Academic journal article School Community Journal

Collaborating for High School Student Success: A Case Study of Parent Engagement at Boston Arts Academy

Academic journal article School Community Journal

Collaborating for High School Student Success: A Case Study of Parent Engagement at Boston Arts Academy

Article excerpt


While the literature on parent involvement cites many examples of challenges to parent involvement and suggestions to overcome them, few models of extensive parent involvement in urban, public high schools have been described. The Boston Arts Academy is an example of a school in such a setting. It engages a vast majority of its parents in school-based activities through multiple entry points, a welcoming school environment, and frequent communication among staff and parents. By focusing on building a diverse, inclusive culture and encouraging parents to take part in the school community, BAA engages parents with varied prior experiences and dispositions toward involvement. This case study's findings suggest several key approaches other schools may adopt.

Key Words: parent involvement, family-school collaboration, small schools, autonomy, urban, high school, public school


It is important that parents feel and know their input is as welcome as their presence in our school. We cannot be successful in educating students without them. (Boston Arts Academy Family Coordinator, 2002)

Why Study Parent Involvement?

Parent involvement in education is widely regarded as a way to help students succeed in school. It is defined by researchers as including both home- and school-based activities, such as talking with their children, setting boundaries, helping with homework, communicating with teachers, volunteering in classrooms, and attending school-sponsored events (Chavkin & Williams, 1993; Epstein, 1995; Ho & Willms, 1996; Mapp, 2003; Swap, 1993). High parental involvement has been linked to increases in student achievement and engagement in school (Fuller & Olsen, 1998; Henderson & Berla, 1994; Moore, 1992; Swap, 1993). As a result, efforts to increase parent involvement in education, both in and out of school, have been included in many school improvement and reform efforts over the last two decades (Johnson, 1997; Moles, 1993).

Many schools with large populations of low-income students or students of color report difficulty in engaging high numbers of their parents in the school community. These difficulties have been attributed to several reasons, including parents not having many opportunities to be involved or not feeling welcomed (Chavkin & Williams, 1993; Moles, 1993) and miscommunication about what schools and parents believe is the appropriate form of parent involvement in their children's education, often due to social and cultural differences among parents and teachers (Griffith, 1998; Hoover-Dempsey & O'Connor, 2002; Lareau, 1987; Mapp, 2003; Moles,1993; Swap, 1993; Terrell, 2002).

A report by the Family and Community Engagement Task Force of the Boston Public Schools (BPS) confirms that many of the barriers to parent involvement cited above exist in Boston's schools (Boston Public Schools, 2000), a district with a student population that is predominantly low income and persons of color. Within BPS, however, there are examples of schools that engage parents at a high level. One elementary school, in particular, had success in creating a welcoming culture of mutual respect and communication and actively promoting relationships between parents and the school (Mapp, 2003).

While parent involvement has an impact throughout a student's educational career (Henderson & Berla, 1994), involvement diminishes as students move from elementary to secondary school (Dauber & Epstein, 1993; NCES, 1998). Parents of adolescents often reduce their involvement as they give their children more independence. High schools also provide fewer involvement opportunities and communicate less about them than do elementary schools (Vaden-Kiernan & Chandler, 1996). However, schools that support and facilitate many kinds of parent involvement create partnerships among school staff, students, and parents that lead to higher levels of involvement at all grade levels (Epstein, 1995; Sanders, Epstein, & Connors-Tadros, 1999; Swap, 1993). …

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