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Chapter One: A Detailed Analysis of Parent Involvement



Background/Context

       I began my teaching career at Poteet High, a very middle class and majority

white, school in Mesquite, Texas. Poteet was named a Distinguished School, National

Blue Ribbon School, and President George W. Bush‟s Point of Light School during my

four years teaching there. The staff functioned exceptionally as a whole. Teachers were

involved in professional development on a regular basis and collaborated on projects

within their discipline and across the curriculum. Administrators were excellent leaders,

available to staff, open to new ideas, and always searching for ways to improve our

already high performing school. Students of all cultures and backgrounds excelled across

the board. Academically, we ranked among the highest in the state. Athletically, we were

always at the top of our district and won many state competitions. Various clubs and

organizations were available to include students of all races and cultures. In retrospect, I

view my experience at Poteet as my opportunity to see how a highly functioning school

should operate.

       My move to California brought many new changes and challenges. I immediately

was hired by the Fairfield-Suisun Unified School District at Grange Middle School.

Grange is a high-poverty, low-performing school, with an extremely diverse population.

Referral rates were extremely high with no real consequences, teachers were stuck in old

routines of teaching outside the standards with closed doors, and parent participation was

non-existent. A new principal trying desperately to make improvements marked my first

year teaching at Grange. New curriculum, professional development programs, and
                                                                                        2

discipline policies were implemented one step at a time. Over the next few years, student

achievement was rising, student behavior was under control, and teachers began rigorous

professional development and collaboration. All of these programs, along with many

interventions, improved the state of the school. However, students were still not scoring

high enough on state tests and the school was still disconnected from parents and the

community.

       While researching and contemplating the various topics that I could focus on for

my thesis, I came across a book entitled No Excuses: Lessons from 21 High-Performing,

High-Poverty Schools. This book consisted of various case studies of high- poverty, high-

performing schools. The schools exhibited many of the same characteristics as Grange:

extensive teacher collaboration, student centered interventions, standards based learning,

student involvement activities, active learning, and consistent discipline procedures. One

essential difference was the parent involvement piece. Nearly all of the schools studied

had a significant amount of parent involvement. Parent involvement has been the one

area that, as a staff, we seem to have no control over. Parents do not appear to have the

time or interest to get involved with their children‟s school. Teachers in my school are

always complaining that parents are never involved enough, so I started asking the tough

questions: “Why do you think parents don‟t get involved? How many parents have you

invited into your classroom? How many parents have you contacted for something

positive?” Nearly every teacher that I spoke with told me that they hadn‟t called or

invited parents because it made them uncomfortable and they simply didn‟t really want

parents in their classroom. It then occurred to me that this might be the piece to the

puzzle that my school was missing.
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Problem/Statement

        The focus of my research is to compare and contrast high-poverty, high-

performing and low-poverty, high-performing middle school parent involvement

programs in California. Data will be collected from School Accountability Report Cards

to include information about programs that are available at each school and school

funding data. I will then choose one high-poverty, high-performing school and one low-

poverty, high-performing school to visit and interview the principal to bring more depth

to the study. This information will then be used to write a parent involvement program

recommendation for the middle school I currently teach at.

       Traditional parent involvement programs include components of Parent Teacher

Associations, Booster Clubs, School Site Council, and general parent volunteer work

making copies in the office, stocking shelves in the library, and helping in classrooms.

My hypothesis is that these high-poverty, high-performing schools will not have

traditional parent involvement programs. It is my expectation that I will observe

proactive programs that reach out to parents and bring the school to the home instead of

loosely organized programs that wait for parents to show up at the school after deciding

they want to be involved.



Significance of Project

       The study of successful parent involvement programs in high-poverty, high-

performing schools is essential in raising student achievement in today‟s society of No

Child Left Behind legislation and high-stakes testing by fostering a sense of community
                                                                                         4

and proactively involving parents in their child‟s education. Research reported in “A New

Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on

Student Achievement” shows that schools which succeeded in engaging families

demonstrate success in 1) building trusting relationships between families, teachers, and

communities    to   include   collaboration   efforts,   2)   recognizing,   valuing,   and

accommodating the needs of families, including cultural and class differences, 3)

distributing power between school, families, and communities to form true partnerships

(Warner, 2002).

