can be selected for adults are: English as a Second Language, Computers, and Cake Decorating. Classes that are offered for both middle and high school students included: Reading Through Cooking, Computers Club, Basketball, and others. Classes that are offered to younger students are the following: Childcare, Pre-Kindergarten, Creative Writing, and Health/Physical Fitness. Also, there are classes for parents and children together. For example, Babies and Books is a class in which parents learn how to read to preschool children. Due to the flexible structure of the Saturday program, the parents' attendance increased from year to year. By having classes that were very motivating and staff that were very familiar with the mission of the program and the needs of the community, the program to retained parents and students for many years. The program was designed very
12 carefully to ensure that parents' and students' needs were met. Another factor that increased retention was that staff members were carefully selected to ensure that they would be sensitive to need of any age (infant to adulthood) of student that entered the program. Many of the staff spoke the same language as the participants and this is believed to have increased program attendance. This addressed another very important factor that is facing our school community today. An increasing number of Hispanic families are settling down in areas of New Jersey where they had not settled before. As this occurs, the structure of the community is affected by the new families. Consequently, schools in these areas have a dramatic change in the demographics of their student populations and may be unprepared to face the challenges brought about by these new families' needs. Gilbert Gonzalez (as cited in Garcia, 2001) has documented that Hispanic children and their families are usually perceived as foreigners, intruders, or immigrants who speak a different language or dialect and who hold values significantly different from the American mainstream. Confusion and fear often lead to detrimental policies and practices that affect Hispanic students and their families and ultimately society as a whole. Indeed, the education of Hispanic students in the United States has reached a crisis stage. Although the number of Hispanics attending public school has increased dramatically in recent decades, Hispanic students as a group have the lowest level of education and the highest dropout rate of any group of students. Conditions of poverty and health, as well as other social problems, have made it difficult for Hispanics living in the United States to improve their educational status and to close the achievement gap
13 between Hispanic and White students (Pradon, Waxman, & Rivera, 2002). Significance of the Study Parental involvement increases student academic achievement; however, there continues to be a lack of parent involvement in schools across the nation. The findings of this study are of significance to students, parents, educators, administrators, school systems, school boards, public officials, and community members. The findings will provide information to assist educational researchers seeking to understand factors that affect parent involvement in school. The results of this study will assist administrators to develop and to implement parent involvement programs. Limitations of the Study The data for this study was collected from the responses of the interviewees. The research was also limited by time, distance, and scope. The research was conducted in an urban school district in central New Jersey; which offered a Saturday family program. Interviews were conducted outside of the program and at the convenience of the parents. Open ended question were asked of the participants. Although parents could answer questions in their native languages, the experiences of some parents was limited by a small vocabulary and a lack of education,
14 Definition of Key Terms Academic outcomes refer to the knowledge and skill levels demonstrated by students based on curriculum and instruction compared to state-identified performance standards. Minority group is defined in terms of its subordinate position: it is a group of people who are singled out from other people in the society in which they live because of their physical or cultural characteristics. The group is treated unequally and differentially, and as a result of such treatment, they regard themselves as objects of collective discrimination (Feagin, & Booher Feagin, 1999). Community refers to local stakeholders, including but not limited to private citizens, organizations, businesses, political leaders, agencies, and universities. Family involvements refer to the formal and/or informal ways in which family members assist with the education of the children at school or at home. Partnership is a mutual agreement between school personnel and other educational stakeholders that encourages all parties to share information and resources as a means to develop a learning environment. School community refers to the school personnel, students, families, and members of the larger community bound by a common spirit of involvement for the purpose of maximum social, emotional, intellectual and academic growth and development for all students. Curriculum is everything that is taught in the school that is mandated by the state or any other local school authority.