Building Bridges A Study of Parent Involvement at the

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					              Building Bridges:
     A Study of Parent Involvement at the
      John Stanford International School

                   Leah S. DeWolf

   A degree project submitted in partial fulfillment
        of the requirements for the degree of

           Master of Public Administration

              University of Washington


Approved by: __________________________________
                                                                  Building Bridges   1

                                                                  Table of Contents

Chapter 1:    Introduction                                                   2
              Parental Involvement in Schools
              Overview of Research

Chapter 2:    History and Context of Research                                6
              History of the John Stanford International School
              The Significance of Minority Parent Involvement

Chapter 3:    Research Methodology                                           13
              Barriers to Parent Involvement
              Parent Volunteering
              Statistical Analysis
              Literature Review
              Limitations of Study

Chapter 4:    Research Results                                               20
              Analysis of Volunteering
              Preferences in Volunteering
              Language and Cultural Barriers
              Social Economic Status

Chapter 5:    Implications and Recommendations                               29
              Discussion – Implications of Study

Appendix A:   Summary of Parent Interviews                                   41
Appendix B:   Race-Ethnicity of JSIS Students and the City of Seattle        42
Appendix C:   Student Demographic Information                                43
Appendix D:   Cross-Tabulations of Data                                      45
Appendix E:   Results of Statistical Analysis                                47
Appendix F:   Contact Information for Community Organizations                48

References                                                                   49
                                                                         Building Bridges        2

                                                           Chapter One: Introduction

       The past forty years of struggling with affirmative action issues have left
American urban areas with a legacy of inclusion and diversity challenges. In Seattle,
public school administrators have the additional challenge of building multicultural
communities of students and parents in a state where, due to passage of Initiative 200 in
Washington State, preference must not be given to students on the basis of race, sex,
color or national origin.
       The John Stanford International School, named for Seattle’s celebrated late
Superintendent of Schools, opened its doors in September of 2000 with the goal of
creating a culturally diverse community of learners through language immersion and
intensive cultural studies. At the end of its first year, this school finds itself facing what
is becoming a dilemma for public schools around the country: How can a small urban
school help build the kind of school community envisioned by John Stanford and other
proponents of multiculturalism in school?
       The notion of “school community” encompasses a number of ideas: strong
communication and a sense of common goals among parents, teachers and school
administrators; acknowledgement of parents as important stakeholders in public schools;
and encouragement of greater family involvement in schools. Parent involvement is a
key component of school reform programs that gained popularity among community
leaders, school administrators and teachers in response to the publication of A Nation at
Risk (National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983) nearly twenty years ago,
changing the relationship between parents, communities and schools.
       Emphasis on parent involvement as a key factor in both school and student
success has grown throughout the last four decades. Prior to the 1960’s, traditional
means of parent participation were parent conferences and PTA fundraising events, as
well as homework monitoring and report card review. (Fruchter, Galletta & White, 1992).
This role began to change when federal policy responses to the civil rights movement,
such as Title I compensatory education programs for low-income students, legitimized
and enabled family and community involvement in schools. The publication of A Nation
At Risk in 1983 reflected the growing trend of more family and community involvement
in schools by assessing societal changes and the need for educational reform to address
                                                                        Building Bridges       3

those changes. The importance of family and community involvement in schools was
further advanced in the 1990’s. The Goals 2000: Educate America Act, passed by the
Clinton administration in 1994, made parent involvement a national priority, and the
federal government has made eligibility standards for Title 1 funds based on the
development of family outreach programs (Kessler-Sklar and Baker, 2000). Now more
than ever, parents and community leaders play an active role in building and improving
community schools.
          Overwhelmingly, studies show positive effects of parent involvement in education
on children, teachers and parents themselves. Pena (2000) examined a number of studies
in which parental involvement produced measurable gains in student academic
achievement, as well as increased positive behavior and emotional development.
Volunteering also helps improve parent-teacher communication, parent-child
communication, and raises parent expectation for children’s education. The benefits of
family involvement are clear, but building a successful school community provides a new
challenge for schools that must determine how to generate meaningful family
participation that benefits the school, families and the community.
          Emphasis on family involvement has spurred considerable growth in the amount
of time parents are expected to contribute to their child’s education. Aside from the most
basic responsibilities such as paying taxes that support the school and the daily commute
to and from school, teachers expect parents to be active participants in homework and
other outside projects. At the John Stanford International School, parents also participate
in the many community-building activities that the school sponsors. This includes
attending evening programs such as international potlucks and educational programs with
their children, and other events such as literacy events, field trips and all-parent meetings.
In addition, parents are encouraged to join the parent-teachers’ association (PTSA), sit on
steering committees and volunteer in their child’s classroom when possible. It is easy to
see that schools have high expectations for the amount of time that parents, who might
already be busy with jobs, other children and other activities, can spend at their child’s
          This paper explores several factors that may be considered barriers to active
parent participation: personal preferences for different kinds of volunteer activities, race
                                                                        Building Bridges      4

and ethnicity, and differences in socio-economic status. At the John Stanford
International School, the result of these barriers is a perceivable lack of diversity among
parent volunteers, which is especially problematic in a school that is committed to
promoting internationalization.
       While the analysis of a database that tracks parent volunteerism at JSIS shows
that the numbers of minority parent volunteers are not completely out of proportion to the
number of white volunteers, there is still a feeling among school administrators and the
PTA that the cultural diversity at JSIS is not accurately reflected on steering committees
and other parent-led decision-making bodies. The research presented in this paper shows
that low minority parent representation at school is due in some part to intractable
barriers of race and class, but is also due largely to different preferences for volunteer
activities among parents.
       The purposes of this paper are to help this school’s leadership identify the
underlying causes of insufficient diversity among parent volunteers, recommend ways
that this situation can be remedied, offer suggestions on bringing more parents in to the
school, and help the school understand how it can reach out to minority parents in their

Overview of Research
       The John Stanford International School has within the space of a year transformed
from a small neighborhood school to a high-profile experiment in education. Chapter 2
outlines the history of this school as a means for understanding how this change has
affected some parent volunteers. Chapter 3 provides an overview of the research I
conducted to identify factors associated with volunteerism among parents.
       In order to understand how to reach out to and empower parents, the school
administrators needed to know who has been volunteering at the school for the past six
months. A log of volunteers who have visited the school every day since September
2000 provided information about which parents are volunteers. This information was
analyzed as a part of a database based on demographic information about each child,
provided by parents when they registered at JSIS. The purpose of this analysis was to
find out basic information about the student body and learn whether the pool of parent
                                                                      Building Bridges      5

volunteers accurately reflects the diversity of the student body. Interviews with parents
and JSIS staff, conducted over the telephone and at the school site, helped identify the
motivations behind parent volunteering and offer some insight into the real barriers to
greater involvement. Finally, a statistical analysis was used to determine whether race-
ethnicity and socio-economic status were significant factors in whether JSIS parents are
involved in schools. The results are presented in Chapter 4.
        Chapter 5 discusses the implications of the research results and presents
recommendations for this school about how to connect with parents in communities that
are underrepresented at the school, and how to manage the current volunteer base to
ensure that all volunteers understand the importance of their participation. The John
Stanford International School has enjoyed a successful first year, and with clarification of
objectives and a better sense of which parent groups need special attention, the parent
leadership should see a marked improvement in diversity of volunteers in the coming
                                                                             Building Bridges     6

                                      Chapter 2: History and Context of Research

        This chapter introduces the John Stanford International School with an
explanation of its institutional history, followed by a discussion of the importance of
parental involvement in schools. This dualistic focus provides the context for the ensuing
discussion of parent demographics and parent volunteering at this school.

History of the John Stanford International School
        Dual-immersion programs, in which students spend half the day studying in one
language and the other half studying in another, have been gaining popularity throughout
the United States as the benefits of beginning foreign language study in elementary
school become clear. School administrators have many reasons to support these
programs, including opportunities for federal and state funding, interest from parents, and
the publicized success that some immersion programs have had in both native English
speakers and ESL students. 1 Students who study foreign languages are thought to have
higher cognitive ability in addition to the obvious benefit of being able to communicate
with people from other cultures. The late John Stanford, Seattle’s Superintendent of
Schools from 1995-1998, was among those who believed in the merits of immersion, and
as a well respected and extremely successful educator, his vision sparked inspiration
among those who worked with him. The International School represents one of
Superintendent Stanford’s most cherished visions for the future of Seattle Public Schools.
        “(Superintendent John Stanford) wanted the school to reflect and embrace
    the diversity of the city…He envisioned all children achieving to the highest
    standards, learning world languages, and utilizing the latest technology - a
    place where children celebrate and appreciate not only their own unique
    qualities but those of others.”2

        When Superintendent Stanford passed away in November 1998, his successors
worked hard to see the International School come to life. They chose the Latona
Elementary School, located in the Wallingford district of Seattle to be the first
International School campus for several reasons, including its traditionally diverse