       It is my goal to research one step further by examining how high-poverty schools

use parent involvement to increase student achievement. Much research has been done on

instruction and curriculum to improve student performance. However, one of the most

influential factors in student achievement is parental involvement. The results of various

studies conclude that parental involvement leads to better grades and test scores,

improved attendance, and better social skills and behavior. But, few studies have looked

in depth at which parent involvement programs are most effective, especially in high-

poverty schools.

       It is my belief that proactive parent involvement programs are essential to

counteracting the enormous pressures that No Child Left Behind legislation and high-

stakes testing perpetuates on schools today. Parents are a virtually untapped source of

support inside and outside the classroom. The key is finding which programs are

effective, cost efficient, and create a sense of community to support achievement.
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Support for the Study

       Research shows that, regardless of class, race, or educational background, nearly

all parents believe their children will benefit from their involvement in the education

process (Aronson, 1996). The Parents as School Partners research initiative of the

National Council of Jewish Women conducted nationwide focus group studies and

reported that parents want to feel welcome at school, to receive more timely, more

personalized and more positive communication from the teachers and administrators, to

model the value of and be partners in the educational process, and the availability of more

programs and services for their children (Warner, 2002). Nevertheless, most parents do

not regularly participate by volunteering in classrooms, serving on parent committees,

attending school functions, or communicating with classroom teachers and administrators

about student progress. Schools must take action to make parents feel welcome and

reinforce the idea that families and parental involvement are essential parts of student

achievement.

       Distributing power between school, families, and communities to form true

partnerships within the school is key to helping parents communicate and reinforce high

academic aspirations for their children. Collaborative and mutually accountable

leadership teams composed of parents and teachers can be made to oversee areas such as

discipline, attendance, professional development for teachers, and student body activities.

Family homework projects and family seminars can also be used to focus on homework

help, discipline, and reading. This type of collaboration helps to create a positive

environment that is sure to promote student achievement.
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       Parental involvement in homework helps students understand the subject matter

better and also helps to form good study habits (Fry, 2001). A positive relationship has

also been shown between home reading and literacy. Some school reading programs

provide children with books to take home twice a week for parent-child reading. Studies

report that reading to a child and then asking them to read back to the parent are essential

activities to the development of literacy. Furthermore, the simple presence of books,

newspapers, and magazines around the home reinforces the idea that reading is a valuable

part of education. Other programs recruit parents to become literacy advocates and help

them overcome their own obstacles to literacy, thereby providing a better chance for their

children to achieve proficiency in reading (Finn, 1998).

       Technology can also be an extremely effective and low cost way to improve

parent-teacher communication as well as improve student achievement. New and

improved technology allows parents to obtain information that would be too difficult to

obtain in today‟s hustle and bustle of working parents and long commutes. Parents can

easily and quickly access information on grades, attendance, and homework. Effects of

these types of programs, along with overall improved parental involvement and

communication, are improved SAT scores, dropout rates, increased participation in extra

curricular activities as well as an overall satisfaction of parents, students, and staff

(Winters and August, 2001).

       Teachers and administrators are not the only school personnel that can work to

increase parental involvement through innovative programs. The influence of school

social workers in working with the family is essential in assisting troubled students to

resolve school-related problems and helping parents create and maintain a home
                                                                                            7

environment conducive to effective learning. Most school social workers spend a

significant part of their day involved in work with parents. This almost certainly proves

to be more time spent with parents than any other school personnel. The role of the

school social worker is unique due to their level of expertise in working with families

within the community and could be used more effectively in many schools (Kurtz and

Barth, 2001).



Methodology

       This research design is a detailed analysis of ten high-poverty, high-performing

and ten low-poverty, high-performing middle schools in California. The parent

involvement programs of these schools will be analyzed to determine commonalities and

develop criteria for successful parent involvement programs. Principals from one high-

poverty school and one low-poverty school will be interviewed to bring depth to the

study. Results will then be incorporated into a parental involvement pilot program for

Grange Middle School in Fairfield, California.

       High-poverty, high-performing schools will be identified through the state

Department of Education website. Data collection will occur through a combination of

online research of School Accountability Report Cards and structured interviews with

school principals. Structured interviews with administration will be used to determine

which parent involvement programs are most effective, to gather any additional

information on specific school sites, and to get an overall feel of the school community.

