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The relationship among family involvement, mentoring programs, and student social interaction in a suburban middle school

ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, 2009
Dissertation
Author: Alita D Hall
Abstract:
The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among mentoring programs, parent involvement, and student social interaction. Influenced by Epstein's School, Family and Community Partnerships (1995), this study revealed that when teachers are used as mentors, teachers must be dedicated to the mentoring process. That process for mentors means that the burden of increasing parent involvement fell on the mentors. As parent involvement and communication between parents and teachers increased, students improved academically and behavioral infractions decreased. Parents whose children had mentors reported that they felt less intimidated when dealing with the schooling process. Students formed trusting relationships and became more comfortable when approaching parents and teachers for help when they faced academic difficulties. Teachers formed open lines of communication with the students and parents. These results lead to the following recommendations for stakeholders. Administrators should focus on integrating practices to generate opportunities for students to exercise personal control and autonomy as well as integrating structured peer interaction. Mentors must work hard to change the negative perspectives some parents have about interacting with school personnel.

TABLE OF CONTENTS VI DEDICATION iii ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS iv TABLE OF CONTENTS v LIST OF TABLES vii CHAPTER I INTRODUCTION 1 Introduction 1 Mentoring in Middle Schools 8 Mentoring and Minority Students 8 Mentoring and Family Involvement 9 Middle School students' Social Interaction 12 Setting 13 Purpose of the Study 15 Statement of the Problem 15 Research Questions 15 Definition of Major Variables and Terms 16 Mentoring Programs 16 Parental Involvement 17 Mentees 17 Mentors 17 Social Interaction 18 Conceptual Rationale 18 Significance of the Study 20

vii Limitations of the Study 21 CHAPTER II - REVIEW OF RELATED RESEARCH 22 Introduction 22 Mentoring Programs and Principals 22 Mentors as Role Models 26 Parental Component of Mentoring Programs 28 Effects of Mentoring 30 Need for Parent Involvement and Interaction with Teachers 32 Effects of Parental Involvement 35 Positive Social Skills and Interactions 39 Personal Autonomy 40 Peer Interactions 41 Summary 43 CHAPTER HI - RESEARCH DESIGN AND METHODOLOGY 44 Introduction 44 Research Questions 44 Selection of Participants 45 Setting 45 Data Gathering Techniques 46 Interview protocol 47 Data Analysis 48 CHAPTER IV - DATA ANALYSIS AND FINDINGS 50 Introduction 50 Research Question One 53

viii Research Question Two 63 Research Question Three 70 Research Question Four 81 Research Question Five 88 CHAPTER V - SUMMARY, CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS.95 Introduction 95 Summary 95 Research Questions One 95 Research Question Two 97 Research Question Three 99 Research Question Four 101 Research Question five 103 Conclusions 105 Recommendations for Stakeholders 110 Recommendations for Future Research 114 REFERENCES 117 APPENDIX A- INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR PARENTS/GUARDIAN 125 APPENDIX B - INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR TEACHERS/ MENTOR 126 APPENDIX C- INTERVIEW PROTOCOL FOR STUDENTS/MENTEE 127 APPENDIX D-PARENTIAL CONSENT FORM 128 APPENDIX E-STUDENT ASSENT FORM 130 APPENDIX F-TEACHER CONSENT FORM 131

IX LIST OF TABLES TABLE 3.1 Descriptors Of Parent, Mentor and Mentee Interpersonal Behavior.48 TABLE 4.1 Mentor Participation 51 TABLE 4.2 Parent And Guardian Participation 52 TABLE 4.3 Student Participation 53

CHAPTER I Introduction Mentoring programs are designed to strengthen a student's interpersonal relationships, especially one's ability to communicate effectively, to make well-informed decisions, to build trusting relationships with adults, to interact appropriately with peers, and to develop openness to learning. According to Rutter (1984), once students are successfully involved in school functions, they are to feel more empowered and confident. An outcome of empowerment is more student participation and involvement in the school environment including an increase in academic achievement. According to Bernard (1991), research has shown that delinquency prevention programs are not as powerful as programs that are systemic and collaborative throughout all the environments in which students live, work, and play. One way to address the needs of youth and build strong relationships is through mentoring programs. Mentoring programs are designed to strengthen children and youth in the community by "creating and enhancing the personal and environmental attributes that serve as the key to healthy development" (Bernard, 1991, p. 2). Another attribute which is a key to healthy development is the willingness to learn. Bernard (1991) believes that it is essential for the parents/guardians in the child's home to hold high expectations for their child's behavior and learning at school. For