  Montone, Christopher and Michael I. Loeb, 2000. “Implementing two-way immersion programs in
secondary schools.” Center for Research on Education, Diversity and Excellence, Santa Cruz, Ca.
                                                                                  Building Bridges           7

student body, a strong staff, and proximity to the University of Washington campus. 3
After a yearlong renovation, the John Stanford International School opened its doors in
September 2000.
Special Features of JSIS
         The John Stanford International School has proven a popular choice for many
Seattle area parents, who are attracted to the school because of its innovative curriculum,
brand-new facilities and commitment to innovative technology, including becoming the
first elementary school in the nation to be connected to the faster and more powerful
Internet 2 network. 4 However, the most unique feature of this new school is its language
immersion program. Currently, all kindergarten and first grade students spend half the
day learning math and science in Spanish and the rest of the day learning in English, a
program that will be expanded as this first class of learners moves on. Next year,
incoming students will choose between Spanish and Japanese, and then spend half the
day learning math or science in that language and the other half in English. These are
complete immersion programs in which even a teacher answering the phone or speaking
to visitors may not speak English. The language immersion program creates a special
atmosphere inside the school, in which non-native Spanish speakers can often be seen
trying to communicate with one another in a tongue not completely familiar to both.
When this first class of kindergarteners and first graders is ready to move on to middle
school, they may attend the International Middle School at Seattle’s Hamilton Middle
School, still in planning stages, to continue with their international education, though the
language-immersion will end as children from other elementary schools who have no
language background merge at the junior high school. The Seattle Public School district
administrators behind this school’s development hope that this process will produce
students who are fluent both in language and in cultural understanding, producing
internationally minded citizens ready to compete in the global market.

  Retrieved April 17, 2001 from the JSIS website:
  Sanchez, Roberto. (1998, April 28). International school created for Stanford to open at Latona. Seattle
Times, pg. B3.
                                                                                     Building Bridges   8

Bilingual Orientation Center
           The Bilingual Orientation Center (BOC) at JSIS is a special program for non-
English speaking children who are new to Seattle. In a program that is separate from the
language immersion program, students spend one semester studying English at JSIS
before they are evaluated and mainstreamed into their regular schools. These students,
who come from many different countries and must learn in an all-English environment,
face a tough challenge in adapting to their new surroundings, but are certainly helped
along by the close care they are given at JSIS. The BOC students participate in P.E., art
and music with the rest of the school and join in with all of the school’s special activities.
Their participation truly makes JSIS an international community, with students who
speak seven different languages and represent 15 ethnic groups.
Partnership with the University of Washington
           An advantage of the Latona Elementary School site is its proximity to the
University of Washington campus, just a few blocks away. From its very inception the
U.W. has supported the International School in a number of ways, from the above-
mentioned installation of Internet II to sending U.W. students to serve as volunteers and
translators at the school. University of Washington faculty members also serve on a
steering committee that makes curriculum and other program recommendations to the
school leadership. The University, because of it’s own relationship with technological
innovators such as Microsoft, stays on the forefront of technology and can share this
knowledge with local schools. This report is also a collaborative effort between the
Public Service Clinic at the Evans School of Public Affairs at the University of
Washington and JSIS, and if this is judged to be a success, other students may be
interested in doing research for this school. Therefore, a successful partnership between
the U.W. and J.S.I.S. may yield even more creative ways to make public K-5 education
innovative and effective.
Parent and Community Volunteers
           Finally, a key component of the John Stanford International Schools effort to
implement innovative curricula and become a leader in the use of technology in the
classroom is the support of many parents and community volunteers who visit the school

    Vinh, Tan. (2001, April 3). Internet sequel to play in state schools. Seattle Times, pg. B3.
                                                                                   Building Bridges        9

every day to help support the students and teachers. The school has an impressive log of
volunteers who come to help students with their reading and language skills and who
present special programs, such as music and cultural programs, to individual classes and
to the whole school. JSIS has a special resource room set aside for parent and
community volunteers, and an active PTSA helps to build the school’s sense of
community through ongoing cultural and educational programming. Overall, compared
to some Seattle Public Schools – particularly high schools - where recruiting and
retaining parent volunteers is much more difficult, JSIS has an active and effective parent
and community volunteer base. 5

The Significance of Minority Parent Involvement in Schools
         John Stanford International School’s diverse student body and commitment to
building an internationally focused curriculum and staff makes the representation of
multiple cultures in parent volunteering critically important. The school leadership first
became concerned about the lack of minority parent involvement in September 2000
when only one non-white parent turned up at the year’s first PTSA meeting. These
concerns increased as staff and volunteers continued to observe the lack of diversity on
steering committees and at school events in the first few months of operation. The school
contacted the Evans School Public Service Clinic at the University of Washington at this
time to ask a graduate student to research the question of whether the diversity of JSIS
was represented in its parent volunteers and, if this was not the case, how the situation
could be improved. My research began in January 2001, four months after the school
opened its doors.
         The school administration’s concern about insufficient minority volunteering is
well justified by literature showing the importance of parent involvement and the barriers
to minority parent involvement. Although cases vary from community to community,
most researchers agree that increased involvement of minority parents from kindergarten
through high school could be the key difference between growing numbers of successful

  Parent volunteering was discussed at a meeting of Volunteer Coordinators hosted by the City of Seattle on
May 3, 2001. In this meeting, where the coordinators discusses the difficulties that they have recruiting and
retaining parent volunteers, it became clear that JSIS has adequate levels of parent volunteering, but should
                                                                               Building Bridges      10

minority college graduates or growing numbers of high school dropouts (e.g. Epstein,
1995; Desimone, 1999; Zellman and Waterman, 1998). Substantial evidence shows that
children whose parents are involved in their education have significantly increased their
academic achievement and cognitive development (Andrews and others 1982; Henderson
1981; and Herman and Yeh 1980). When they become involved, parents also increase
their understanding of child development and the educational process. Another effect of
parent-school cooperation is that parents become better teachers of their children at home
and use more positive forms of reinforcement (Becher, 1986). Therefore, it is imperative
schools find ways to include minority and disadvantaged parents in school programs and
parent leadership.
Defining “Involvement” in Education
        There are a number of definitions of “parent involvement” and countless ways in
which parents consider themselves involved in the education of their children. Epstein
(1995) defines six types of involvement that can help educators develop more
comprehensive programs for school-family partnerships:

    •   Parenting: provide services that support family efforts to nurture student learning
        at home.
    •   Communicating: establish mechanisms that foster effective communication
        networks between the home and school.
    •   Volunteering: recruiting and organizing volunteer activities that support student
    •   Learning at home: homework help and support for parents in their efforts to
        assist students academically and socially.
    •   Decision Making: increased level of parent participation in school governance
        and advocacy.
    •   Collaborating with community: identification and integration of community-
        based resources that would strengthen school programs, parents and student

Epstein notes that many activities can be seen as incorporating more than several types of
involvement. PTA members can be considered volunteers who are also involved in
school decision-making, and learning at home (i.e. doing homework at home)

be concerned about to manage their existing pool of volunteers and increase diversity among parent
                                                                     Building Bridges       11

incorporates communication and parenting. This paper focuses on two types of
involvement where studies have shown minority parents to be least active in public
schools: volunteering and decision-making. These are the types of involvement that the
JSIS administration would most like to see improved within the school: more non-white
parents at school events and on the PTSA and steering committees.
Barriers to Minority Parent Involvement
        Most of the literature describing barriers to minority parent involvement in
schools divides the obstacles into roughly three categories: limited skills and knowledge,
such as a parent’s inability to communicate with a teacher in English; time constraints or
restricted opportunities for parents to come into contact with the school; and
psychological and cultural barriers such as negative expectations, intimidation, mistrust
and stereotypes (Moles, 1993; Pena 2000; Chavkin, 1989). A 2000 report from the
National Center for Education Statistics indicates that parent involvement is related to
household income and level of education, noting that as income and education rise, so
does the likelihood that parents are involved in education. 6 This same report indicates
that parent involvement tends to drop off after elementary school, regardless of the
parent’s education or income level.
        Low levels of parent involvement are a concern to school administrators, and can
in some cases lead authorities to believe that minority parents don’t care about their
children’s education because they do not participate in traditional parent-school activities
such as the parent-teachers association (Chavkin, 1993). For example, a 1993 study
showed that parents who are deferential to teachers and schools, such as Hispanic parents
or Asian parents who may not be proficient in English, are less likely to attend school
programs and discuss problems with schools (Ritter, Mont-Reynaud and Dornbusch,
1993), though all parents involved in that study indicated a high degree of caring and
involvement in their child’s education when surveyed. As the John Stanford
International School is learning, schools must find ways to recognize different types of
parent involvement and change the atmosphere of the school to ensure that people from
different cultures will feel comfortable in both participatory and leadership roles. This

 Retrieved May 27, 2001 from the NCES website. Please see:
                                                                     Building Bridges       12

paper seeks to identify which of the barriers identified through the literature may be at
work in the JSIS school community, and how this school can diversify its pool of
volunteers for the benefit of the school, the parents and the children. The next chapter
discusses the research undertaken to answer these questions.
                                                Chapter 3: Research Methodology

       The John Stanford International School leadership initially approached the Evans
Public Service clinic to learn whether their community of parent volunteers reflected the
diversity of students at the school. In answering that question, I have conducted research
to illustrate the demographics of the John Stanford International School and examine
some variables that may have a relationship to parent volunteering practices. This
chapter presents an overview of the methodology of that research.

