Academic journal article High School Journal

High School Teachers and African American Parents: A (Not So) Collaborative Effort to Increase Student Success

Academic journal article High School Journal

High School Teachers and African American Parents: A (Not So) Collaborative Effort to Increase Student Success

Article excerpt

This is a case study about a group of African American parents that banded together in an effort to increase their own involvement, the involvement of other African American parents, and the success of African American students at one public high school. The various ways in which this group of parents sought to accomplish their goals, however, was not entirely embraced by school faculty. Consequently, their efforts were undermined and unutilized. The findings suggest that schools require parents, even when unified and with a common purpose, to comply with a specific protocol for involvement or risk being marginalized. It is argued that parent involvement is often based on support and compliance. Parents, moreover, are frequently regarded as one homogenous group, which ignores the varied .experiences, visions, and values of ethnic minority parents.

Keywords: parent involvement, family-school relationships, exclusion, secondary schools


There are many advantages associated with parent involvement in education. Students with actively involved parents are, by and large, more engaged in the classroom (Mo & Singh, 2008), more positive about school and learning (Shumow & Miller, 2001), more likely to enroll in advanced courses (Henderson & Mapp, 2002), and less likely to drop out (Rumberger, 1995). Additionally, parent involvement has been positively linked to student grade point averages (Gutman & Midgley, 2000), including increased achievement in mathematics (Sheldon & Epstein, 2005), science (Van Voorhis, 2001) and language arts (Dearing, Kreider, Simpkins, & Weiss, 2006). Importantly, parents can be involved in a number of ways and to varying degrees. Some parents, for example, assume a home-based role that includes helping with homework and reinforcing suitable school behaviors. Other parents may take on a school-based approach, such as attending school meetings and events, or communicating regularly with their children's teachers. Each type of parent involvement, in combination with the individual needs of the child, can yield different academic results (Lee & Bowen, 2006). Nevertheless, research suggests that the more engaged parents are in their children's education, the more likely their children are to succeed in school (Eccles & Harold, 1993; Harris & Goodall, 2008).

Because it holds so much promise, parent involvement has been identified as a priority in the United States educational system (Elementary and Secondary Education Act, 2001). However, existing literature often suggests that there is a lack of ethnic minority parent involvement in schools broadly (Griffith, 1996; Ho, 2002) and a lack of African American parent involvement in particular (Hayes, 2011). Efforts to increase ethnic minority parent participation, furthermore, have been largely unsuccessful (Davies, 2002; Mannan & Blackwell, 1992; Padgett, 2006).

Although research suggests that many ethnic minority parents are not routinely involved in their children's schooling, it would be both unsound and unfair to conclude that they do not value education (as some teachers are prone to conclude). Some parents are very much committed to their children's education but are restricted by language and culture barriers (Denessen, Bakker, & Gierveld, 2007; Pena, 2000), work schedules, child care (or lack thereof), and limited transportation (Harris & Goodall, 2008; Reglin, King, Losike-Sedime, & Ketterer, 2003). Other parents are reluctant to involve themselves too intimately in their child's schooling due to feelings of incompetence (Crozier, 1999). That is to say, some parents believe teachers are the professionals and thus better suited to make decisions concerning their children's education. Still other parents would like to be more involved at the school and at home, but feel schools only encourage their passive support and they "ought not to interfere with the job of teaching school curricula" (Smekar & Cohen-Vogel, 2001, p. …

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