2 example, if children believe that their family expects them to achieve above passing grades in school, they will seek to reach that expectation. Collaborations between family and school personnel often are associated with increased expectations that parents have for children in the areas of social interactions and academic achievement. "In spite of the difficulties that family-school partnerships may entail, working together is critically important for students" (Henderson, Marburger, &Oams, 1987, pp. 13-14). Mentoring programs have been associated with healthier mental development for students (Benard, 1991). Campbell-Whatley (2001) stated that the goal of the mentoring relationship is to improve communication and to assist the student in developing learning skills and character. Individual and community relationships play a critical role in helping to raise a child (Townsel, 1997). There is nothing new about the mentoring concepts in the context of culturally sophisticated support systems in the African American community. Mentoring has evolved in this country from the Friendly Visitors model in the late 1960s and early 1970s to more structured community involved collaborative models. During the 1960's and 70's well intended company personnel (mostly white but never black) would come from their homes in suburbia to urban areas to serve as role models for the poor and disadvantaged children. (Townsel, 1997, p. 125) These role models would take the children on group outings, buy them as many hot dogs as they could eat, and tell them they could be anything they wanted to be. Townsel (1997) reported that mentoring provided many at-risk youth with viable opportunities for ongoing contact with positive adults. These adults were capable of providing some of the basic needs of care and concern for these children. Townsel (1997) refers to mentoring as an on going process, an integration of lives and interest. Few

3 mentoring programs considered the needs of African American students who had emotional and behavioral disorders. In order to create a successful mentoring program, mentors had to share a program philosophy. Townsel (1997) felt that the existing school and family support systems had the potential to enhance and to support the cultural uniqueness of the student and could encourage student resiliency. Mentors should understand the developmental cycles that children would move through as they grew from young children into teenagers. Freedman (1994) noted that mentoring was not defined in terms of formal roles. The character and the functions that the relationship served established the substance of the mentoring relationship. Mentoring had three common elements. First, mentors fostered academic achievement. Second, mentors nurtured their students to adulthood by teaching them specific skills. Finally, mentors developed practices that fostered a sense of responsibility in the student. Freedman (1994) stated that consistent support, quality time, and supervision from a mentor established enduring relationships. Mentors should be provided with ongoing training and support. Training and support would eliminate the feeling of isolation or frustration that some mentors could experience with their students. Meeting regularly with their students was important in establishing trust within their relationship. Yalom (1995) believed that because most problems originated in group settings, they could best be solved in a group setting. Mentoring programs offer students a sense of belonging, support from their peers, appropriate peer relationships, and help them learn how to give and to receive support. In these groups, students learn that they are not

4 the only ones with problems. Most importantly, they learn how to respond and to interact in an interpersonal world (Parker, 1995). Yalom (1995) stated that through mentoring programs students could experience a sense of belonging, receive support from peers, help others by sharing past experiences, and learn how to function with other children and adults. The isolation of youth from caring adults and peers led to negative consequences such as drug abuse, suicide, and school absences. Yalom (1995) observed that there are five advantages to using groups to effect individual change: 1. Groups are like a miniature society where members feel less alienated and experience a greater sense of belonging. 2. Groups allow members the opportunity to be among others who share the same problems. 3. Group members are allowed to observe how others deal with their problems and struggles. 4. Groups foster feelings of caring, and respect for others, which promotes the self-confidence needed to begin to behave in different ways. 5. Group approaches can save time and money which is important in an environment of limited resources, (p. 42) Some mentoring relationships are built solely on one-to-one time between the adult and the student, whereas others benefit from more extensive group interactions (Struchen & Porta, 1997). According to Miller (1997), many educators and social service providers use mentoring programs to increase the educational and vocational success of students. To prevent or treat student problems such as behavior disorders, educators must involve "creating positive environmental contexts with families, schools, and communities that in turn, reinforce positive behaviors" (Benard, 1991, p. 3). Miller (1997) observed that the mentoring program should have clear goals: "to create a social and personal support network, one that is able to provide support across the lifespan, as well as bonding and attachment to the community" (p. 105). One delinquency prevention