Assessing Barriers
       The factors that might keep any one parent from being involved in their child’s
education are elusive and difficult to quantify. On an individual level, most parents care
deeply about their child’s education, particularly at the elementary school level. This
analysis of demographic information about all of the school’s parents seeks to identify
common factors that can help the John Stanford International School assess and target
parents who are less inclined to participate in traditional forms of parent involvement like
volunteering at school. For the purposes of this paper, these factors are considered
barriers to greater participation in schools.
       The previous chapter described three categories of involvement barriers: limited
skills and knowledge; time constraints; and psychological and cultural barriers. Since the
purpose of this paper is to recommend ways to increase minority parent involvement in
this school, I focused primarily on the last category of barriers. The staff and teachers at
the John Stanford International School understand that communication is a challenge for
non-English speaking parents, and all of the staff understand that time constraints can
hinder school involvement. Psychological and cultural barriers are latent and therefore
more difficult to assess. However, it is precisely because these obstacles are difficult to
pin down that they become important to analyze, to learn what JSIS could be doing to
overcome these barriers.
       Within this category of psychological and cultural barriers, I looked at three main
factors that might be considered barriers to parent involvement: personal preference,
race-ethnicity, and household income, an indicator of socio-economic status.
                                                                      Building Bridges        14

   •   Personal Preferences: Pena (2000) examined the issue of personal preferences
       for volunteering among Mexican-American parents in an urban elementary
       school, and discovered that while home involvement was a high priority for
       parents, they were disinclined to volunteer at school because of home
       responsibilities and difficulties communicating with teachers. In interviews with
       JSIS parents, non-white parents again expressed preferences for non-traditional
       types of involvement, such as home-based involvement and being involved in
       activities at school that are child-centered rather than parent-centered.
   •   Race-ethnicity: While research results are mixed as to whether non-white parents
       are less likely to volunteer than white parents, or if non-white parents simply
       display different preferences for volunteering than white parents, low minority
       volunteer rates at JSIS indicate that race-ethnicity has something to do with parent
       volunteering, and can be considered a cultural barrier.
   •   Household Income: Household income is a measure of socio-economic status,
       which many researchers believe is an important factor in parent involvement, and
       represents a large psychological barrier to parent involvement. Researchers find
       that low-income parents can find it more difficult to communicate with teachers if
       they do not have sufficient educational background to understand complex issues
       related to their child’s education, or suffer from low-self esteem that prevents
       them from greater involvement in school.
These three barriers were assessed through a statistical analysis of the parent volunteer
database, interviews with parents and teachers, and an examination of current literature
on the issue of parent involvement in public schools.

Parent Volunteering
       From the day it opened its doors, JSIS has kept a log of volunteers, who must sign
in each time they visit the school in addition to submitting to background checks if they
will have access to children alone. The John Stanford International School’s volunteer
coordinator provided the most important piece of information in this study by providing
data showing which parents could be considered “involved” because their names showed
up on the first six months of the school’s log of volunteers. These parents were usually
helping out in their child’s classroom, participating in a special in-school event like the
                                                                     Building Bridges     15

International Dinner or attending field trips. All parents whose name appeared even once
on the volunteer log were designated as “involved”, regardless of the type of activity they
engaged in. It is reasonable to expect that some parents were not designated as
“involved” even if they participate frequently in school activities, because some parents
supervise the playground after school or do other things without signing the volunteer
log. However, the parents who frequently volunteer and participate in steering
committees and other leadership activities, the activities the JSIS leadership asked me to
examine, were designated as “involved”.

       In order to answer the question of whether the school’s volunteers reflected the
diversity of the school’s student body, I had to examine the ethnic diversity of the student
body. The first piece of quantitative research presented in this paper is a simple analysis
of information (name, address, ethnicity of the child) provided by parents to the school at
the beginning of the year when they registered their children. The analysis includes 351
parents, some of whom have multiple children at the school, and is missing a small
percentage of parents whose data was not available at the time of the study.

Statistical Analysis
       With a rough idea of which parents are volunteers, I performed a statistical
analysis of parent involvement to learn whether, for this particular group of parents,
involvement is dependent on a number of variables: ethnicity, age of student, distance
from the home to school, household income and language spoken at home. As noted
above, this paper theorizes that race-ethnicity and household income are major barriers to
involvement and are therefore the primary focus of the statistical analysis. The model
measures the significance of each variable on the dependent variable, in this case the 0,1
parent involvement scores. I assumed that parents who are white would be more likely to
be involved than parents who are not white, and that parents who are from low-income
neighborhoods would be less likely to be involved than parents who are from middle-
income and high-income neighborhoods. Age was used as a continuous variable to
strengthen the statistical analysis with no theory about how it would affect the model.
Distance from home to school for the purposes of this paper is treated as a sub-category
                                                                              Building Bridges        16

of household income, and language spoken at home is treated as a sub-category of race-
ethnicity. Both of these variables are statistically insignificant, probably because they are
so similar to the household income and race-ethnicity variables, but I included them
initially because additional variables add weight to a model.
        Race-ethnicity was coded into seven different categories: white, black, Chinese,
Japanese, Hispanic, Other Asian and Other. This was the preferred distribution because
of statistical insignificance of ethnic groups that were only represented by a few students
at the school. 7 Though students grade level rather than age was the information given me
by the school, I assumed that kindergarteners were roughly six years old, first graders
seven, etc. Since age is a continuous variable it helps improve the statistical model,
though I did not hypothesize whether age would be a significant variable. Parents were
given a score from 1-3 for distance, 1=near (less than 5 miles away from school),
2=middle (5-10 miles away from school) and 3=far (more than 10 miles away from
school). I assessed distance in this way for convenience, and noted that all of the
neighborhoods within a 5-mile radius are easily accessible to Wallingford by bus and
roads that are not too impacted by traffic. Mid-range neighborhoods such as Northgate
and Beacon Hill are less accessible by bus, and the neighborhoods that I assessed as “far”
probably require a car and traveling along Seattle’s crowded highways to get to school.
Distance was assessed using only the zip codes provided by parents, and is therefore only
a rough estimate of how far parents actually live from school. This variable proved to be
statistically insignificant, and is discussed further in Chapter 4.
        Household income was assessed using data from the 1989 U.S. Census, which
lists average household income for each census tract. Parents were again given a score
from 1-3, 1=low ($24,000 and under), 2=middle ($24,000-$38,000) and 3=high ($38,000
and above). 8 The split was made based on simple mathematics – I looked at the range of
income levels and divided it into three. This data is also a rough estimate, since it is from
over ten years ago in a city that has experienced significant economic growth and
gentrification of neighborhoods. The scores were based on the range of incomes in the

  The category Other Asian represents Vietnamese, Korean, Filipino, East Indian parents and several
parents designated as Other Asian. The category Other represents American Indian, Gypsy and Somalian
  The median household income in the City of Seattle in 1989 was $29,353. In 2001, parents whose yearly
income is under $25,000 qualify for subsidized lunch from the Seattle School District, a good measure of
what is considered low-income today.
                                                                     Building Bridges        17

database rather than on assessed income levels for King County or Washington State.
Therefore, there is no certainty that parents given a score for low-income actually earn
low incomes, but rather that they live in low-income neighborhoods.
       I ran a binomial regression analysis in SPSS, and the model was able to predict
non-involvement with 97% accuracy. This means that for 97% of the cases where
parents were designated as not involved, the model is able to predict which variables are
significant. Variables were reported if they had a significance of over 90%, or if we can
be at least 90% certain that the probabilities predicted by the model are accurate. I also
ran cross-tabulations, which are ways of comparing one set of data to another, to find
relationships between the variables race and involvement, household income and
involvement distance and involvement, and distance and household income. Cross-
tabulations are very useful for finding out how different variables compare to one
another. The results of this analysis are in Appendix D.
       Language spoken at home was originally included in the statistical model but was
then taken out because it added too much weight to ethnic categories. Therefore, and for
reasons cited in the preceding section, lack of ability to speak English was not examined
as a barrier to parent involvement, though most research shows that non-English speaking
parents have more difficulties participating in school activities.

Parent Interviews
       The statistical analysis shows how each of the above listed variables is related to
parent volunteering, but the real story of parent volunteering at the John Stanford
International School is in the personal dynamics between the teachers, administrators and
parents, and the motivations parents have to become involved in the school. I conducted
15 parent interviews, choosing parents who represent a variety of characteristics – white
and not white, in-neighborhood and out of the neighborhood, involved and not involved.
Two parents were interviewed at the school and the rest were interviewed over the phone
over a period of two weeks in the beginning of May 2001. These interviews illuminate
the statistical analysis by showing that the perceived variables of personal preference,
race-ethnicity, and household income manifest themselves differently in individual
parents, but can be perceived as challenges that the school administration must overcome
to achieve its goal of a more diverse body of parent volunteers.
                                                                     Building Bridges      18

        This sample was not scientifically selected, but it does represent a spectrum of
parents from different ethnicities, geographic areas and “involvement” scores. The PTSA
president provided me with recommendations for “involved” parents to interview, and the
other parents were selected based on their address and whether they were white or non-
white. Some informants requested anonymity and therefore all informants have been
kept anonymous for the purpose of this study.