Data collection will focus on the following overarching questions: What specific parent

involvement programs have high-poverty, high-performing schools used? How do high-
                                                                                        8

poverty schools proactively involve parents in their child‟s education? What are the costs

of different types of parent involvement programs? What techniques have administrators

used to get faculty, parents, and students to „buy in‟ to their program?



Definitions of Terms



The term „involvement‟ is used to describe the efforts, of any caregiver who assumes

responsibility for nurturing and caring for children, to participate in the educational

process (California Department of Education, 2005).



The term „high performing school‟ is used to describe schools that are currently scoring a

6 or better on the projected state assessment (API) guidelines (California Department of

Education, 2005).



The term „high poverty student‟ is used to describe students that qualify for free and

reduced lunches as determined by the United States federal government. To qualify for

free lunch the family income must be 130% below the federal poverty line. To qualify for

reduced lunch the family income must be between 130% and 185% of the poverty line

(US Department of Education, 2005).



The term „high-poverty school‟ is used to describe Title I schools where at least 40% of

the student population is receiving free and reduced lunch as determined by the federal

government guidelines (US Department of Education).
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Limitations

       It is my expectation that administrators and school personnel looking to

implement a proactive parent involvement program will best utilize this study. The

research conducted focuses on high-poverty schools, however it is my belief that schools

of all demographics can derive value from the concrete parental involvement programs in

the findings.

       Limitations of this study involve time, resources, and the subjective nature of the

study. An extensive amount of time will be spent collecting data through a combination

of online research, structured interviews, and school observation visits. However, the

resources required and the number of man-hours needed to personally visit a large

number of schools and to interview a substantial amount of parents and school personnel

is not available. The study is subjective in nature and data collected will be based on

people‟s opinions and feelings. Therefore, the findings are subject to much interpretation.

Elements that are not represented in this study are the school culture and history and

students‟ attitudes on parent involvement. These factors will inherently compromise the

reliability of the data collected to some degree.
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Chapter Two: A Review of the Literature



Introduction

       In today‟s society, where No Child Left Behind and other similar legislation

abounds, schools have strong incentives to increase student achievement. Much research

has been done on instruction and curriculum to improve student performance. However,

one of the most influential factors in student achievement is parental involvement. The

results of various studies conclude that parental involvement leads to better grades and

test scores, improved attendance, and better social skills and behavior. Typically,

participation occurs in many ways including volunteerism within school and parent

committees, attendance at school functions and social events, parent expectations and

communication about achievement, help with homework and participation in academic

activities, as well as communication with classroom teachers and administrators. Barriers

to involvement described by parents and teachers include: differing ideas on what defines

involvement, a less than welcoming attitude toward visitors, negative or non-existent

communication from schools, lack of training for teachers, little or no parental education

and parenting skills, time pressures, job pressures, and language barriers. This literature

review focuses on parent involvement programs in schools today and the impact they

have on student achievement; including types of parent involvement, attitudes of parents

and teachers on parent involvement, barriers to parental involvement, and proactive and

deliberate efforts that schools must take to include parents in their child‟s education.
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In Support of Parent Involvement

       The idea that parental involvement in children‟s education increases student

performance is a widely accepted concept. Students are impacted in positive ways

through intentional, consistent interaction between the school and home. (Redding,

Langdon, Meyer, and Sheley, 2004). Parent involvement is the strongest indicator of

student performance than any other factor, including socio-economic status, ethnic/racial

background, and parent education level. Schools that create strong, comprehensive parent

involvement are more likely to increase student performance than schools with little

parent involvement (Epstein, 1996; Walberg, 1984; Henderson and Mapp, 2002). It has

been investigated and documented by various researchers that comprehensive parental

involvement programs lead to better social skills and behavior, improved attendance,

reduced drop out rates, improved student motivation, and higher academic achievement.

These outcomes are the results of many different types of parent involvement regardless

of whether the involvement is home-centered or school-centered or whether parents are

directly or indirectly involved. (U.S. Department of Education, 2001; Flaxman and

Inger, 1992; Henderson and Berla, 1994; Henderson and Mapp, 2002). Schools and

communities that succeed in engaging families also profit from this mutually beneficial

exchange. Schools with high levels of parent involvement demonstrate success in

building trust and respect with families, improving teacher morale, generating higher

ratings of teachers by parents, and distributing power between school, families, and

communities to form true partnerships (Henderson and Berla, 1994; Warner, 2002;

Redding, Langdon, Meyer, and Sheley, 2004).
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Defining Parental Involvement

       A review of the literature on parent involvement clearly omits the use of one,

consistent definition to describe the basic qualities of the term „parent involvement‟.