5 program that contributed to the conceptualization of mentoring programs was the Safe Policy program. The Safe Policy Prevention program (Miller, 1997) was designed to reduce and to prevent delinquency by marshaling community resources into a coordinated and cohesive service plan, and mentoring was one aspect within the program. In the Safe Policy program, committees with representatives from three structures, families, schools, and communities, coordinated services and mentoring for students who were at-risk for academic failure. According to Miller (1997), mentoring is an effective tool to enhance the success of students. Building truly resilient students and protective communities requires mentoring programs to interact with all the environments where the student functions, at the family home, community, and school. The goal of a mentoring program is to open the lines of communication and to assist the student in developing self confidence and character (Campbell-Whatley, 2001). During the mentoring process, mentors and students can communicate about leisure topics such as sports, school, or community events, or specific topics of interest. Leisure conversations can precede more serious communication with issues of life goals and guidance in career matters. Campbell-Whatley, Algozzine, and Obiakor (1997b) implemented a mentoring program for middle school adolescents with learning and behavior problems. In addition to receiving specialized academic instruction, each student was matched with a mentor who provided social and academic support. The teacher and counselors reported that students who remained in the program appeared more motivated to learn; were better able to use strategies to resolve conflicts, and demonstrated a better overall attitude. Many of

6 the mentors reported that students were excited to see them. The students were willing to engage in confidential conversations about family, school, and their future goals. Youngsters participating in mentoring programs had higher self-esteem, higher grade point averages, better attendance, and fewer suspensions (Campbell-Whatley, 2001). Mentoring programs require teamwork between the community and the school, yielding benefits for both students and professionals. Although mentoring programs will differ because of geographic and regional variations, the following are the nine guidelines from Campbell-Whatley (2001): 1. Involve personnel who have contact with the student - mentoring program must be a component of the existing academic program. 2. Select program staff- an advisory board consisting of school personnel, students and parents of the students. 3. Determine mentoring program goals - advisory board can determine objectives of the program. 4. Define target population - a target population with clearly defined characteristics must be determined. 5. Develop activities and procedures - guidelines for the length and frequency of mentor-student contact must be determined. 6. Orient mentors and students - mentors and students should receive orientation and training sessions before the formal mentoring begins. 7. Monitor the mentoring process - student -mentor relationships require an evaluation after 1 month and should be continued only if successful. 8. Ensure a good match - Similarity in personality, race, and gender appear to be predictors of a good match. However, mentors who are dependable, honest, assessable and display good communication skills have been found to possess the best characteristics. 9. Evaluate program effectiveness - Formative and summative evaluations measure mentoring programs effectiveness and suggest changes and improvements for ongoing and future programming, (pp. 212-213) King, Vidourek, Davis, and McClellan (2002), report that research indicates that high self-esteem serves as a protective factor for youth involvement in risky health behaviors. High self-esteem is associated with high academic achievement, involvement in physical activities, development of effective coping, and peer pressure resistance skills.

7 In the school environment, students with high levels of self-esteem tend to connect positively to peers, classroom teachers, and the school as a whole. They reported that the Healthy Kids Mentoring Program for fourth grade students at a Midwestern suburban public school consisted of four components: relationship building, self-esteem enhancement, goal setting and academic assistance. The mentors met with the students twice a week for one and a half hours with each session devoting time to each program component. The meetings were held on school grounds. Relationship building efforts were a very important component of the mentoring program. Mentors were instructed to use dialogue journals, consistent meetings, and icebreakers to evoke conversation. During the mentoring process, students had the opportunity to build a one-on-one relationship with a caring adult and to learn effective communication. Results indicated that the program significantly affected students' sense of connection between themselves and their school. Positive school connectedness proved critical to student engagement in healthy behaviors. Mentoring programs may differ in little ways such as recruiting mentors from the community or from the classroom teachers in the school. In most school based mentoring programs, there is a consistent emphasis on the relationship between a disadvantaged or troubled student and a caring adult. The relationship generally involves spending quality time together to provide support and guidance that will help the young student negotiate challenges he or she might encounter throughout life (Keating, Tomishima, Foster, & Alessandri, 2002). Students who were involved in mentoring programs were more likely to be trusting of their parents or guardians and less likely to lie to them. They felt more support and were less criticized by their peers and friends.