Literature Review
        Federal education policy focuses on parent involvement as a factor that helps
build successful schools, and directs Title I funding to schools that have established
outreach programs for parents. As a result of this focus on parents, many researchers
have examined the effects of parent involvement on schools and children, issues
surrounding minority parent volunteering, and models for building strong community-
school-parents relationships. To learn about barriers to minority parent involvement and
successful ways to incorporate more minority parents into the school community, I
examined a number of U.W. library databases using the key words parent involvement,
minority parent involvement, and parent volunteering. This turned up a number of
articles and books that proved extremely helpful. I also used web sites such as the U.S.
Department of Education and U.S. Census Bureau to find statistics on parent volunteering
for use in data analysis.

Limitations of Study
        The research presented in the next chapter is limited by a number of factors. The
parents provided information about their child’s ethnicity at the beginning of the school
year, but in some cases the ethnicity of parents does not match the ethnicity of the child,
particularly in a number of cases, perhaps as many as 20 out of over 350 students at
school, where a white family has adopted a non-white child. Therefore, for example,
white parents volunteering on behalf of an Asian child was assumed to be an Asian
parent. The number of parents who have adopted children of different races, however, is
so small that it is probably statistically insignificant.
        Interviews with parents were conducted over the telephone using the five
questions found in Appendix A over a period of several weeks. The result of these
                                                                     Building Bridges     19

interviews reflects the fact that the parents who were easiest to reach and most receptive
to the telephone survey were also the ones who tended to be more involved in the school,
and in some cases already knew about the study. Parents who work during the day were
more difficult to reach and less receptive to the survey, and I was unable to interview
more than two non-English speaking parents. Therefore, the result of the parent survey
may be inaccurately skewed toward more positive results despite attempts to contact a
broader base of parents.
       Finally, there are a number of studies that discuss parent involvement for
particular ethnic groups, such as black, Latino and Asian parents. Since this study does
not focus on any ethnic group in particular, readers may want to refer to studies cited in
the References section below for more information on targeting specific ethnic groups to
raise their level of involvement in school.
       Despite these limitations, the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods
described here produced some interesting findings that shed light on the research
questions raised by the administration and parent leadership of the John Stanford
International School. The next chapter reports the key findings of this research.
                                                                                   Building Bridges   20

                                                                   Chapter 4: Research Results

           Within its first six months of operation, the staff and parent leadership at the John
Stanford International School observed low turnout among minority parents for
leadership committees and some school events. Their concern about this issue is justified
by the literature on minority parent involvement in schools, which suggests that even
though parent involvement can be a critical factor in children’s academic success,
differences in race-ethnicity and socio-economic status can create psychological barriers
to parent involvement in school. Research results from the parent volunteer database
show that the school leadership’s hunch about low turnout for minority volunteers is
correct, though the situation is not as bad as they imagined. An analysis of parents’
reported addresses and ethnicities also suggests that some parents, particularly parents
from low-income areas and Hispanic parents, are at greater risk for non-involvement than
other parents. This next section describes the results of the research conducted. It is
designed to help the JSIS administration better understand the barriers, both real and
perceived, to school involvement for minority parents at JSIS.

Analysis of Parent Volunteering
           The analysis of the parent volunteer database showed interesting results for JSIS.
Overall, about 20% of parents in the database were given an “involved” score by the
school’s volunteer coordinator. The table below shows that white, Chinese and Japanese
parents are over-represented among parent volunteers, black parents are fairly
proportionally represented, and Hispanic parents along with Vietnamese, Korean and
parents of other ethnicities are under-represented in the volunteer population. 9 A chart
showing a visual representation of these numbers can be found in Appendix B.

    Please see pg. 19 for an explanation of how parents’ ethnicities were categorized.
                                                                              Building Bridges         21

Table 1: Analysis of JSIS Volunteers, by Race-ethnicity 10

   RACE-             CITY OF SEATTLE                 OVERALL JSIS              JSIS VOLUNTEER
 ETHNICITY             POPULATION                    POPULATION                  POPULATION
       White                  40.43%                        47%                          60%

       Black                  23.03%                        7.8%                        5.4%

      Chinese                                               5.2%                         11%

      Japanese                24.22%                         4%                          10%

     Other Asian                                             6%                         1.3%

      Hispanic                 9.3%                        26.3%                        12.3%

       Other                   3.02%                        3.2%                         0%

         The most important result of this analysis is that it shows that minority parents are
not as a whole underrepresented among parent volunteers. This indicates that the
perception held by JSIS staff and parent leadership that minority parents are uninvolved
in school activities is a result of factors besides pure numbers of volunteers. One of the
main reasons why the school’s perception does not match the numbers presented above is
that most of these minority parents, who have done volunteer work such as visiting their
children’s classrooms and attending school events, do not attend PTSA meetings and do
not sit on decision-making committees within the parent leadership, as reported by
members of the parent leadership. The next section explains how personal preferences
for non-leadership activities creates a stratified volunteer base, with white parents
actively involved in leadership and decision-making, and non-white parents primarily
involved with activities directly related to their children.

Personal Preference
         Just as there are many reasons why parents want to be involved in their children’s
education, there are many reasons why parents choose not to be involved in schools.

  For more information about the racial breakdown of JSIS students and how it compares to the ethnic
diversity of the City of Seattle, please see Appendix B.
                                                                     Building Bridges       22

Moles (1993) examined volunteering among disadvantaged parents (low-income and
minority parents) and observed: “Disadvantaged parents and teachers may be entangled
by various psychological obstacles to mutual involvement such as misperceptions and
misunderstandings, negative expectations, stereotypes, intimidation, and distrust.” (p.
33). These psychological obstacles can result in non-involvement, but they can also
result in preferences for low-key, student-focused volunteer activities if parents feel more
comfortable interacting with children than interacting with the administration and parent
       While most parents I interviewed lauded the John Stanford International School,
particularly the teaching staff, they had a wide variety of responses to the questions of
how and why they are involved in their children’s education. In interviews with a sample
of JSIS parents, two non-white parents expressed disinterest in participating in the PTSA
and leadership committees. One non-native English-speaking parent said that she would
feel uncomfortable taking a leadership role because of her limited language skills.
Another non-white parent said that school meetings are too much like work, and that she
preferred activities that are children-centered because they are more fun. Several other
non-white parents expressed preferences for activities such as volunteering in the
classroom and supervising the playground after school expressly because these are times
when they can interact with their children and their children’s friends. Two of the above-
mentioned parents cited the change from Latona Elementary to John Stanford
International School as one reason why they are not involved, because they are not
comfortable with the transition to new leadership. On the other hand, two parents
expressed frustration at seeing the same groups of parents in leadership positions year
after year, despite the changes in administration and curriculum this year. In contrast,
white parents who do attend PTSA meetings said that they are concerned about the
school and want to improve it for the sake of the students. 11 Though they are anecdotal
evidence, the findings of these interviews are consistent with research, such as Mole’s
1993 study, which indicated that minority and disadvantaged parents tend to display
preferences for involvement that are home-based and child-centered.
       Parent interviews revealed one other important piece of information about
preferences for volunteering. Despite my efforts to call equal numbers of parents who
                                                                                  Building Bridges   23

were designated “involved” and those that were not, almost all the parents I spoke with
reported that they had volunteered in their child’s classroom or at school in some other
capacity. This indicates that not all parents who volunteer at school are recorded on the
volunteer log, so the school administration is essentially unaware of their efforts. This
may be one of the main reasons why the administration perceives low levels of minority
parent volunteering despite research results to the contrary. The next chapter will discuss
the need for more effective means of tracking and recognizing the efforts of all parent
volunteers, particularly the unrecognized minority volunteers at the John Stanford
International School.
           Minority parent preferences for non-traditional types of volunteering help to
explain why the school administration perceived low levels of minority volunteering at
JSIS. However, the school should still be concerned about low levels of volunteering
among minority parent groups such as Hispanic parents and some Asian parents. The
next sections examine the significance of personal preference, race-ethnicity and
household income as barriers to parent volunteering.