Although parent involvement may be one of the least controversial concepts in education

today, there are many different variations of the definition. The United States Department

of Education, through NCLB, defines parent involvement as parents being informed

about, involved in, and supportive of their child‟s education. The California Department

of Education defines involvement as the efforts of any caregiver who assumes

responsibility for nurturing and caring for children to participate in the educational

process. Parent involvement has been defined as everything from volunteering in the

classroom to helping with homework each night to simply holding high expectations of

children. Furthermore, terms within the literature are used simultaneously to describe the

home-school relationship (e.g., parent involvement, family involvement, parent

participation, home-school collaboration, family-school partnerships). Even though a

clear definition and consistent terminology cannot be found, there is clear evidence that

suggests parent involvement includes common elements of two approaches: (1)

encouraging parents to engage in home-centered activities and (2) offering consistent and

well communicated school-centered activities. (California Department of Education,

2005; U.S. Department of Education, 2001). Within these two approaches lie six basic

types of parental involvement as defined by Joyce Epstein, the leading researcher in the

field of parent involvement and the home-school relationship. The six Epstein types

include parenting, communicating, volunteering, learning at home, decision making, and

collaborating with the community (Epstein, 1996).
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Barriers to Parent Involvement

       Aronson‟s study in 1996 suggests that, regardless of class, race, or educational

background, nearly all parents believe their children will benefit from their involvement

in the education process. Chavkin and Williams study conducted in 1993 examined the

attitudes and practices of parents regarding the issue of parent involvement and found

that parents are concerned about their child‟s education and do want to take an active role

in participation. These parents noted that, of the various methods available in becoming

involved in their child‟s education, they were most comfortable coming to school events

and working with their children at home. The Parents as School Partners research

initiative of the National Council of Jewish Women conducted nationwide focus group

studies and reported that parents want to feel welcome at school, to receive more timely,

more personalized and more positive communication from the teachers and

administrators, to model the value of and be partners in the educational process, and the

availability of more programs and services for their children (Warner, 2002).

Nevertheless, most parents do not regularly participate by volunteering in classrooms,

serving on parent committees, attending school functions, or communicating with

classroom teachers and administrators about student progress. One key to involving

parents is for administration, teachers, and parents to create an atmosphere that values

and supports parental involvement. Schools that are dedicated to parent involvement can

create an environment that is inviting and non-threatening to new parents, as well as

provide information on how to become involved in an accessible way. (Daubner and

Epstein, 1991).
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       In order to increase parental involvement, schools must work to decrease the

barriers that keep parents from becoming involved in their child‟s education. Barriers to

involvement described by parents and teachers include: differing ideas on what

constitutes involvement, a less than welcoming atmosphere toward visitors, negative or

neutral communication from schools, insufficient training for teachers, lack of parental

education and parenting skills, time pressures, job pressures, and language barriers.

Practical barriers to involvement include issues that involve logistics, such as time,

money and energy (Adelman, 1994). When parents encounter these practical barriers to

involvement they seldom times have the resources to overcome them on their own.

Examples of practical barriers include lack of time due to work schedules, lack of

transportation, lack of childcare for other children in the family, and a lack of

communication skills necessary to effectively communicate with school personnel.

Personal barriers to parent involvement often times include the parent‟s own fears,

frustrations and apprehensions, especially if they have had negative school experiences in

their own education. Examples of personal barriers include mistrust of the educational

system, apprehension about what the school expects from them, lack of knowledge about

how to become involved, and anxiety about their child‟s performance or behavior. These

personal barriers often arise when school personnel have not been trained to involve

parents and have their own personal attitudes and beliefs about the amount of time

needed to promote parent involvement and misconceptions equating parent‟s lack of

involvement with lack of interest (Christenson and Sheridan, 2001; Adelman, 1994;

Henderson, Marburger, and Ooms, 1986; Moles, 1993; Moles, 1997).
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Diverse Parent Populations

       Ethnic and cultural diversity has increased exponentially in school populations

over the last few decades. For this reason, schools and teachers must be more sensitive

and reflective of the communities they serve (Caplan, Hall, Lubin, and Fleming, 1997). It

is essential for school personnel to develop attitudes and policies that are reflective of the

communities they serve if they are to attract parents that wish to be involved. Some

parents may feel intimidated or unwelcome due to a lack of education, income, or cultural

differences between them and school personnel (Dunlap and Alva, 1999).