8 Mentoring in Middle Schools Mentoring programs in middle schools can be used to enhance student social interaction. Campbell-Whatley, Algozzine, & Obiakor, (1997b) implemented a mentoring program for middle school students with learning or behavioral problems. One purpose of their program was to decrease students' behavioral problems. Students were matched with a mentor who provided social support. Campbell-Whatley (2001) noted that there were statistically significant lower absentee and suspension rates for these mentored students at the completion of the program. Mentoring programs in middle schools have been known to play a key role in the enhancement of students' self-esteem. When students participate in a structured mentoring program they are more likely to feel comfortable when approaching activities such as after-school sports and groups. Mentoring programs offering support, feedback and resources have been found to aid in the development of positive concept in adolescents (Keating, Tomishima, Foster, & Alessandri, 2002). Self-concept in adolescents can be strongly influenced by relationships with family, peers, mentors, and school communities (Gibson & Jefferson, 2006). Mentoring and Minority Students According to Hawkins and Weis (1985), some theories suggest that youth develop delinquent behavioral patterns because they have not identified appropriate role models in their environment. In 1995, the Juvenile Welfare Board Community Forum in St. Petersburg, Florida, facilitated a mentoring program for African American students. The students described their mentoring relationship in terms of role models. They described mentoring as a process where adult role models provided them with the opportunity to

9 enhance their decision-making skills and values. Through the mentoring program, students found adults to emulate who presented positive role models. Students formed trusting relationships with their mentors. Students also made better decisions when faced with an unclear situation or event. Often the students made better decisions about their future education (Struchen & Porta, 1997). Hurley and Lustbager (1997) implemented a five year mentoring program for at- risk youth in four low-income, predominately minority public school districts in suburban New York. Partnerships between the Board of Cooperative Educational Services, C.W. Post University, and the four school districts were formed. The report indicated that the leadership in the mentoring program was a critical component in improving student and adult relationships. Hurley and Lustbager (1997) noted that the mentoring program "accomplished much with the students, especially in the areas of building trust, and improving adolescent-adult relationships" (p. 531). Mentoring and Family Involvement Parental involvement in children's education is assumed in the United States to be a very important aspect that public schools should foster to strengthen partnerships between educators and families in order to help students perform better in school. Goal eight of the United States National Education Goals stated: "Every school will promote partnerships that will increase parental involvement and participation in promoting the social, emotional, and academic growth of children" (United States Department of Education, 1994). In other words, independent of the geographical location, poor or rich populations and ethnicity, every school should be committed to parental involvement to ensure children's academic success.

10 Epstein's (1995) model that describes six types of parent and family involvement in the schools includes: parenting, communication, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and collaborating with the community. Hodgkinson (1995) reported in his study of families in the 1990s that only 7 percent of families made-up the typical 1955 family model consisting of a working father, a housewife/mother, and two children. In fact, 56 percent of women worked outside of the home and one in every six children were being raised by a single parent. Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) found that the quality of parent involvement seems to depend on three variables: parent's understanding of his or her role in the child's life, parent's level of belief that she or he can help the child succeed in school, and general opportunities for involvement presented by both the child and the school. The importance of family and parent involvement in children's lives is reinforced by many studies, including a pilot project in Missouri. Jacobson, Huffman, and Rositas de Cantu (1998) used Epstein's (1995) family involvement model as the basis for parent involvement training. Teams of classroom teachers made home visits to work with the children and the parents. As a result of the training and home visits, the parents realized the difference they could make in their children's progress, and they were enthused and confident about continuing their involvement as their children entered school. Jacobson, Huffman, & Rositas de Cantu, (1998) also examined the growing Hispanic population in many low-income communities. In Texas, a university-sponsored community-based mentoring program was organized. The goal of this mentoring program was to provide parent involvement training for Spanish-speaking parents who were struggling with child-rearing practices because their children reportedly were having