The Significance of Race and Ethnicity in Parent Volunteering
           Most studies of parent involvement find that though race-ethnicity and income are
significant variables in determining levels of parent involvement, they alone do not
predict involvement. “Group-specific outcomes and patterns cannot be attributed to a
simple one-dimensional notion of race-ethnicity or income…but must instead be
attributed to some within-group behaviors, activities, or processes such as family
dynamics and parenting behaviors.” (Desimone, 1999, p.11) The results of a statistical
analysis of the significance of race-ethnicity in parent volunteering also indicate that
race-ethnicity is not in itself a predictor of parent involvement, but can help target
specific groups that display lower rates of involvement.
           The analysis showed with 97% certainty that Hispanic parents are 61% less likely
than white parents to have volunteered, or at least to have recorded their volunteer
activities at JSIS. These findings match the initial analysis of the parent volunteer
database, which showed that Hispanic parents have volunteered disproportionately during
the past year. Other Asian parents were found with 94% certainty to be 87% less likely

     Please see Appendix A for a summary of the results of these parent interviews.
                                                                                 Building Bridges   24

than white parents to have volunteered within the last year. Japanese parents, on the
other hand, were found with 96% certainty to be 2.4 times more likely than white parents
to have volunteered within the past year. 12 While these findings may be of use to the
John Stanford International School in choosing specific groups to target in parent
outreach programs, for other groups, such as black and Chinese parents, race-ethnicity
alone was not a significant predictor of involvement. These results add further weight to
the theory that other variables, such as the personal preferences described above, are
important factors in parent volunteering.
Non-English Speaking Parents
           Limited English ability is shown by researchers (Moles, 1993; Pena, 2000; Ritter,
Mont-Reynaud and Dornbusch, 1993) to be a deterrent to parent involvement in schools
However, this analysis showed that language spoken at home, whether Chinese, Spanish,
English or others, was not a significant predictor of parent involvement. This is most
likely due to the statistical insignificance of the small number of non-English speaking
parents at school. 13 This statistical insignificance of non-English speaking parents and
my inability to interview more than two such parents are two reasons why this paper does
not specifically address the significance of language spoken at home in parent

The Significance of Household Income in Parent Volunteering
           Just as race and ethnicity alone cannot be considered significant predictors of
parent involvement, socio-economic status can be considered an indicator of other
factors, such as low self-esteem or low educational achievement, that can be considered
psychological barriers to parent involvement. However, all of the studies cited in this
paper agree that socio-economic status is a significant predictor of involvement, and that
low-income families face greater barriers to involvement than middle- or high-income
families. The statistical analysis of the effect of income on parent volunteering supports
the conclusion that low-income parents are less likely to be involved at school. Parents
from middle-income neighborhoods were found with 99% certainty to be two times more
likely to have volunteered at school in the past year than parents from low-income

     Please see Appendix E for results of the regression analysis.
     Please see Appendix C for a chart of languages spoken by JSIS students at home.
                                                                                      Building Bridges   25

neighborhoods. Parents from high-income neighborhoods were not a significant variable
in this statistical model, perhaps because only 7.4% of parents were classified as high-
income. 14
           A frequency analysis, which shows how many parents from each ethnic group
come from each level of household income, shows that some ethnic groups, Hispanic
families in particular, disproportionately come from low-income neighborhoods when
compared to the rest of the school’s population.

                                Race-Ethnicity and Income




                                                                                      Household Income

                           20                                                                  Middle

                            0                                                                  High
                                  White           Chinese      Hispanic       Other
                                          Black         Japanese    Other Asian

                                Race-Ethnicity of Students

           As the chart above indicates, 37 or 40% of Hispanic families live in low-income
neighborhoods, compared with the 34 or 21% of white families from low-income areas.
More than half of parents classified as “Other”, which includes American Indian and
Gypsy families, also live in low-income neighborhoods, though since the sample of these
parents is so small (only 11 total) these results are difficult to gauge. In comparison,
black, Chinese and Japanese families, who are more proportionally represented among
parent volunteers, are also more evenly spread out among low, middle and high
neighborhoods. Finally, 74% of white parents come from middle-income neighborhoods,
which is important because these parents were shown to be two times more likely to be

     Please see Appendix C for a chart showing the distribution of income among JSIS parents.
                                                                             Building Bridges        26

involved than parents from low-income neighborhoods. Thus, socio-economic status is
assumed to be a significant factor in predicting parent involvement.
        The nature of factors barring involvement for parents with low socio-economic
status is such that most parents are probably not comfortable reporting barriers of this
nature. Therefore, parent interviews did not measure the effect of household income or
socio-economic status on volunteering. The results of this analysis, however, show that it
is important for the John Stanford International School to find ways to reach out to low-
income minority families, in order to show them how important their involvement in their
child’s education is.
Distance from School
        Distance from school can be seen as a sub-set of the socio-economic status
variable, because it is a different way of examining the neighborhoods that families come
from. Early in my research, I theorized that parents who live outside the school’s
neighborhood would have a more difficult time volunteering because of time constraints
or because of disinclination due to living outside of the community. The Wallingford
neighborhood, where the John Stanford International School is located, is a lower-middle
class neighborhood with 75% white residents, which can be considered a high percentage
for Seattle, which has an average of 40% white residents. 15 An analysis of zip codes,
illustrated in the table below, reflects this lack of diversity in the neighborhood.
        The chart below shows that 91% of white children live in one of the
neighborhoods within five miles of the school campus. 13 out of 14, or 94% of Japanese
children also live within five miles of JSIS. In comparison, only 55% of Hispanic parents
live within 5 miles of school. This analysis also shows that 85 out of 182, or almost half
of all non-white students live more than five miles away from the Wallingford

  Data retrieved from the Census 2000 website on May 29, 2001. Please see:
for information about Census Tract 52, King County, Washington. Appendix B contains a graph showing
census results for the City of Seattle.
                                                                              Building Bridges        27

                              Race-Ethnicity and Distance



                     40                                                         Hispanic

                     20                                                         Other Asian

                      0                                                         Other
                               0-5 miles     5-10 miles   Over 10 miles

                           Distance from home to school

        The distance variable was statistically insignificant in the regression analysis, so it
does not predict any relationship between distance and involvement, and the literature
review produced no studies that show a relationship between how far away from school a
parent lives with and the likelihood that they will be involved in school. Yet it seems
important, when looking at reasons why the administration perceived a gap between
white and non-white parent volunteering, that so many white students live within 5 miles
of school and so many minority students come from outside the school’s neighborhood.
        It’s possible that this discrepancy adds to the perception that their parents aren’t
involved in school, even though parents from outside the neighborhood volunteer in
fairly proportional numbers to parents from the neighborhood. 16 Distance from school
may not be a significant factor in predicting parent involvement, but for the John
Stanford International School, there may be a cultural gap between parents who live in
the neighborhood and parents who live farther away. Two parents who live more than 10
miles away from school alluded to this in their interviews, commenting that they feel less
like a part of the school community because they live so far away. Distance from school
might therefore be viewed as a cultural barrier for minority parents living outside of the

  Please see Appendix D for a chart that shows a cross-tabulation of parent involvement and distance from
                                                                   Building Bridges    28

neighborhood, and should be considered an important factor in designing outreach
programs for minority families.

        The data analysis and parent interviews produced a number of important
implications for the John Stanford International School as the administration decides how
to proceed on the issue of minority parent volunteering. The final chapter discusses these
implications and provides recommendations for JSIS about ways to support their
community of minority families and help them make school involvement a priority for
their children’s futures.
                                                                      Building Bridges       29

                                Chapter 5: Implications and Recommendations

       Key findings from the statistical analysis of data collected from parents and the
parent volunteer log offer a variety of explanations for both the real and perceived lack of
minority volunteering at the John Stanford International School. The first section of this
chapter presents a discussion of these findings and what they imply for the school
administration in deciding future steps to take to increase parent involvement in school. A
number of short-term and long-term recommendations for the school leadership, based on
the implications of the research, will be made in the final section of this paper.

Discussion - Implications of Study

       The data analysis and qualitative evidence from interviews with staff and parents
at JSIS imply that factors such as preference for non-leadership activities and a cultural
gap among parents, may contribute to differences in volunteering among white parents
and non-white parents at JSIS. The research also shows that while there are no trends
that explain patterns of volunteering for minority parents as a whole, some parents,
notably Hispanic parents and low-income parents, are more at risk for non-involvement
than white and middle-income parents. This section details these findings and discusses
the implications of each one.

1. Minority parents do volunteer at school but their efforts may not be recognized
because they tend to prefer child-centered volunteer activities to more traditional types of

       What the John Stanford International School administration perceived as a lack of
involvement among minority parents, research suggests, may be due to some minority
parents’ preference for volunteer activities such as playground supervision, classroom
volunteering, or other low-profile activities. This finding presents a quandary for the
school’s parent leadership: on one hand, it is very important to recognize the work being
done by all parents at school, and to appreciate all the ways in which parents are involved
in their children’s education. On the other hand, the parent leadership’s objective is to
diversify its leadership committees and ensure that minority parents have representative
voice in decision-making. Therefore, JSIS cannot take this first finding to mean that
                                                                      Building Bridges        30

parents are sufficiently involved in school, because there is still insufficient minority
representation on leadership committees. The school leadership recognizes that minority
parents, in addition to what they are already doing, must be involved in real decision-
making about school policies, funding, and other important matters.
       Because this study was unable to assess the differences between types of
volunteering in scoring whether parents are involved in their child’s education, and relied
on evidence from interviews from a small sample of parents in determining the above
finding, future studies should perhaps focus on differentiating different types of
volunteering to learn more specific details about why parents prefer some types of
volunteering to others, and address ways in which parents can be persuaded to move from
child-centered volunteer activities to positions within the parent leadership.

2. There may be a cultural gap between parents who live in close proximity to the school
and parents who live farther away.

