Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Parents' Views of Schools' Involvement Efforts

Academic journal article Exceptional Children

Parents' Views of Schools' Involvement Efforts

Article excerpt

The ability of schools to establish and maintain collaborative relationships with parents is widely accepted as a sound educational practice (Pushor, 2010; Tollefson, 2008). Arguments in favor of encouraging parent-school collaboration are supported from at least three different sources. First, there is substantial evidence that parent involvement is associated with improved student outcomes (Cox, 2005; Desforges & Abouchaar, 2003; Fan & Chen, 2001; Fishel & Ramirez, 2005; Guli, 2005; Henderson & Mapp, 2002; Hoard & Shepard, 2005; Jeynes, 2005, 2007; Zellman & Waterman, 1998). Second, several authors have advanced the social justice argument that engaging parents is the right thing to do (Auerbach, 2012; Riehl, 2012; Theoharis, 2012). Third, parent involvement is written into law (Individuals With Disabilities Education Act IDEA, 2006; No Child Left Behind Act of 2001, 2006).

Because of these arguments, there is an extensive body of research dedicated to understanding why parents become involved and how schools can facilitate that involvement (Dauber & Epstein, 1989; Epstein, 1986, 2004; Harry, 1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 2002; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005). Epstein and her colleagues, for example, have highlighted six different types of parent involvement, and have underscored the ways in which schools can increase involvement through specific practices (Dauber & Epstein, 1989; Epstein, 1986). Harry (1992a, 1992b, 1992c, 2002) has pointed to the importance of parents' trust in the school and the school's sensitivity to diverse cultural norms. Hoover-Dempsey et al. (2005) have proposed a theory that identifies parent, school, and child characteristics that explain why parents get involved. A central tenet of this theory is that parent involvement increases in response to teacher invitations to involve parents. Another key point is that parents' views of their role and their sense of how much they can contribute to their child's progress affect the extent to which they become involved.

Questions remain, however, concerning the specific ways in which schools' and teachers' efforts to engage parents might facilitate parent involvement. For example, previous research has supported the notion that there is a strong positive relationship between schools' efforts to facilitate involvement and parents' actual involvement with their children at home and in school (Dauber & Epstein, 1989; Epstein, 1986; Hoover-Dempsey, Bassler, & Brissie, 1987; Hoover-Dempsey et al., 2005). However, the work of Hoover-Dempsey and her colleagues suggests that although increased teacher invitations are associated with increased parent involvement, the strength of this association may depend on the parents' sense of self-efficacy. Parents who consider themselves more efficacious and confident in their ability to intervene on behalf of their children in school may take greater initiative to become involved, regardless of schools' efforts to involve them. In contrast, parents with low self-efficacy may be less inclined to become involved at school unless schools make a concerted effort to involve them.

Parents' views of schools' engagement efforts may also be colored by their appraisal of schools' instructional effectiveness. For example, Griffith (1996) suggested that parents might take the initiative to become more involved in their children's education if they perceived that instruction is inadequate. Further, previous research has not focused on how these factors interact within a special education context. Thus, the present study sought to address a gap in the existing literature by more closely examining the views of parents of students with disabilities regarding schools' efforts to involve them, and the factors that, from the parents' perspective, encourage or discourage their involvement.

Parent Involvement in Special Education

Involving parents of students receiving special education services may pose unique challenges. …

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