11 challenges with their cultural identity at school. The mentors were Hispanic, bilingual, masters-level human development and family studies students with psychology backgrounds who used Epstein's (1995) model for parent involvement. One of the primary goals of this training for parents was to enhance the social interactions of Hispanic students through encouragement of parental involvement in the students' education. Additional long term goals including the promotion of "long term intergenerational change in parental involvement, encouraging minority parents to serve as leaders in school, increasing student academic growth and retention, and promoting a better quality of life for Hispanic families", In each of these training sessions, a specific topic based on Epstein's model was introduced and discussed (Jacobson, Huffman, & Rositas de Cantu, 1998). Results of the Jacobson, Huffman, & Rositas de Cantu (1998) study indicated that after participating in the mentoring program, parents expressed a feeling of acceptance and validation within the school community, developed a sense of trust and commitment toward school personnel, and felt more empowered to parent their children and be involved with their students' education at school and at home. The parents felt recognized as valuable members of the school community whose ideas were important to their children, classroom teachers, and the school administrators. Mentors in the training program noted that encouraging parental involvement in the organizational structure of the school and providing translators for Spanish speaking parents increased parents' participation on committees and attendance at school functions (Jacobson, Huffman, & Rositas de Cantu, 1998). In collaborating with the community [and] realize[ing] that Hispanic parents value social support and need to develop alternate support systems since their extended

12 families are often in their country of origin. Parent meetings are viewed by Hispanic parents as an important way to gain new social support and academic understanding of their child's school requirements. Administrators and community members can enhance this sense of familiarity and offer Hispanic parents new opportunities for meaningful involvement in the community. (Jacobson et al. 1998, p. 35) In response to national and state mandates for family, school, and community partnerships, the demographics for the 21st century predict minority populations as predominately Hispanic and that will dramatically increase in Texas. Immigrant status and language barriers of Hispanic parents contribute to some of their children being highly at risk for academic failure or dropping out of school. Parent involvement with their children's education is particularly critical for achievement in school and full participation in the community. What has been learned from this mentoring program regarding family, school, and community involvement can be helpful for school initiatives that seek to increase the involvement of minority parents for the purpose of increased student achievement (Jacobson, Huffman, & Rositas de Cantu, 1998). Middle School Students' Social Interactions Research has shown that if a child can form a meaningful relationship with at least one significant adult, the chances of that child meeting academic expectations increase, especially for those facing significant life challenges such as poverty, abuse or violence (Baumrind, 1985). Campbell-Whatley (2001) believed that students with adult mentors learned to better relate to others and developed more positive concepts about learning and reacting to situations. Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler (1997) and Epstein (1995) identified several characteristics that had a positive effect on student achievement. These characteristics included the following: providing basic needs for children, increasing communication

13 between families and school, helping students at home with school work, volunteering and/or participating at the school, and collaborating with the community. Setting This was a case study examining a mentoring program that included 20 sixth grade students from low-income single parent or foster households. Many of these students recently moved into the district, and generally they had not made a connection with a classroom teacher before entering this mentoring program. The middle school in this study is located within a predominately minority and low-income community in Long Island, New York. This community is centrally located and covers a four square miles radius. In 2000 the population of this community is 15,611. The population of children, ages 0 to 20, is 3,687 (New York State Census, 2000). The New York State (NYS) School Report Card Comprehensive Information, 2005, reported that there were 466 students enrolled in the district's middle school during the 2005 - 2006 academic year. Ethnic representation of the middle school was 0 (0.0%) white students, 97 (21%) Hispanic students, and 369 (79%) African American (New York State report card 2005- 2006). These adolescents live in a low-income and minority community where they are witnesses to inappropriate social interactions such as domestic violence, drug usage, and early pregnancy. Many of these students have young, single parents with little formal education in high school or who may be unemployed, abused, neglected or in an environment of substance abuse. The families invited to participate in this study lived in a community perceived as predominantly African American and Latino in suburban Long Island, New York. The families were transient and most lacked financial, emotional, or educational stability. Generally, these students had been exposed to a variety of school