       In interviews, two informants alluded to a gap between families living in the
neighborhoods around the school and families living farther away. A feeling of
cliquishness among the more involved parents could be one reason why some parents are
hesitant to be involved in the parent leadership of the John Stanford International School.
Two pieces of research in particular support this notion. First, the statistical regression
shows that parents from middle-income neighborhoods are much more likely to be
involved than parents from low- or high-income neighborhoods, and a cross-tabulation of
distance and household income shows that of all 234 middle income parents, 183 or 78%
live within five miles of the school. 17 This means that parents living within 5 miles of
JSIS, who are also more likely to be middle-class and white, are more likely to be
involved in school. The other piece of evidence for a gap between parents based on
where they live is the frequency analysis of race-ethnicity and distance, which shows that
91% of white children live within five miles of school, while non-white children tend to
be more spread out throughout the city. This research indicates that one of JSIS’s under-
served populations is low-income parents who live more than 5 miles away from school.
       Whether this gap is a real or perceived barrier is difficult to determine. For
parents who are unable to provide their own transportation to school, the gap is very real.
                                                                            Building Bridges   31

The parent leadership at JSIS has made considerable efforts to reach out to parents in
distant neighborhoods, in some cases providing buses and carpools to bring parents to
evening programs. This is not a perfect solution, however, because there still may be
some stigma attached to parents who rely on the school for transportation to these events,
and one parent reported being unable to find the designated stop for buses to evening
school events. This is a good example of what researchers such as Moles refer to as a
psychological barrier to involvement for low-income and minority parents. For a
subsequent evening event, the parent volunteer coordinator encouraged all parents to
leave their cars at home and use the school’s transportation, which helped to remove the
stigma for parents unable to provide their own transportation. These outreach efforts are
extremely positive and will no doubt over time have a great effect on this gap between
parents who live close to school and those who live far away.
           A final consideration in response to this perceived gap is that the school may want
to consider how some minority and low-income parents can be served in their own
communities. The second half of this chapter will make recommendations for some
service providers in the Seattle area that help reach out to and serve minority
communities, with which JSIS could form partnerships in order to better serve these

3. Hispanic parents seem particularly at risk for non-involvement.

           Research results indicated that among all the different racial and ethnic groups at
school, Hispanic parents have especially low rates of volunteering, and were shown to be
statistically less likely than white parents to be involved in their children’s education.
Considering that the school’s Spanish-language immersion program creates a special
emphasis on Hispanic cultures, this is a surprising result. However, studies of parent
involvement indicate that Hispanic parents are particularly under-represented in public
schools due to psychological barriers such as lack of trust, low self-esteem and lack of
background on educational matters (Pena, 2000), so this research shows that JSIS is no
exception to the general rule.

     Please see Appendix D for charts of data referenced in this section.
                                                                              Building Bridges        32

        This is a problem that the JSIS administration may want to address through
outreach programs, but it is also a situation that is likely to improve over time. For this
first year, kindergarten students and first-year students participated in 50% immersion in
Spanish language, while grades 2-5 participated in a Foreign Language in Elementary
Schools program, where they received 30-40 minutes of Spanish language instruction
daily. For the year 2001-2002, students in grades K-2 will engage in language
immersion, and within four years all JSIS students will participate in either Spanish or
Japanese language immersion studies. At this point, the school will have a great need for
Spanish-speaking parents to volunteer in Spanish-immersion classrooms and engage in
other school activities, so more Hispanic parents will be encouraged to volunteer at
school. As this program develops, the John Stanford International School will become a
more welcoming place for Hispanic parents, particularly Spanish-speaking parents, who
will see how important their contribution is to the international atmosphere of the school.

4. Parents who live in low-income areas seem particularly at risk for non-involvement.

        While this finding does not necessarily help to explain perceived or actual under-
representation of minority volunteers at the John Stanford International School, since
many white parents also live in low-income areas, it is still an important finding for the
school leadership to consider. 18 Dr. Susan Quattrociocchi, a Seattle-based researcher
who studies the impact of school involvement for low-income parents, stresses the
importance of parent involvement throughout all years of education for at-risk children to
succeed in their college years (Quattrociocci, 1998). As a part of its efforts to build a
greater diversity of parent volunteers, the school leadership should consider ways to
reach out to all at-risk families, which includes low-income as well as minority parents.
        The next section provides a number of short-term and long-term
recommendations for things that the administration and parent leadership of JSIS can do
to help diversify the PTSA and build stronger ties between the school and its community
of parents.

Recommendations for the John Stanford International School

  Please see Appendix D for a graph showing a cross-tabulation of race-ethnicity data and household
                                                                        Building Bridges     33

           The PTSA took a first step in ameliorating the problem of minority under-
representation among parent volunteers by requesting an Evans School student to do this
research. The parent leadership continued its efforts to reach out to non-white parents
throughout the year. JSIS’s volunteer coordinator reported that targeted outreach was
successful in bringing non-white parents to events such as a program on Family Literacy
and the International Dinner, both of which occurred in March 2001. Accomplishments
such as these in JSIS’s first year predict even greater outreach success for the PTSA in
future years, as family needs are identified and clear goals and objectives for family
involvement direct school outreach efforts.
           As the John Stanford International School administration and parent leadership
ponders the next steps to increase minority parent volunteering and diversify parent
leadership, they might consider the following short-term and long-term recommendations
       •   clarifying goals and objectives;
       •   making better efforts to target minority parents for positions in parent leadership;
       •   finding better ways to evaluate parent volunteering;
       •   supporting the Volunteer Coordinator;
       •   communicating better with non-English speaking families;
       •   making connections with Seattle and King County service organizations to better
           serve its minority parents in their communities.

Short-Term Recommendations

1. Clarify Goals and Objectives for Parent Volunteering

           In casual conversations with staff and PTSA members during the past six months
of research, I have noted some discord among stakeholders with regard to the specific
goals and objectives for parent volunteers. They have concerns about diversification of
parent leadership, increasing numbers of minority parent volunteers, increasing numbers
of all parent volunteers, directing services toward parents who hesitate to identify
themselves as “at-risk”, better utilization of volunteer efforts, and the impending
graduation of the children whose parents are the most involved in school leadership.
These are all legitimate concerns, but there is little sense of how these are prioritized
                                                                                Building Bridges      34

within the parent leadership. At the end of this first year, the PTSA should evaluate the
progress during this first year, consider potential issues and problems for the coming
year, and establish goals for parent involvement.
        Several of Seattle’s public schools require parents to sign a contract in which they
promise to volunteer for 15 hours a year for single-parent households and 30 hours a year
for two-parent households. 19 At least one school uses a points system for volunteer time
and offers a prize to the family that contributes the most in any school year. Such
aggressive tactics to recruit and retain parent volunteers are probably not a good idea for
the John Stanford International School, because of the substantial numbers of newcomers
to the United States and the fact that 25% of its students come from more than 5 miles
away every day. The advantage of these programs nevertheless is that they set clear
objectives for parent volunteering: schools with this system have a clear goal of
maximizing parent volunteer time, rather than focusing on who is volunteering or what
kinds of activities they are doing. If the JSIS parent leadership can, during the summer
vacation that has just begun, establish a clear goal for parent volunteering in the coming
year, and focuses its efforts on achieving that goal, they will most likely be very

2. Target and make personal efforts to recruit minority parents for school leadership
        Common sense dictates that time-stressed parents may not step up to leadership
positions unless they are asked. Even if they are asked, some parents may not be
interested in taking a leadership position unless a need is expressed to them. It is
understandable that the majority-white parents of the PTSA might feel uncomfortable
openly expressing the need for minority parents in leadership positions. However, the
parent leadership may be able to communicate with teachers, who have the greatest
contact with volunteers who come to their classroom, to find out who among minority
parents volunteers regularly and whether some parents could be approached specifically
about leadership positions on committees.
        The PTSA should also consider either forming committees that target minority
parents, such as a committee on cultural activities or a committee of parents to focus on

  From the May 3, 2001city-wide meeting of volunteer coordinators. At this meeting, a number of
volunteer coordinators informally shared their school’s policies and goals for parent volunteering.
                                                                      Building Bridges      35

diversity, or earmarking some committee spots for minority parents. In this case, the
PTSA could write diversity requirements into its charter, ensuring that the PTSA is not a
legitimate body if it does not represent the spectrum of parents in the school community.
These kinds of efforts can go a long way toward ensuring that not only do parents feel
invited and encouraged to become involved in parent leadership, they are also needed to
legitimize this organization’s efforts at school. The PTSA can also consider over the
course of the coming summer what actions it will take to achieve greater diversity in
parent leadership for the next school year.
Long-Term Recommendations