       Many urban children live in low-income and single parent households. Parents of

these households struggle to find the time, energy, and financial resources to become

involved in their children‟s education. Teachers tend to favor parents who participate in

traditional, school-centered involvement and shun parents that are unable to participate in

the same way. Often schools and teachers have preconceived notions that these parents

cannot be approached or relied on, when in fact low-income, working, and single parents

spend as much time helping their children at home and are as much, if not more, eager to

help as middle class parents with more education and financial security (Epstein, 1984).

       Parent involvement can be especially challenging for parents with limited English

proficiency. Communication with these parents requires sensitivity, time, and effort.

These are resources that not all teachers possess. Teachers often have limited knowledge

about how parents are involved with their children at home and lack the knowledge and

respect of the ethnicities and cultures of the children they teach (Baker, Kessler-Sklar,

Piotrkowski, and Parker, 1999). Parents born outside the United States may find it

exceptionally difficult to adjust to the cultural norms within their child‟s school. In their
                                                                                             16

native countries, parents were expected to teach their children respect for education and

teachers, but parent involvement within the school was seen as disrespectful of authority

(Mapp, 1999). Innovative programs need to be designed to help these parents become

involved in their child‟s education.



Parent Involvement Typologies

       This literature review will use the framework developed by Joyce Epstein (1987),

a leading researcher of parent involvement, in discussing the various types of parent

participation. Epstein‟s Typologies are recognized as the primary framework in studying

the topic of parent involvement. Epstein describes six essential practices for developing

effective school-family partnerships: 1) the basic obligations of families, such as

providing for the health, safety, and nutrition of children including parenting skills and

home conditions for learning; 2) basic obligations of schools to communicate well with

families about school programs and children‟s progress; 3) school responsibilities to

reach out to parents in order to enlist their voluntary participation in the operations of the

school; 4) parent involvement at home, such as helping with homework and other

curriculum related activities; 5) participation of families in school decision-making and

governance; and 6) collaboration by parents with community organizations to increase

family and student access to community resources (Epstein and Salinas, 1993).



Type 1: Basic Obligations of Families

       Parent obligations to their children include the basic levels of support for

providing for health, safety, and nutrition of children. These obligations also include the
                                                                                          17

development of parenting skills and home conditions that prepare children for learning.

Schools can help families in their obligation by understanding the need for and assisting

in the creation of a home environment conducive to learning across all grade levels.

Examples of this type of involvement are parent education workshops, family support

programs, home visits, providing information to parents about teens, and providing teen

parents with parenting skills. Benefits of these programs for parents include a greater

sense of confidence about parenting, adjustments in the home environment as children

proceed through school, and a feeling of support from school and other parents. A

challenge of this type of involvement is providing educational material in an effect way

to all families in the community (Davies, 1988; Epstein, 1987).



Type 2: Basic Obligations of Schools

       It is the basic obligation of schools to communicate well with families about

school programs and children‟s progress. Schools and teachers must develop effective

forms of home-to-school and school-to-home communication. Schools have a

responsibility to inform families of school programs, events, and student progress.

Examples of this type of involvement are parent-teacher conferences, progress reports

and report cards, phone calls and letters home. Schools may also need to incorporate

proactive methods to engage parents short on resources, such as time, energy and money,

in effective communication. Parental benefits of this type of involvement include a better

understanding of school programs and policies, monitoring and awareness of their child‟s

progress and skills, and ease of interactions and communications with school and

teachers (Epstein, 1987).
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Type 3: Involvement at School

       This type of involvement includes the school‟s responsibilities to reach out to

families and community members in order to enlist their voluntary participation in the

operations of the school. These participants could be used as volunteers in the classroom,

schoolyard, or front office, as well as increasing family attendance at performances and

sporting events. Examples of this type of involvement include volunteer and room parent

programs and parent patrols. This type of involvement benefits schools by providing

students with skills that are taught by volunteers and individual attention to student‟s

challenges by tutors. The challenge to this type of involvement is to include all members

of the community and organize schedules to enable parent participation (Epstein, 1987).