14 districts, and the lack of consistency in their lives exacerbated their sense of instability. Parents of the students in this study were invited to participate in portions of the mentoring program. Parents also were invited to participate in holiday gatherings and trips. Keeping parents involved was part of the mentoring program's intent. The mentoring program in this school was held once a week for an hour and a half. During this time, the mentors and mentees had the opportunity to interact with each other and to build a relationship. The students selected to participate in the mentoring program were predetermined by the guidance personnel within the school. The criteria for the selection of mentee was that the student had to be a sixth grade student living in a single parent, foster care, or shelter home environment. The mentors were chosen by the administrator of the building. The principal of the middle school selected the classroom teachers, administrator, and secretary to serve as mentors because she felt that they would make good role models, show extra concern, and have patience with the students. The principal believed that the mentors chosen possessed the skills needed to improve communication between themselves and students who were often introverted and not willing to participate in group or classroom activities. Purpose of the Study The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among mentoring program participants' attitude towards six parental involvement practices and these students' social interactions, such as the ability to communicate effectively, to make well informed decisions, to build trusting relationships with adults, to interact appropriately with peers, and to be willing to learn. This research examined the relationship among

15 mentors' perceptions of their mentees' parent involvement in schools, parent perceptions of mentoring efforts of mentors, and student social interactions. Statement of the Problem What is the relationship among mentors' perceptions of parental involvement, parents' perceptions of the mentoring process, and student social interactions such as the ability to communicate effectively, to make well informed decisions, to build trusting relationships with adults, to interact appropriately with peers, and students/mentees' willingness to learn? Research Questions The following research questions guided this study: Research question one How do parents describe their parenting practices, the work of school mentors, and their students' interpersonal behavior? Research question two How do students describe their parents' parenting practices, mentor's, and their own behavior? Research question three How do mentors describe parent behaviors of the students they mentor, their own behavior as mentors, and their students' interpersonal behavior? Research question four What relationships are there among perceptions of middle school mentors of parental involvement, parents/guardians perception of the mentoring process, and student social interactions of effective communication with peers and adults, making well informed

16 decisions, building trusting relationships with adults, interacting appropriately with peers and the students' willingness to learn and their acceptance of responsibility? Research question five How do students in mentoring programs, their parents and mentors describe recent changes in their interpersonal behavior? Definition of major Variables and Terms For the purpose of this study the following terms are defined: Mentoring Program A mentoring program is defined as a process that provides quality training and skills to mentors and coordinators as well as education that is necessary to create healthy, lasting mentoring relationships in a safe environment (Mentoring Partnership of Long Island, 2002). The classical concept of mentoring has three common elements. First, mentors foster their students' social interactions. Second, mentors help nurture theirstudents to adulthood by teaching them specific skills. Finally, mentoring relationships are positive and encourage a voluntary assumption of responsibility (Freedman, 1994). Parental Involvement Parents/guardian participation was measured through the lens of Epstein's (1995) six dimensions of parental involvement: 1. Basic parenting - supporting, child rearing and nurturing. 2. Communicating with mentors- parental awareness and communication with the mentors: relating, reviewing and overseeing. 3. Volunteering to help mentors- active participation with the school and mentors: supervising and fostering. 4. Learning at home - tutoring and supporting at home: managing, recognizing and rewarding. 5. Decision making - participating in decisions with mentors and advocacy:

Full document contains 142 pages
Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine the relationship among mentoring programs, parent involvement, and student social interaction. Influenced by Epstein's School, Family and Community Partnerships (1995), this study revealed that when teachers are used as mentors, teachers must be dedicated to the mentoring process. That process for mentors means that the burden of increasing parent involvement fell on the mentors. As parent involvement and communication between parents and teachers increased, students improved academically and behavioral infractions decreased. Parents whose children had mentors reported that they felt less intimidated when dealing with the schooling process. Students formed trusting relationships and became more comfortable when approaching parents and teachers for help when they faced academic difficulties. Teachers formed open lines of communication with the students and parents. These results lead to the following recommendations for stakeholders. Administrators should focus on integrating practices to generate opportunities for students to exercise personal control and autonomy as well as integrating structured peer interaction. Mentors must work hard to change the negative perspectives some parents have about interacting with school personnel.