3. Find better ways to evaluate parent volunteering

       One of the main weaknesses of this study was my inability to evaluate different
kinds of parent volunteering, in order to discern factors related to parent leadership
activities from factors related to other kinds of volunteering. While the volunteer log that
parents sign at the front desk when they visit school may be sufficient for the school’s
present purposes, over time they will need a better system of tracking volunteers and the
kinds of activities they do. Currently, policy dictates that all volunteers who have access
to children must wear a name badge, and in order to get this badge volunteers have to
sign in at the front desk. Parents who attend school events are for the most part
undocumented, though those who do specific organizing work for these events are noted
on the volunteer log. Parents who supervise the playground after school or do other kinds
of volunteer work, such as chaperoning field trips, generally do not sign the volunteer log
and go unrecognized.
       Though it is impossible to track all activities of all volunteers on a daily basis, the
school can over time develop ways to keep tabs on parent involvement. First of all,
publicly acknowledging the importance of parent volunteers, such as the celebratory
breakfast that was held in honor of volunteers at JSIS in May, 2001, helps keep
volunteering high-profile and reminds parents that they are needed and wanted at school.
Next, a better recording system that keeps track of frequency, duration and type of
volunteer activities would be helpful for future studies of parent involvement. Teachers
can be encouraged to keep track of, for example, which parents volunteer on a weekly
basis or a monthly basis in their classrooms, so even if those parents don’t sign in each
                                                                      Building Bridges         36

time they visit the school, their efforts are recorded. Finally, a school-wide computer
database that staff and teachers can access might be a way to increase knowledge of
which parents are volunteering, lower the perception that minority parents volunteer less
frequently than non-minority parents, and better track parent volunteering at school. I
envision a computer terminal at the front entrance of the school that parents and other
volunteers can sign into when they visit the school, and that teachers and staff can also
enter data into when they observe parents volunteering at school. While a better system
of tracking may take a year or two to develop, it is something that should be carefully
considered by the JSIS parent leadership and administration.

4. Fund and Support the Volunteer Coordinator
       None of the above suggestions, or this entire study, would be possible without the
support of the Volunteer Coordinator. Kamela Daniels, the Volunteer Coordinator at the
John Stanford International School, does an excellent job of thinking of creative ways to
encourage more parent involvement and reach out to families. She is also responsible for
collecting data on volunteering, screening all volunteers to make sure that they do not
have criminal records (as mandated by state policy), supervising volunteers to make sure
that children are safe with them, and is also required to evaluate the work of volunteers
and redirect their services if necessary. Kamela does all of this on a small stipend from
the City of Seattle that is supplemented by the John Stanford International School.
Currently, the City of Seattle levy oversight committee is still in discussion over whether
a grant to fund parent volunteer coordinators at approximately 60 Seattle Public Schools
will be continued next year. If the grant is discontinued, the John Stanford International
School will have to decide how to fund the Volunteer Coordinator Position. I strongly
encourage the John Stanford International School administration to fund and support the
Volunteer Coordinator position as a vital role in recruiting, retaining and encouraging
diversity in parent volunteers.

5. Communicate better with non-English speaking families
       Currently, most information sent home to parents is printed in both English and
Spanish. Spanish translation is provided by school volunteers and often takes time,
particularly for long letters to parents. This is an extremely vital part of reaching out to
                                                                      Building Bridges       37

parents, and as much as possible JSIS should try to have materials available in other
languages so that parents do not rely on their children as the main communication link
between home and school. Currently, parents and children at JSIS also speak Chinese,
Vietnamese, Cambodian, Laotian, Tagolog, and Tigrina, and because of the Bilingual
Orientation Center, there will always be a broad diversity of language spoken at JSIS.
The school administration can cultivate resources, such as the Carlson Center at the
University of Washington or the community service centers listed below, to find people
that can translate school materials used year after year and build a resource library of
foreign-language information for parents. Newcomers to the United States may not
always be familiar with their rights to a free public education for their children, and may
hesitate to ask questions about their child’s education if they are not proficient in English.
But if non-English speaking parents are provided with sufficient native-language
materials, they will better understand the importance of their participation in school and
can in turn become valuable cultural resources for JSIS.

6. Make connections with community service providers in order to support minority and
immigrant families

       Seattle has a wealth of community organizations that provide services to non-
white communities and can help the John Stanford International School identify the needs
of at-risk families. Given the cultural gaps and other issues that came to light in this
study, these organizations could help the John Stanford International School in a number
of ways. Community service organizations can provide awareness training for staff on
specific cultural issues related to non-white parents and children, offer programs that will
help all JSIS parents and children appreciate the diversity of cultures represented at the
school, and community organizations can be used as a referral service for help in
communicating with newly arrived families and families who do not speak English as a
second language. Whether JSIS establishes a formal partnership with a service-providing
organization, which might mean joint fund-raisers or other community activities done in
partnership, or a loose association with organizations that can provide referrals and other
services for families in need, it is important to build bridges to community organizations
that also have an interest in serving diverse populations of people. A brief survey of
                                                                        Building Bridges       38

public service agencies associated with the United Way of King County turned up a
number of organizations that might serve as useful contacts for JSIS. Some of them are:

   •   Asian Counseling and Referral Service: This organization, with offices in Seattle
       and Bellevue, provides Asian and Pacific Island families with social and
       behavioral health services in a multicultural and multilingual setting. It serves
       thousands of families, especially newly immigrated families, each year in over 30

   •   El Centro De La Raza: A Latino civil rights organization focusing on multi-racial
       empowerment. El Centro offers child/youth programs, meal services, ESL,
       housing/economic development, senior programs, employment/housing
       assistance, community mobilization efforts and cultural events.

   •   Seattle Indian Center: A multi-faceted community service agency primarily for
       American Indians/Alaska Natives, providing education, employment and training,
       childcare, community services and a sobering facility for all disadvantaged

   •   Filipino Youth Activities: Provides educational, recreational, cultural and social
       services for Filipino youth, family and friends.

   •   Carlson Center at the University of Washington: This organization helps students
       with career development and helps students find internships in organizations
       throughout Seattle. University students might be able to help with translation and
       other services at JSIS, and will work for free as they earn school credit.


       This research described in this report began with the following question: how can
the John Stanford International School better serve its underrepresented families in order
to encourage greater participation of minority families and better equip students for a
successful future? The purpose of my research was to help the school begin to
understand the factors that might prevent parents from active participation in their child’s
school. This study shows that JSIS’s minority parent population cannot be painted with
one broad brush, but display different tendencies and preferences for volunteering.
Ultimately, parents will decide the ways in which they want to be involved in school
activities, so it is the school’s responsibility to encourage parents to participate in ways
that are both meaningful to the parents and beneficial to the school.
                                                                      Building Bridges     39

       In answering the question of how this school can better serve its underrepresented
families, I have provided JSIS with information that can help the parent leadership
determine the next steps for increasing minority parent participation in school activities.
My research shows that the PTSA should first clarify its goals and objectives for school-
to-family outreach, and then give special consideration to ways to increase Hispanic
involvement in parent leadership, which will be especially beneficial because of the
school’s emphasis on Spanish and Latino culture. This may be best achieved through
personal efforts from the school leadership to convince parents of the importance of their
participation in school both for the children and the future of the school. Other
recommendations include translation of school materials for non-English speaking
families and building connections with community service providers to better serve at-
risk parents and children.
       The above suggestions are presented as food for thought for the JSIS leadership as
it considers its priorities for the coming years. It is worth noting that many of the
problems that I observed through interviews and data analysis can be viewed as growing
pains for a school that made a drastic transition from being a small neighborhood school
to being a closely-watched experiment in public education. Over time, with the
continued effort of the JSIS parent leadership, diversity among parent volunteers should
       The limited scope of research for this paper leaves a number of questions
unanswered. If, as research indicates, non-white parents appear to display preferences for
non-leadership types of involvement, why is this the case and what can the school do to
change these preferences? What is the nature of the hypothesized gap between parents in
the neighborhood and those outside of the neighborhood and how can this school bridge
the gap between these families? Finally, the most difficult question to answer, how can
this school reach out to parents who have little time or interest in parent volunteering, and
little understanding of the benefits of their involvement in their children’s education?
Each of these questions deserves as thorough a response as the questions I sought to
answer in this paper.
       Almost three years after Superintendent John Stanford’s passing, his vision of
creating a culturally diverse community of learners, where students would learn about
languages and culture in ways that would prepare them to live in a rapidly shrinking
                                                                        Building Bridges    40

world, is coming to fruition. As two more John Stanford International Schools, one in
Central Seattle and one in West Seattle, are being planned based on the success of this
first experimental school, the staff and parents of the first JSIS have an opportunity to
reflect on the successes and failures of this first year of operation. They should find that,
though there are some challenges in the coming years to increasing minority parent
involvement and continuing outreach programs to families that are less inclined to
participate in their children’s education, the future is bright for all the families and
children of the John Stanford International School.
                                                                                 Building Bridges       41

Appendix A: Summary of Parent Interviews
Note: In answering questions 1-3, many parents gave more than one response. The numbers in the chart
below reflect all the answers given by each of the parents.

Q1: How are you         1. Volunteer     2. Attend PTSA        3. Help child with    4. Other types of
involved in your        in classroom     meetings/other        homework.             education (e.g. piano
                        and after        leadership roles.                           lessons)
child’s education?      school.
White Responses                6                 5                     4                     2
                               8                 0                     6                     3
Q.2: What               1. Keep up       2. Keep up with       2. See the need for   4. Better
motivates you to        with what is     child’s education.    volunteers at         communication
                        going on at                            school.               with children.
volunteer at            school and in
school?                 the classroom.