Type 4: Involvement in Learning Activities at Home

       Parent involvement at home, such as helping with homework and other

curriculum related activities, are essential to this type of involvement. It is the

responsibility of the teacher to provide learning opportunities and guidance for parents

and the parent‟s responsibility to monitor and provide support for students learning at

home. Activities include helping parents to help students set goals and select courses,

providing college information, and conducting career transition programs. Benefits for

students include increased student achievement and test scores, positive attitude about

homework, and self-confidence in their ability as a learner. This type of involvement is

the most difficult to implement because it requires the teacher to recognize the

connection between home, school, and curriculum in children‟s learning (Epstein, 1987).
                                                                                         19

Type 5: Involvement in Decision-Making, Governance, and Advocacy

       Parent involvement of this type includes giving the parents and community

members a voice in school governance and decision-making that potentially affect their

children. Parents and community members can serve in parent associations, advisory

committees, school improvement or school councils, and independent advocacy groups

that work for school improvement. It is essential that policy makers be representative of

the student populations in which they serve. Benefits for parents include connections with

other families, feelings of ownership in the school, and input into policy and curriculum

decision-making (Epstein and Connors, 1992).



Type 6: Collaboration and Exchange with Community Organizations

       This type of involvement refers to collaboration with agencies, businesses, and

community organizations, which contribute to school, children, and families. This can

include involvement of any of the community organizations or institutions that share

some responsibility for children‟s development and success, such as school-linked health

care programs, delineating a clear role for families in business-school partnerships,

offering workshops at school about community resources, and informing families about

students‟ community service activities. Involvement by these kinds of organizations

creates benefits for children, school programs, and support services for families.

Specific benefits for children include skills gained from enriched curricular and

extracurricular experiences, self-confidence and feeling value and belonging in the

community, and establishing positive relationships with adults in the community

(Epstein, 1987).
                                                                                            20

Parent Involvement in Practice

       Katy Elementary School, located just outside Houston, Texas, opened a small

parent center to address this need. This encourages parents who attempt to become

involved and gives them the tools they need in a comfortable atmosphere that welcomes

visitors (Wagner and Guttman, 1995). The Yale Child Study Center School Development

Program, based in Connecticut, has helped over 1,000 schools transform their

dysfunctional schools into community based learning centers. The School Development

Program provides mental health and social services and has gradually built the trust and

respect of parents and community members. As a part of this comprehensive school plan,

a Parent Team sets participation goals at three levels. Level One includes attending

parent-conferences, monitoring homework, and supporting fund raising. Level Two asks

parents to serve as volunteers assisting office and library staff and aiding teachers on field

trips. Level Three requires that parents participate in school decision making by serving

on School Management Committees (Comer, 2005).

       Teachers and administrators are not the only school personnel that can work to

increase parental involvement. The influence of school social workers in working with

the family is essential in assisting troubled students to resolve school-related problems

and helping parents create and maintain a home environment conducive to effective

learning. Most school social workers spend a significant part of their day involved in

work with parents. This almost certainly proves to be more time spent with parents than

any other school personnel. The role of the school social worker is unique due to their

level of expertise in working with families within the community and could be used much

more effectively in many schools (Kurtz and Barth, 2001).
                                                                                            21

       Distributing power between school, families, and communities to form true

partnerships within the school is key to helping parents communicate and reinforce high

academic aspirations for their children. Hawthorne Elementary in Oakland, California is

a Leadership School in the Bay Area School Reform Collaborative. The school

population is 88 percent free and reduced lunch, represents at least 12 different ethnic

groups, and is 74 percent English language learners. Hawthorne involves parents in the

teaching, learning, and accountability system that drive the school‟s decision-making

team. Whole community consensus-building was achieved by including more than 100

teachers, instructional assistants, parents, office staff, administrators, and custodians in a

retreat focused on creating a vision for learning within the primary grades. A

collaborative and mutually accountable leadership team was created to ensure student

achievement. Family homework projects and family seminars focused on homework

help, discipline, reading, and social events now characterize Hawthorne‟s family outreach

program (Cohn-Vargas and Grose, 1998). John Flatt, the principal of George Walton

Comprehensive High School in Marietta, Georgia, has created a program that has resulted

in a higher rate of parent involvement than at any other Georgia high school, according to

the state‟s Parent Teacher and Student Association. Parents involve themselves by

painting the football field‟s end zones, fundraising, staffing the school‟s office and

college counseling center, and participating in the eight parent-teacher committees that

oversees areas such as discipline, attendance, and professional development for teachers

(Koerner, 1999).

