Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Parent Perceptions of Barriers to Academic Success in a Rural Middle School

Academic journal article Professional School Counseling

Parent Perceptions of Barriers to Academic Success in a Rural Middle School

Article excerpt

In focus groups, parents of both academically successful seventh-grade students and at-risk students (i.e., failing one or more classes, numerous behavioral referrals, and/or suspensions) in a rural middle school identified perceived barriers to student success as well as school and community resources for overcoming those barriers. Qualitative analysis of the data revealed six common barrier themes for the two groups and two additional themes for parents of academically at-risk students. The results are discussed with respect to the Hoover-Dempsey and Sandler model of parental involvement and the school counselor's role in school-family-community collaboration.


Adolescence represents a time when children undergo numerous and sometimes difficult physical, emotional, and intellectual changes (i.e., puberty, striving for autonomy and social acceptance, and increased self-consciousness) that can create or intensify a variety of emotional problems such as depression, anxiety, and distress (Roseth, Johnson, & Johnson, 2008). Effects of these developmental changes can lead children to become alienated from friends and family, engage in high-risk behaviors (i.e., sexual behaviors, substance use), and demonstrate decreased school engagement and declining academic performance (Flook & Fuligni, 2008; Roseth et al.; Spoth, Guyll, Trudeau, & Goldberg-Lillehoj, 2002). These high-risk behaviors are often exacerbated in rural adolescents. Indeed, the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse (2000) reported that substance use is on the rise in rural youth and has been increasing at higher rates in rural communities. Moreover, resources and services to support student success are less available in rural environments (Ludlow, Keramidas, & Kossar, 2008).

At the same time, research has indicated that parental involvement has a positive effect on a child's social and academic success (Clark, 1983; Snow, Barnes, Chandler, Goodman, & Hemphill, 1991). Studies have shown that students in secondary schools earn higher grades in English and math, attain better reading and writing skills, have better attendance, and exhibit fewer behavior problems when parents are involved (Epstein, 2008). Moreover, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 has emphasized the importance of parental involvement through adolescence as a way to help children through transitions and to continue to be academically successful (DePlanty, Coulter-Kern, & Duchane, 2007).

Although parental involvement has been shown to positively affect student achievement, reduce problem behaviors, and create a positive sense of self-efficacy for achieving in school-related tasks (Epstein & Sheldon, 2002; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandier, 1995; Van Voorhis, 2003), parental involvement tends to decline in secondary schools (DePlanty et al., 2007; Stevenson & Baker, 1987). A variety of factors influence the level of parental involvement. Parental involvement in adolescence decreases due to the lack of social networks for parents and the lack of financial stability (Sheldon, 2002). Eccles and Harold (1993) asserted that less educated parents are less involved because they are not as knowledgeable about their child's curriculum in middle and high school.

A study by Epstein (1986) found that school-related issues, such as lack of adequate communication between teachers and parents, influenced the level of parental involvement. Specifically, 16% of parents reported never receiving correspondence from the teachers, 35% reported never having parent-teacher conferences, and 60% reported never speaking directly to the teachers on the telephone (Epstein). Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, and Brissie (1992) found that lack of teacher efficacy was also a factor influencing parental involvement. Teachers with higher levels of efficacy were more likely to be engaged in parental involvement than teachers with lower levels of efficacy. …

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