Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Involvement in Schooling-According to Whose Values?

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Parent Involvement in Schooling-According to Whose Values?

Article excerpt


Through the Bridging Cultures Project, a longitudinal collaborative action research project, seven elementary school teachers working with immigrant Latino students and families learned about a framework for understanding culture, as well as how to conduct ethnographic inquiry, in order to learn about the particular families they serve. Learning about the constructs of "individualism" and "collectivism" enhanced teachers' understanding of their own cultures, the culture of U.S. schools, and the cultures of their immigrant Latino students.

In this paper, we describe how changes in the teachers' understanding of culture influenced their thinking, their professional practice, their relationships with parents, and-consequently-parents' involvement in schooling. Even within this small group of teachers, variability in innovation and implementation of strategies is evident, reflecting how cultural factors, personal factors, and other factors influence teacher change and parent involvement.

Keywords: parent involvement, culture, home-school relationships, ethnography, collaborative action research


The Bridging Cultures Project, begun in 1996 by a group of four researchers and seven elementary teachers, has had a positive impact on teachers' relationships with parents and on parents' involvement in schooling. In this paper, we focus on teacher innovations that are associated with these positive outcomes. Underlying teachers' actions are shifts in ways of thinking about culture, child-rearing, and schooling-shifts that are apparent in their first-hand accounts and reflections.

We will first situate our Project in the larger context of parent involvement in schooling, then describe the Project, and next explore the specific changes that enhanced home-school relationships and the involvement of parents in their children's schooling. Finally, we discuss other factors that can influence parent involvement and reflect on the potential for greater, more culturally-responsive inclusion of parents in the schooling process.

Perspectives on Parent Involvement in Schooling

Parent involvement in schooling takes many forms-among them, volunteering in the school, helping students with homework, and participating in school governance (Epstein, 1995). It is widely valued (Chavkin, 1993; Epstein, 1994; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Hoover-Dempsey & Sandler, 1997; National Education Goals Panel, 1995; U.S. Department of Education, 1994) and continues to gain support as one of six areas of emphasis in the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001. There is a widespread presumption, not unequivocally supported by existing research, that parents' involvement in their children's schooling supports higher student achievement (Mattingly, Prislin, McKenzie, Rodriguez, & Kayzar, 2002). Of course, different forms of involvement could be expected to have different kinds of impact, and it is apparent that more rigorous evaluation research needs to be conducted across the board to determine relationships between particular practices and particular outcomes (Mattingly et al.). In the meantime, given the continued official and popular support for parent involvement, it is likely to continue be at the top of the list of goals of schools across the country for some time to come.

Many parent involvement programs target "minority"1 parents (Mattingly et al., 2002), but schools have had particular difficulty in involving them (Chavkin & Williams, 1993; Delgado-Gaitan, 1992; Moles, 1993). This is an unfortunate outcome, if not surprising, since research suggests that "minority" parents want very much to be involved with their children's schools (Allexsaht Snider, 1992; Chavkin & Williams, 1993; Dauber & Epstein, 1993; Diaz, 2000; Goldenberg & Gallimore, 1995). One obstacle to parent participation is the unequal distribution of power, resources, and knowledge within U. …

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