       Over the last decade, growth in technology has made communication between the

family and school easier and more effective. Stonewall Jackson High School in
                                                                                            22

Manassas, Virginia, has put in place a program called Parent Link. This program allows

parents access to information that would be too difficult to obtain in today‟s hustle and

bustle of working parents and long commutes. Parent Link parents can access a website

and voicemail system that contains information on grades, attendance, and homework.

Effects of this program along with overall improved parental involvement and

communication are improved SAT scores, dropout rates, increased participation in extra

curricular activities as well as an overall satisfaction of parents, students, and staff

(Winters and August, 2001). Gunston Middle School in Arlington, Virginia, has taken

technologies‟ role in parent involvement one step further through a Home Visions video

program. Their goal is to use videos and television to increase school-home

communications. Students at Gunston Middle School have produced over 200 videos that

include information about how to help children succeed in school, overviews of major

projects students must complete, and descriptions of special programs and curricular

units. In these videos, student actors and classroom teachers relay information about a

particular topic with specific examples. Parents are encouraged to provide feedback and

call the school with questions or comments about the videos and their topics. Gunston has

found this video program to be an extremely effective and low cost way to improve

parent-teacher communication as well as improve student achievement (Clevenson,

1999).

         The most common and convenient way for parents to become involved with their

children‟s schooling is through homework. Eighty-seven percent of students who earned

mostly A‟s and B‟s said their parents helped them with their schoolwork in contrast to

forty-nine percent of students with grades lower than C said their parents did not take
                                                                                        23

interest in what they did at school. Parental involvement in homework helps students

understand the subject matter better and also helps to form good study habits (Fry, 2001).

A positive relationship has also been shown between home reading and literacy. Studies

report that reading to a child and then asking them to read back to the parent are essential

activities to the development of literacy. Furthermore, the simple presence of books,

newspapers, and magazines around the home reinforces the idea that reading is a valuable

part of education. Some school reading programs provide children with books to take

home twice a week for parent-child reading. Other programs recruit parents to become

literacy advocates and help them overcome their own obstacles to literacy, thereby

providing a better chance for their children to achieve proficiency in reading (Finn,

1998). Alliance Schools Initiative, a community-based program designed to increase

student performance in low-income areas of Texas, has implemented some innovative

strategies to promote parental involvement even when parents cannot physically come to

the school. Some strategies used by schools associated with the Alliance Schools

Initiative are 1) creating leadership teams of parents, teachers, administrators, and

community members, 2) conducting neighborhood walks where teachers, parents, and

administrators walk through the neighborhood speaking to parents and community

members about the school and its programs, 3) hand delivering report cards with at least

one failing grade, and 4) conducting parent education classes, including classes on adult

and computer literacy (Giles, 1998).
                                                                                             24

Conclusion

       Recent policies, legislation, and accountability requirements have brought the

issue of parent involvement to the forefront of educational research. The idea that

parental involvement is one of the most influential factors in student achievement is a

widely accepted concept. Parent involvement is the strongest indicator of student

performance than any other factor, including socio-economic status, ethnic/racial

background, and parent education level. It has been investigated and documented by

various researchers that comprehensive parental involvement programs lead to better

social skills and behavior, improved attendance, reduced drop out rates, improved student

motivation, and higher academic achievement. Although parent involvement may be one

of the least controversial concepts in education today, a review of the literature clearly

omits the use of one, consistent definition. However, Joyce Epstein, a leading researcher

on family and school partnerships, has brought some consistency to the topic by creating

a set of typologies that are recognized as the primary framework in studying the topic of

parent involvement.
                                                                                           25

Chapter Three: Methodology



Purpose of the Study

       The focus of my research is to compare and contrast high-poverty, high-

performing and low-poverty, high-performing middle school parent involvement

programs in California. Data will be collected from School Accountability Report Cards

to include information about programs that are available at each school and school

funding data. I will then choose one high-poverty, high-performing school to visit and

interview the principal to bring more depth to the study. This information will then be

used to write a parent involvement program recommendation for the middle school at

which I currently teach.