White Responses                5                 5                     4                     2

                               8                 2                     0                     2
Q3: What are
challenges to                                                  3. Difficulty
                        1. Time          2. Difficult to get                         4. School
participating more      limitations.     to school
                                                               with teacher in
                                                                                     meetings are too
frequently?             .                                                            much like work.

White Responses                6                 0                     2                     0

                               4                 2                     2                     1
Q4: Do you
communicate well        1. Yes           2. No
with your child’s
White Responses                6                 2
                               7                 0
Q5: Do you feel a
part of the school      1. Yes           2. No
White Responses                7                 2
                               4                 2
                                                                          Building Bridges      42

Appendix B: Race-Ethnicity of JSIS Students and the City of Seattle
 The graph below shows a breakdown of JSIS students by race and ethnicity, used to
determine the level of diversity among JSIS students.
                                     Race-Ethnicity of JSIS Students


                       Other Asian

                       Hispanic                                                White
                       26.8%                                                   47.0%




 The benchmark for assessing racial diversity within the school is overall racial diversity in the
Seattle Public Schools. The chart below shows King County School District Demographics, and
indicated that JSIS has higher numbers of white and Hispanic students than the district average.20
                                                                           Building Bridges         43

Appendix C: Student Demographic Information

The next three graphs show breakdowns of JSIS students by language spoken at home,
average household income according to the 1989 census, and how far their homes are
from the JSIS Wallingford campus.

                                  Language Spoken At Home
                       Laotian           Tagalog
              Cambodian 1%                           Vietnamese
                  0%                                     3%

                             Average Income of JSIS Parents




  Retrieved from the United Way of King County Data Resource Center on May 30, 2001. Please see:
                                                                   Building Bridges   44

                   School population: Distance from JSIS

Times Square,             Bothell, Renton, White Center, Tukwila,
Lake City,                West Seattle, Columbia, Westwood
Northgate,       13%      Village, Westwood, Burien/Tukwila
East Union,
Beacon Hill                                                 Students who live less
                                                            than 5 miles away from
                                                            Students who live more
                                                            than 5 but less than 10
                                                            miles from school
                                                            Students who live more
                                                            than 10 miles from school

           Wallingford, U-District, Ballard, Queen Anne, Madison
           Park, Crown Hill, Interbay, Seattle, Magnolia
                                                                                           Building Bridges   45

Appendix D: Cross-Tabulations of Data
These five graphs show cross-tabulation of the parent involvement data with information
about race-ethnicity, household income and distance from school, as well as a cross-
tabulation of household income and distance from school.
                              Race-Ethnicity and Involvement






                     20                                                                        Not Involved

                      0                                                                        Involved
                             White            Chinese        Hispanic          Other
                                      Black         Japanese      Other Asian


                          Household Income and Involvement



                                                                                               Not Involved

                      0                                                                        Involved
                                  Low               Middle              High

                          Household Income
                                                                       Building Bridges   46

                    Distance and Involvement




                                                                          Not Involved

          0                                                               Involved
                   0-5 Miles         5-10 Miles   Over 10 Miles

              Distance from JSIS

              Household Income and Distance


                                                                  Household Income



          0                                                                High
                   0-5 miles         5-10 miles   Over 10 miles

              Distance from School
                                                                                      Building Bridges         47

Appendix E: Results of Regression Analysis

Test 1: Significance of Race-Ethnicity, Household Income, and Distance in Parent
                  Model Summary

              -2 Log     Cox & Snell      Nagelkerke
  Step     likelihood     R Square         R Square
  1           315.194           .123             .191

                                        Classification Table a


                                                                     Involvement              Percentage
           Observed                                              0                1            Correct
  Step 1   Involvement             0                                 268              8              97.1
                                   1                                  66              8              10.8
           Overall Percentage                                                                        78.9
    a. The cut value is .500

                                        Variables in the Equation

                               B          S.E.          Wald               df               Sig.      Exp(B)
           AGE                 -.076         .088         .745                    1            .388      .927
  1        NEAR                 .316         .604         .274                    1            .601     1.372
           MEDIUM              -.360         .785         .210                    1            .647      .698
           SESMID              1.117         .422        6.992                    1           .008      3.056
           SESHIGH              .452         .684         .436                    1           .509      1.571
           BLACK               -.505         .605         .698                    1           .404       .603
           CHINESE              .617         .521        1.403                    1           .236      1.853
           JAPANESE             1.238        .608        4.142                    1           .042      3.447
           OTHERASI            -2.024       1.062        3.633                    1           .057       .132
           ALLHISP              -.949        .420        5.108                    1           .024       .387
           OTHER               -5.739      10.786         .283                    1           .595       .003
           Constant            -1.527       1.072        2.026                    1           .155          .217
    a. Variable(s) entered on step 1: BLACK, CHINESE, JAPANESE, OTHERASI, ALLHISP,
                                                                    Building Bridges    48

    Appendix F: Organizations Suggested for Collaboration and
    Partnerships – Contact Information

ON                 PROVIDE                               E
                   and referral
                   in 30 Asian
                                  720 8th Avenue S.      206.695-7600
Asian              language
                                  Suite 200
Counseling and     dialects,                                     
                                  Seattle, Washington,   Fax
Referral Service   education
                                  98104 - 3006           206.695-7606
El Centro De La    outreach       2524 16th Avenue S.,                  http://www.elcentrodelaraz
Raza               programs       Seattle, WA 98144           
                   for Latino
                   support,       611 12th Ave S, Ste
Seattle Indian     education      300, Seattle WA
Center             and            98144-2007
                   cultural and
                                  810 18th Ave           206.461.4870
Filipino Youth     services for
                                  Seattle WA 98122-      Fax   
Activities         Filipino
                                  4798                   206.461-4879
                   family and
                   Helps U.W.                                           http://www.washington.ed
Carlson Center                    Gateway Center 171
                   students                              206.543-2550   u/students/carlson
of the                            Mary Gates Hall
                   find                                  Fax
University of                     Box 352805
                   internships                           206.685-8299   Email:
Washington                        Seattle, Washington
                   and careers.                               
                                                                  Building Bridges   49


Abrams, Laura, 2000. Planning for school change: School-community collaboration in a
full-service elementary school. Urban Education v35 n1 p79.

Becher, Rhoda, 1986. Parents and schools. Urbana, I.L: ERIC Clearinghouse on
Elementary and Early Childhood Education. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No.
ED 269 137).

Desimone, Laura, 1999. Linking parent involvement with student achievement: do race
and income matter? The Journal of Educational Research, v93 i1 p11.

Epstein, Joyce L., 1995. School/family/community partnerships: caring for the children
we share. Phi Delta Kappan, v76 n9 p701(12).

Fruchter, Galletta & White, 1992. New directions in parent involvement. Washington,
D.C.: Academy for Educational Development. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service
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Kessler-Sklar, Susan L. and Amy J. L. Baker, 2000. School district parent involvement
policies and programs. The Elementary School Journal, v101 i1 p101.

National Commission on Excellence in Education, 1983. A nation at risk: the imperative
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by the United States Department of Education.
Available at:

Pena, Delores, 2000. Parent involvement: Influencing factors and implications. The
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Quattrociocci, Susan, 1998. Calling all parents: are your kids going to college?
Interview first recorded for WAMC, Boston. Retrieved on May 31, 2001 from the A Call
To Parents Website. Please see:

Ritter, Philip, Randy Mont-Reynaud and Sanford M. Dornbusch, 1993. Minority parents
and their youth: Concern, encouragement and support for school achievement. In
Families and Schools in a Pluralistic Society, Nancy Feyl Chavin, ed. Albany, NY: State
University of New York Press, 1993.

Zellman, Gail and Jill M. Watterman, 1998. Understanding the impact of parent school
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v.91 n6 p370.
                                                                   Building Bridges      50

For more information about how people of different ethnicities view standard practices in
public education, and how to reach out to ethnic-specific groups, please refer to the
following studies:

Romo, Harriet, 1999. Reaching out: best practices for educating Mexican-American
children and youth. Charleston, WV: ERIC Clearninghouse on Rural Education and
Small Schools. (ERIC Document Reproduction Service No. 432 432)

Sipes, Dolores Subia BigFoot, 1993. Cultural values and American-Indian families. In
Families and Schools in a Pluralistic Society, Nancy Feyl Chavin, ed. Albany, NY: State
University of New York Press, 1993.

Yao, Esther Lee, 1993. Strategies for working effectively with Asian Immigrant Parents.
In Families and Schools in a Pluralistic Society, Nancy Feyl Chavin, ed. Albany, NY:
State University of New York Press, 1993.

  I would like to thank the staff and PTSA of the John Stanford International School for
  their patience and support in providing answers to endless and occasionally pointless
  questions. In particular, Kamela Daniels was an invaluable resource for information
  about parent volunteering at JSIS and other schools, and without her help this paper
  most certainly would not have been possible.

  I would also like to thank Dr. Susan Quattrociocci for her guidance, support and for
  helping to shape this research in its early stages.