       Traditional parent involvement programs include components of Parent Teacher

Associations, Booster Clubs, School Site Council, and general parent volunteer work

making copies in the office, stocking shelves in the library, and helping in classrooms.

My hypothesis is that these high-poverty, high-performing schools will not have

traditional parent involvement programs. It is my expectation that I will observe

proactive programs that reach out to parents and bring the school to the home instead of

more traditional programs that wait for parents to show up at the school after

independently deciding they want to become involved.



Resources Used in Study

       This qualitative study is a detailed analysis of twenty high-poverty, high-

performing and twenty low-poverty, high-performing middle schools in California. The
                                                                                           26

parent involvement programs of these schools will be analyzed to determine

commonalities and develop criteria for successful parent involvement programs. Data

regarding parent involvement programs available at each school will be collected from

School Accountability Report Cards found on the California Department of Education

website and individual school websites. Follow up phone interviews will be conducted

with the school and parent liaisons listed as „contacts for more information‟ on the

websites to verify information and provide details about programs available at each

school. One high-poverty, high-performing school will then be selected from the previous

list to be visited to bring depth to the study. During the visit a walk-through of the

schools will be conducted, as well as structured interviews with the administrators.



Description of the Sample

       Middle schools used in the study will be selected through the state Department of

Education website. Criteria used in selecting the high-poverty, high-performing schools

will be that they are situated in an urban area, serve an ethnically diverse population,

have currently scored a 5 or better on the projected state assessment (API), and that these

schools serve populations that are high-poverty where more than 40% of the student

population receive free and reduced lunch as determined by the federal government

guidelines. Criteria used in selecting the low-poverty, high-performing schools will be

that they are situated in an urban area, serve an ethnically diverse population, have

currently scored a 5 or better on the projected state assessment (API), and that these

schools serve populations that are low-poverty where less than 40% of the student

population receive free and reduced lunch.
                                                                                          27

Measurement

       Data collection will occur through a combination of online research of School

Accountability Report Cards and structured interviews with school principals. Data

regarding parent involvement programs available at each school will be collected from

School Report Cards found on the California Department of Education website and

individual school websites. Structured interviews with administrators will be conducted

at school sites and will be used to determine which parent involvement programs are

most effective, to gather any additional information on specific school sites, and to get an

overall feel of the school community. Interview questions will focus on the following

overarching questions: What specific parent involvement programs have high-poverty,

high-performing schools used? How do high-poverty schools proactively involve parents

in their child‟s education? What are the costs of different types of parent involvement

programs? What techniques have administrators used to get faculty, parents, and students

to actively participate in their program?



Procedures for Data Analysis

       The first phase of the research will require that data collected from School

Accountability Report Cards be entered into a chart identifying and categorizing each

type of parent involvement program found in the search. These categories will range from

traditional parent involvement programs, such as Parent Teacher Associations, Booster

Clubs, School Site Council, and general parent volunteer work in classrooms to more

innovative parent involvement programs that proactively reach out to parents and bring

the school to the home. Follow up phone interviews will be conducted with the school
                                                                                          28

and parent liaisons listed as „contacts for more information‟ on the websites to verify

information and provide details about programs available at each school.

       The second phase of the research will include structured interviews with

administrators that will be used to determine which parent involvement programs are

most effective, to gather any additional information on specific school sites, and to get an

overall feel of the school community. Information collected in interviews will be entered

into a computer word processing program along with field notes of walk throughs and

observations.

       Data from the two categories of schools will then be analyzed to determine

differences and commonalities and to develop a set criteria for successful parent

involvement programs. Results will then be incorporated into a set of recommendations

for a parental involvement program for Grange Middle School in Fairfield, California.
                                                      29

Chapter Four: Conclusion




                                  APPENDIX A

                           RIGHTS OF HUMAN SUBJECTS
30
                   31




   APPENDIX B

INTERVIEW GUIDES
32
33

				
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